People who embrace traditional style have a fondness for heritage and stories. As a professional interior designer, Eric Ross has upheld centuries-old design concepts while interjecting fresh colors and fabrics into the mix for more than twenty years. His approach to traditional decorating includes a bit of French country, and a lot of Southern hospitality, and spill over into his lifestyle and entertaining prose. In Enduring Southern Homes, Eric Ross showcases beautiful projects and gives tips on how to create you very own enduring home, regardless of where you live.
Eric’s passion for beautiful homes and interior design is innate. He attributes his early interest to his mother, who was an immaculate housekeeper. His favorite anecdote about his childhood home is that it was so perfectly decorated that their bathroom even had matching toilet paper. Eric was raised within that ideal of the perfect home and he had expectation to match. This sense of order makes a home comfortable, but it also makes running a home easier when you have a pattern of how something should be. That formula his mother instilled in him is basically the same one he uses today to set up homes for his clients; at this point, it has become second nature.
‘A perfect home has the furniture masterfully arranged.’ Growing up in his family home, the furniture was never moved. He once asked his mother why they never moved the furniture around, to which she quipped, “because that is where the sofa goes, and that’s where the chairs go. The house was built with the intent of the sofa going on that wall, not any other wall.”
Eric’s first lesson in interior decoration was to listen to what the room is telling you. He advises that ‘the room will tell you where the sofa should live, where the chairs should live. Too many people fight against the architecture of a room instead of using it as a guide. Where is the fireplace? How can the sofa be in a better relation to it? How can I arrange the furniture, so it invites entry? How can I accommodate more people in this room? Is there a way to get the visitors closer, to foster conversation? How can we get more lighting? Where will people put their drinks?’ The answer begins with architecture.
Eric says that perhaps it isn’t immediately clear where the room is telling you to place the sofa. But, like learning any other language, you learn the language of your own home. ‘Learning involves trial and error, research, and paying attention to the flow of your room; this skill is honed over time.’ Since his design concepts are based on the premise that a house, through its architecture, will communicate the proper furniture arrangement it should have, he is drawn to the classic arrangement of furniture, art, and accessories. Because these concepts are so tried-and-true, they do a lot of the work for him.
Ross loves pairs, anything in pairs. Using pairs is one of the best design elements he employs, some might say liberally, to create balance and cohesion. The reason he loves pairs is simple, ‘They really just make me feel good.’ They naturally help create order and symmetry in a room. ‘Using a pair of chairs, a pair of lamps, a pair of urns, is simple but effective- they can highlight a focal point or create a focal point where there is none. ‘
Unlike other designers who want to design a more dynamic arrangement of art and furniture, they set out to create tension in their rooms. That is not Eric’s goal. His is for a room to feel good. He wants his rooms to hone a sense of permanence, as if those rooms have existed for a hundred years. This lasting quality to his rooms is what he is most proud of. They are rooms his admirers say stand the test of time. They endure.
‘Timeless’ is a word his clients often use to describe the homes he creates for them. This quality comes from mixing antiques and familiar color-schemes with updated fabrics and upholstery. He insists on using antiques in his projects because ‘they give a sense of history to a room you cannot get with new furniture. Antiques tell a story, and even if you don’t know the story, it doesn’t matter-they tell it anyway. One can imagine where a table came from, or in whose home a rug has lived. When you purchase antiques, you become part of that never-ending story.’ That is both comforting and exciting to him. Antiques also have a time-worn quality. That is something he particularly loves about antique rugs. They are ‘durable as workhorses and at the same time works of art. They elevate a room from pretty to sublime.’
For Ross, decorating always starts with the floor plan. He lays out the furniture and begins to imagine walking through the rooms, entertaining in the rooms, welcoming guests to dinner parties and hosting family for the holidays. The story he tells himself, imagining his clients families in the spaces, are just an extension of his ten-year old self peddling around a small town Kentucky neighborhood imagining the families activities in those homes he so admired.
In Erics debut book, Enduring Southern Homes, published by Gibbs Smith, he presents a collection of homes he has worked on. For Ross, every one is a love story in its own right. The rooms were created from the foundation of all the lessons he learned from hours of bike rides and years of searching for and dreaming about every detail from magazines. His clients have allowed him to use a lifetime of imagining to create enduring homes for them and their families.
“Your home should reflect who you are on your best day,” Eric says. “When you go to a great party or big event, you want to put your best foot forward, so you wear a great outfit and get your hair done. That’s really what you home should look like.” For Eric, it’s the smallest touches- the jewelry, if you like- that helps to elevate a space to its full splendor.
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