Interior Thinking: Southern Living Idea House 2016

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By Catherine Royka

Tucked away outside booming Birmingham, Alabama, you’ll find the Southern Living Idea House nestled in the Mt. Laurel community, with colorful landscaping and elegant stone steps leading up to the home. Mt. Laurel proves to be the perfect location for the Idea House, with an emphasis on the beautiful outdoors and plentiful green spaces surrounding the homes and community.

Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 11.27.19 AMUpon walking up the stairs to the 4,130 square-foot cottage style home, you’re welcomed by a wraparound front and side porch – an ideal spot to host a gathering or to enjoy a morning cup of coffee. The house has a foyer, four bedrooms, four-and-a-half bathrooms, roomy front porch, patio, living room, kitchen, dining room and pajama lounge.

For those looking to visit the home, it is sure to impress all visitors, designers and southerners alike. If you are looking for some new design ideas to spruce up your home and are searching for elements from another decade, you will find your design inspiration from the 2016 Southern Living Idea House (if you are dying for wallpaper to make a comeback, you are in luck).

Celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year, the Southern Living magazine team had the task to create an Idea House that was like no other they had designed, constructed or created before. Southern Living asked five southern designers to transform various rooms in the home, but with one caveat. The rooms needed some design inspiration from the past. Their inspiration? Flipping through tear sheets of past Southern Living issues from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Southern Living chose designers, Ashley Gilbreath, Amy Berry, Mark D. Sikes, Margaret Kirkland and Lauren Liess to take vintage and traditional elements of the time and create a fresh perspective for 2016. Bill Ingram, architect of the home also designed a couple of the rooms and has previously worked with Southern Living for other design projects.

Each room showcases the unique talent of each designer and is an ode to the classic southern and vibrant designs from the last few decades. Below are short profiles of some of the rooms these designers transformed to offer a new perspective and a twist on the traditional designs from the past and where they received their inspiration.


Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 11.27.01 AMDining Room

Margaret Kirkland transformed the dining room into an elegant, yet colorful space for guests to dine. Floral drapes line the windows with an orange and white patterned wallpaper highlighting the embroidered chairs. Two matching banquette seats are located separate from the table for guests to enjoy pre-dinner cocktails and conversation. Kirkland took her inspiration for the dining room from the 1989 March issue with the dramatic drapery and rich orange wall paint. Kirkland wanted to create a dining room that could be elegant and formal, but an inviting dining room to enjoy for every meal.


Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 11.27.58 AMThe Kitchen & Family Room

Say goodbye to the avocado green from the 1970s. Architect Bill Ingram has created a kitchen like no other, with a deep forest green (Evergreens paint by Sherwin-Williams), coating the cabinets from wall-to-wall. Ingram took his inspiration from an edition of Southern Living magazine from 1975 with a kitchen that was covered white with dark green accents, which Ingram brought to light with his fully green kitchen. The family room also designed by Bill Ingram located off the kitchen offers a very 1970s feel with the drapery ceiling. Just like the kitchen, the deep forest green is repeated in this room, but the neutral drapery and furniture bring a softer look to the room.


Living Room

Designer Mark D. Sikes created a living room space to provide a laid-back and comfortable environment for all to enjoy. The neutral tones throughout the room – the furniture, hand painted walls – offer an inviting and clean atmosphere. Sikes used a 1986 issue of a living room for his inspiration with the stacked books, layered rugs and neutrals throughout the room to transform this 2016 living room. The hand painted walls offer a very authentic and unique touch.

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Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 11.28.47 AMPajama Lounge

Taking American classic designs and fusing with European elements, Amy Berry used these mixed designs to craft a peaceful space. For those seeking solitude and something a little cozy, you will love this pajama lounge. The animal print patterned wall-covering is perfectly muted to provide a fun, yet comfy atmosphere for you and your guests. The couches are nestled in the back of the room with a central “tête-à-tête” seating area. Berry used inspiration from the October 1974 issue, as she repeated the fabric covering the walls and ceiling.


Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 11.28.26 AMMaster Bedroom & Bathroom

Lauren Liess designed the master bedroom and bathroom located on the first floor of the home. The bedroom proves to be a tranquil space to retire at the end of the day with soft colors, muted patterns and different textures. The variety of textures such as the Hemp Burlap wallpaper in Palm by Twenty2 and the patterned canopy covering give a lively touch to the room. Liess brought neutral elements that add warmth and a cozy atmosphere to this master bedroom. The master bathroom provides the perfect solution for couples who might not want to share a closet or sink – as there is a separate vanity for each and separate walk-in closet. Eighteen vintage botanicals are hung above the tub to produce an earthy and natural atmosphere.


Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 11.26.40 AMFoyer & Bedroom 3

Walking into the home, there is a wide entry way and foyer. Ashley Gilbreath created a foyer space that made for the perfect division and balance between the vibrant, green kitchen and neutral toned living room space. An ocean painting is hung over a long and roomy table for two lamps, stacked books and plants. Upstairs, Gilbreath designed the third bedroom and used the space to her advantage, by creating two, separate nooks tucked in the room to offer an isolated space. A January 1976 issue provided inspiration for Gilbreath with the mustard accents and built-in cabinetry and space.

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