Art, antiques, and color create an opulent yet modern Southern home, with New Orleans vibes on Daniel Island
When interior designer Michael Mitchell first met his client, she was seven months pregnant and toting a huge design book she’d picked up while in school in New Orleans. “They were full of French, frilly style,” he explains. The client, who had used the tome to decorate her first house on Daniel Island, admits with a laugh, “It was a little too much.”
Now a busy attorney, she wanted Mitchell to take her passion for New Orleans style—with its embrace of French antiques, vibrant color, and copious crystal, gilding, and tufting—and apply it to a new home in Daniel Island Park for her and her husband, an operations director at a local law firm, and their young boys. “I was looking for a little bit of formality but for it to also be homey,” she explains, “a place you can take your shoes off and not feel stuffy.” Somewhere two dogs, two cats, two children, and yes, even an aquarium of fish, could feel at home.
With a 4,700-square-foot blank canvas, Mitchell got to work layering the spaces with art, texture, and color—lots of color. “She had a good collection of antiques to begin with, so I went about infusing new pieces with the old, while looking for ways to bring in a playful, girly look,” he notes. But not so girly that the three men of the house wouldn’t be comfortable living there. “It’s feminine with a strong point of view,” says Mitchell of the finished project. “Her husband actually loves the soft colors and sweetness inside the home. He focused more on the exteriors and had a big part in the outdoor entertainment area and the boys’ rooms.”
Mitchell achieved the overall aesthetic with three key tools: fabric, art, and the color pink. He had her antique and vintage furnishings recovered in lively fabrics: a French settee was made over with a paisley linen from London, a 1940s curved and tufted sofa was given new life with a baby blue hue, and a $5 thrift-store find was reupholstered in shocking pink.
Mitchell is one half of design duo Mitchell Hill, whose downtown design center doubles as an art gallery representing upwards of 35 artists from across the country. Art is his thing. “Original art makes a home special. And there are two pieces in this house, in particular, that I used as jumping-off points for the design: the Betty Foy Botts deer has an abstract quality that brings a soft, innocent energy to the dining room and this,” he says, pointing to a three-paneled painting, high up in the central stairwell.
A tufted-velvet sofa and smaller settee in a soft, sophisticated tweed offer French flair in the family room, while still providing comfort for everyday family living. The bold colors are unified by bright drapes in the Clarence House “Shere Khan” fabric.
The abstract floral triptych Tropic Banana, by Brooklyn-based Jeannie Weissglass, is a bold, modern statement with swaths of vibrant yellow bananas and pops of punchy peach bursting from behind the ornate wrought iron railing in the central staircase. “It extends its color all around the house,” says Mitchell. “Believe it or not, that piece is the reason that we have the yellow chairs out in the outdoor dining area. It all falls back on that painting.”
Structurally everything in the house extends from this focal point, too. The floor plan revolves around the central stair hall, with the front door ushering visitors past the library and dining room to the foot of the stairs. Just beyond lies an expansive family room, with views of a large saltwater pool and three-quarter acre garden. To the left is a formal sitting room, with no formal walls enclosing it; the whole space feels open yet remains refined. Tucked just out of view is the large eat-in kitchen, where a small butler’s pantry and laundry room lead back to the dining room.
The first-floor master suite, situated behind the sitting room, hosts a more muted palette accentuated by a leopard print carpet and antique wingback chairs. “The client has a hectic job,” says Mitchell of his softer selections in this room, which also takes in a soothing garden view. Upstairs, four more bedrooms (one an office, the boys’ rooms, and a guest room) boast splashes of bold color and plenty of patterns at play. From a peachy keen guest room, to chairs saturated in citrus hues and peacock feather drapes in the office, to an oversized cowhide ottoman in the media room.
Two Baker “Butterfield Barrel Chairs” covered in a citrus-green fabric provide the focal point for the striking home office. Peacock feather drapes, a cowhide rug, and two velvet footstools complete the luxe look.
“Pink is the neutral in the house,” he explains. Where it all comes together in a crescendo of tone, texture, and New Orleansean glamour is the library. Previously panelled in a dark walnut, Mitchell lacquered the built-in bookshelves, walls, and fireplace surround in a pale mint to complement the pink and green furniture; added tiger print wallpaper to the segmented ceiling; and hung one of his client’s crystal chandeliers. She then gold-leafed the existing wall sconces herself, he says; “It really tied it all together.”
The showpiece room has turned into a surprisingly useful family space. “We spend a lot of time in the library after work,” says the homeowner. “I thought it was going to be a really pretty room that we wouldn’t use much. But we do; the boys even hang out there, read, and play games.”
Another well-used space is the bright, spacious kitchen, where they gather around the Calcutta Gold marble island to watch Mom cook, then pile into the breakfast nook to enjoy family dinners as often as busy schedules allow. In the family room, form and function are personified by two sofas covered in performance fabrics that stand up to everyday life. “We’ve thrown everything at those sofas, and they’ve held up,” says the homeowner.
“I was determined to have a home that felt like grownups live here,” says the client of striking the balance between family-friendly and museum-quality. “This house feels like that, even though we have kids, because none of it is off limits to them. This is home.”