How a Nashville Interior Designer Decorates With Effortless Southern Charm

Updated 05/06/19
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In many ways, the south is defined by its homes. When visiting Nashville, Tennessee, from the cramped streets of an urban city, like Los Angeles, rolling green hills, spacious front lawns, and homes propped up by columns and exposed brick look like something out of a fairytale. Houses in the famous neighborhood of Belle Meade are fixtures in the city and you can only imagine the Southern décor trends that lie behind their front doors.

One person who has that quintessential Southern charm down to a T is Nashville-based interior designer Sarah Bartholomew, whose designs you can now snag from Pottery Barn. For her, it all comes down to the fact that people in the South simply cherish their homes (and they use them far more than someone living in a 500-square-foot New York apartment likely uses theirs). She explains that when you cherish the place you call home, it translates into your décor. Ahead, Bartholomew shares how she uses décor to style homes in a way that's classic, timeless, and full of Southern charm. Here's how it's done.

Make It Warm and Inviting

Southern Living Room
Gordon Beall DESIGN : Sarah Bartholomew

One Southern décor trend that will never go out of style is creating a space that feels welcoming—both for the people who live there and the guests they host. "In the South, people really cherish and use their homes, which translates to interior design that is warm, inviting, and often classic," Bartholomew says. In this living room, neutral tones, natural light, and fresh flowers all make the space feel comfortable and welcoming.

Sarah Bartholomew St. Clair Entryway Console $499

Think Timeless and Classic Instead of Trendy

Southern Décor
Gordon Beall DESIGN : Sarah Bartholomew

"In all honesty, I steer clear of trends, as I really try to create timeless interiors that are authentic to how my clients live and use their space," Bartholomew explains. Instead of keeping up with the latest fads, think about what pieces will stand the test of time and grow with you for years to come.

Sarah Bartholomew Nola Shelf With Brackets $129

Find Your Southern Hospitality

Southern Kitchen
Gordon Beall DESIGN: Sarah Bartholomew

"Southern charm really speaks to Southern hospitality," according to Bartholomew. That means creating living spaces that function for your daily needs and transition for entertaining when you play host to friends and family. "I always try to make sure the homes we design are inviting and warm and ideal for entertaining."

Sarah Bartholomew Madeline Tray $79

Shop for Hidden Gems

Sitting Nook
Gordon Beall DESIGN : Sarah Bartholomew

A beautiful Southern home isn't without its treasured vintage pieces and thrift store finds. In Nashville, Bartholomew is sure to visit the Antiques & Garden Show each February and frequents other local haunts like the Gaslight Antiques Mall and Whites' Mercantile. No matter where you live, you can source stunning décor that comes with its own history by tracking down vintage shops and flea markets.

Chairish Chinoiserie Ginger Jar $250

Embrace Color and Patterns

Southern Bedroom
Emily Followhill DESIGN: Sarah Bartholomew

This bedroom is full of patterns and colors, a Southern décor trend that doesn't seem to be fading out anytime soon. While minimal trends preach muted colors and subtle details, Southern décor is all about playful designs and hues. "Blue is a color that I use in almost every project in some way and natural texture, too," Bartholomew reveals. "But this does not necessarily apply to all Southern décor and is more akin to personal sensibility." Choose textiles and washes that speak to your personal taste to get the look for yourself.

Jamesport Pillow Cover
Serena & Lily Jamesport Pillow Cover $78

Make It Cohesive

Blue Bedroom
Emily Followhill DESIGN : Sarah Bartholomew

While Southern décor is known to play with various colors and patterns, it's still important to keep designs cohesive throughout a home, especially when working with a small space. "First, pick one style and/or color palette to ensure the small space feels cohesive, and then keep functionality front of mind with the pieces you choose," she suggests.

Hand Woven Rigo Jute rug Area Rug, 9-Feet x 12-Feet, Natural
nuLOOM Hand Woven Rigo Jute Area Rug $250

Play With Art

Southern Décor
David Hillegas DESIGN: Sarah Bartholomew

"Art is essential in all of my projects," says Bartholomew. Her goal is always to find pieces that complement the colors and mood of a space. If you're unsure where to start when sourcing artwork for a room, study the existing colors and décor to get a sense of what may work well in the space. Alternatively, you can hang art that is unexpected or stands in juxtaposition to your existing décor. "I love to add a touch of modern to a classic interior through art," she says.

Kelsey Shultis Rot Haus $8000

Create Flow

Reading Nook
David Hillegas DESIGN : Sarah Bartholomew

"When decorating a house, I like to think of it as a book and each room is a chapter," explains Bartholomew. "You want them to flow and complement each other, and you want them to feel different, but you don't want them to be totally disconnected."

When it comes to smaller nooks in your home like this quaint reading bench, plan your décor around the colors and patterns found in the rest of your home. "Reflect on the overall aesthetic of your home, and then assess how you can achieve that similar look and feel in the entry," she recommends.

Sarah Bartholomew Oakes Entryway Bench $459

If you're looking for a way to bring Southern décor trends into your home, follow Bartholomew's tried-and-true tips for a classic look brimming with that quintessential charm.

This editor visited Nashville as a guest of Pottery Barn. Opinions are her own.

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