featured designer: what I learned about enduring Southern style from Eric Ross

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Interior designer Eric Ross grew up in a small town in Kentucky where her spent a lot of his time riding his bike around and looking at houses and imagining their interiors (he especially liked riding at twilight when he could catch glimpses of the inside). Even at a very young age, he noticed things. He paid attention to details. He thought about how to set tables and arrange furniture in rooms. He wondered about chandeliers and the size of a foyer. He began to give decorating advice about things like candles and colors, things that most young boys don’t care about at all. It seems he was honing his craft and developing his sense of style.

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In his recently published book Enduring Southern Homes, Ross explains his professional approach to creating the style that he grew to love, one that he describes as traditional and timeless, rooms with a sense of permanence: “I want them to ground you.” His book features thirteen homes he has decorated, including his own in Nashville, and includes note worthy tips at the end of each section.

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Indeed his rooms are elegant and classic, but they are also more than that. To me, an Eric Ross room is rich and textured and inviting. They are a smart and thoughtful blend of old and new, masculine and feminine. He does grand very well (heightening entryways and including glamorous touches). He also does casual quite well (an unbuttoned chic). And what I especially admire is how Ross takes risks (interior doors painted British racing green) and ups the ante (large scale patterns and bright colors) when appropriate . His rooms don’t scream, they entice and enchant.

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Here are just a few of the things that I learned about creating an enduring Southern style:

  • Listen to your house. The architecture of a house and its rooms will tell you how to properly arrange the furniture.
  • Use pairs of things to create a sense of symmetry and balance and calm.
  • If you use only one antique element, make it an antique rug. They add instant character, warmth, and are extremely durable since they’ve already been trampled on for years.
  • Don’t shy away from color or pattern; both are very much a part of the Southern vernacular. When incorporating them, keep the big picture in mind: your rooms should be in conversation with one another.
  • Entrance foyers are an introduction to the rest of the house and should hint at what is to come.
  • Lastly (and my personal favorite), always, always have a small bar tray or cart set up in the living room where visitors can see it when they enter the house. It is an instant sign to sit down and chat for a while.

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Enduring Southern Homes is an elaboration on these and other elements of design, and Mr. Ross is selling signed copies on his website (a great idea for a Mother’s Day gift). And while you are there, be sure to take a look at his blog, which is full of his lively opinions on things like trends and colors and so on.

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