Posted on March 26 2021
By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News
There’s no question about it: Savannah is one of my favorite cities, if not my all-time favorite.
Last week, I traveled to Georgia to deliver the keynote speech to open the Savannah Antiques & Architecture Weekend. Paula Fogarty, who represents the event's sponsor The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in Georgia, asked me to speak on any subject that was related to decorating and design. Ideas popped up immediately: What is the new neutral color? Is brown furniture dead? Do millennials really only like gray, white and beige?
I spoke in the walled-in gardens of the Andrew Low House, a venue owned by the Colonial Dames and open for tours. The mansion has been beautifully restored and charmingly decorated to reflect a 150-years-ago spirit.
And what else is significant about the house? Girl Scouts founder Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low lived there and used the carriage house for her Girl Scouts meetings.
The Colonial Dames purchased the property in 1928. It has more than 80,000 visitors each year.
What a treat it was to speak to members of the organization in the garden setting, which offered a fantastic backdrop: The walls are covered with blossoming pink camellias. The joy for me was doubled, as I am both a fan of gardens and of color.
For those who love Savannah as I do, a visit to Lafayette Square is a must — and while there, I hope you will visit the Low House, 329 Abercorn St.
It was in 1847 that Andrew Low purchased his home site and hired architect John Norris to design the three-story residence, which included a raised basement and a dry moat. The architecture features elements of the Greek Revival style.
Inside are two parlors, featuring identical ceiling medallions and chandeliers. Meanwhile, pier mirrors reflect the light from the chandeliers and the daylight streaming in from the windows. Both parlors — one more formally decorated than the other — feature upholstery in a glamorous red-and-gold trellis-like pattern.
I particularly loved the dining room with mint-green walls and, at the windows, spruce-green swags and jabots trimmed with red braid and fringe. Some decorators I know believe that swags and jabots on windows have become design relics. But that’s not the case for those of us who enjoy designing the interiors of period homes.
Seeing the swags and jabots in Low House sparked decorating inspiration, and I’m happy to offer you a design scheme for a living room that gives a nod to the past but would be a comfortable place to entertain today.
Start with a stained-wood wainscot beneath walls painted pale pink. On the dark-stained wooden floor, lay a rug in the antique style featuring cream, aqua blue, salmon and rust.
Cover your sofas in a woven salmon-colored fabric and accent with throw cushions covered in a blue-and-white toile with a design of antique sailing ships. A Victorian chair or two — whether antique or reproduction — might have aqua-blue upholstery. Find some nautical based lamps for your end tables. And for a conversation starter, I’d love to see a glass-topped coffee table fashioned from an antique ship’s wheel.
At your stained-wood casement windows, install shutters painted a deep pink but deeper than the blush color of your walls. Of course, you can add swags and jabots at the windows with a classic stripe that pulls together some of the other colors of the room. For added sparkle, add a decorative trim featuring a different color drawn from the other fabrics.
I always look forward to visiting the homes of yesterday, where I seldom leave without a decorating inspiration. The trick is to be open to new ideas, however old the source.