With temperatures in the UK finally living up to the summer hype, it got me thinking about warm-weather décor and who does it best. I was quickly drawn to the deep south, specifically Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina, with their charming plantation-style homes.
Deep porches, wooden shutters, gabled roofs and stately columns are all quintessential traits of southern design, and draw on the rich history of the region. The architecture combines neoclassical, French colonial and Greek revival features to form a style known as antebellum or plantation.
While aiming to divulge some of the main characteristics of this trend, I’m also giving it a modern spin in the hope that aspects can be transferred to any home, big or small, modern or traditional.
1. Keeping cool
You might wonder why so many Southern homes boast impressive front porches, tucked beneath deep overhangs. While these structures are pretty on the eye, and ideal for hosting alfresco soirées, there is a much more practical reason for this. Verandas keep houses cooler as they shade the structure’s front walls, an essential feature before the invention of air conditioning.
You may also notice that homes tend to be elevated – again there is both a utilitarian and aesthetic benefit behind this. A raised foundation puts the whole structure on a pedestal, so it’s easy to show off to neighbours, but it also aids against flooding and is more likely to catch passing breezes.
Cooling paint colours are another common theme. Deep blue and green hues are often favoured for balconies as they create a relaxing and refreshing ambience, and the specific “haint blue” shade is steeped in tradition. In the past, many painted their porch ceilings this colour to ward off evil spirits. It is also thought to detract wasps – a real win-win. Otherwise, a traditional white hue never goes a miss and will be sure to create a calm and cooling atmosphere.
2. In with the old, and in with the new
Southern interiors tend to combine pieces collected over time, which are often a little imperfect, giving rooms a soulful aura. A room in which its components look like they all arrived in one day, is not in keeping with this aesthetic. Intersperse heirloom pieces, antiques and chandeliers with more contemporary designs for something truly unique and personal.
3. Create a flow between indoors and out
This aspect of design centres around the importance of the outdoors to everyday living. It is already clear that the climate has dictated much of the architectural features in the region, so it’s not surprising to see objects you’d expect outside, being used inside as well. Wooden shutters, vintage ceiling fans and lantern sconces are as prevalent within houses as they are on their outer walls.
With so much time spent alfresco, it’s vital that your porch furniture is well thought out. Opt for natural materials to connect your home to its surrounding environment. Rattan pieces are both hardwearing and boast impressive craftsmanship. Designs range from intricately ornate to simple and modern. It’s also worth picking a selection of cushions to go with them, so you can swap them in and out as you please. Use the same furniture indoors to blur the boundary between both spaces.
So, whether you’re confined to an urban flat, period townhouse, or have an expansive countryside haunt, it’s easy to introduce a bit of Southern charm within your four walls. Be it a take on traditional cooling techniques, mixing old with new or embracing alfresco living both inside and out.