The language of gender is fast-changing, but when it comes to design we often still describe interiors as masculine or feminine. And clients are the first to hit the binary when they attempt to convey to a designer the look they want. That doesn’t mean a man can’t kick back on a chintz-covered sofa or that a woman can’t feel right at home in a wood-paneled library. But no matter how limiting those adjectives may seem, they still help us to fashion spaces we can feel at home in.
When Atlanta-based Susan Ferrier took on the task of designing a getaway on Florida’s Gulf Coast, her client left no doubt that she wanted interiors that expressed a traditionally feminine vibe. “The color palette – mainly purple and pink – was not one I’d normally work with,” shares Ferrier. “But my client had recently lost her husband and in this new phase in her life, she wanted an environment that fully reflected her personality.”
In addition to sourcing materials in “the colors of the sunrise,” one of Ferrier’s key strategies for satisfying her client’s wish was her determined use of the curve. In the ground floor foyer – where the oak-clad walls, beamed ceiling and relatively tight dimensions remind one of a sailing vessel below deck – she moderated the straight lines of the space with cabriole-legged consoles and a pair of large sconces with an espalier aspect. In the main living space, she draped a pair of sofas in grey fabric rather than tightly upholstering the pieces. In the moody blue family room, where the walls are covered in Rogers & Goffigon Sky Dark Teal fabric, Ferrier hung a richly carved antique mirror she acquired in the South of France. “A straight line paired with something that looks like it’s a little bit out of control is always very exciting,” says Ferrier. “And if you are working with a really strict shell, then you can really go for it on the decoration.”
Color and curves give the home its welcoming ambiance, but equally important is the way in which Ferrier has orchestrated the public spaces on the second floor. “When you are working with an open plan like this, the furniture becomes elevated; it’s more than just objects, it assumes a responsibility for defining space,” explains Ferrier. She not only disposed a wealth of seating around the well-lit room (large, handsomely mullioned windows admit loads of natural light) but established a fine companionship between the living room space and the kitchen that opens into it. “Here too,” she adds, “the kitchen has to be elevated. Not to be funny, but your living room shouldn’t open to your garage.”
Enveloped in the same millwork that adorns the living room walls, outfitted with gilt-famed mirrors, and topped by a chandelier, the space is more a salon than a machine. While functional to the hilt, the finishes (including the glossy doors that hide the refrigerator) form a seamless complement to the relaxed sumptuousness of the living room. “You have to be consistent,” asserts Ferrier. “The same formal stance had to apply to the kitchen.”
Wary of sounding – as she says – “too woo-woo” – Ferrier speaks of interiors as matters of rhythm, of gesture. “Every house has a vibration,” she suggests. “We wanted you to walk into this home and feel loved. And when you take something visual and execute in such a way that it touches on other senses, that’s a success story.”
Photography by Erica George Dines.
For more like this getaway from Susan Ferrier, be sure to check out this classic home in the Pacific Palisades.
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