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Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ annual Antiques at the Gardens is just around the corner, and once again, the premier fundraiser and largest antiques show in the Magic City brings a prestigious lineup of antiques dealers, interior designers, floral experts and landscape designers from across the United States. A fabulous lineup of events, parties, panel discussions and lecture series will offer guests a deep dive into an array of topics from the worlds of design, gardening, antiques and entertaining.

The Tastemakers Panel will delve into the topic of decorating with antiques and will feature five notable Southern designers: Becky Boyle of bi-coastal design firm Becky Boyle Interiors, Virginia Cheek of Atlanta-based Virginia Cheek Designs, Betsy Hayes of Birmingham’s Blackjack Horticulture, Jared Hughes of Atlanta-based Jared Hughes Design and Susan Lamb and Blair Parkes of Nashville-based Parkes & Lamb Interiors.

We caught up with each of these designers to learn more about their design aesthetics and inspirations, the trendy and timeless touches they love, and their insider design tips and tricks.

5 Southern Tastemakers

Becky Boyle

Principal Designer of Becky Boyle Interiors | Charlotte, NC & Los Angeles, CA

Becky Boyle, Principal Interior Designer of Becky Boyle Interiors | Image: Marisa Vitale Photography

Tell us about your design aesthetic and how you approach each project.

I gravitate toward creating spaces that feel detailed and approachable; big in design, but wrapped in warmth.

Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment?

I’m loving trellis as a trend right now — it feels both East Coast-appropriate with gardens and classic architecture, but also brings the indoor/outdoor living of the West Coast. I’m currently working on a breakfast room in Los Angeles that is completely wrapped in trellis, and the whole room opens up to their backyard patio and gardens. I’m also adding trellis to my antiques booth! I wanted to pay homage to the South and its gardens.

What are your favorite classic or timeless touches?

I think florals are timeless and can be used in many applications — floral wallpaper or fabrics in a grand Southern home, flowers as decor on the West Coast or ceramic flowers as a chic New England accessory. They warm up any environment.

“I specialize in incorporating classic inherited pieces with new and youthful style, marrying the client’s views and needs with her design vision,” says Becky. Image: Marisa Vitale Photography

Becky’s timeless designs can be found from coast to coast, from Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Pacific Palisades and San Francisco in California to Nashville, TN; Charlotte, NC; and Birmingham, AL, in the Southeast. Image: Marisa Vitale Photography

Becky masterfully mixes chinoiserie with a classic style. Image: Marisa Vitale Photography

What makes a design really sing?

I think adding layers in art, fabrics, antiques and colors takes a trained eye, but also makes a home feel unique and lived in. I love to layer different patterns of fabrics for pillows on a sofa, or layer in different pieces of art on a mantel.

I also think balance is key to making a room feel harmonious, whether it’s by balancing colors throughout a home, balancing height with lighting or balancing heavy upholstery with solid case goods.

What are you most excited about at the Antiques at the Gardens event?

Being with all the talent in Birmingham — I have been coming to Birmingham to work for years, and I’m constantly inspired and amazed by its many wonderful designers, artists, architects, florists and artisans!

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Virginia Cheek

Interior Designer of Virginia Cheek Designs | Atlanta, GA

Interior Designer Virginia Cheek of Virginia Cheek Designs | Image: Rustic White Interiors

How do you approach each project?

Our process with clients is relatively simple — we listen to our client’s ideas and needs in order to come up with a plan to fulfill those wishes. In my opinion, there is nothing better than bringing a client’s ideas to life, creating something unique that speaks specifically to their personality and lifestyle.

What are your personal design aesthetic and style preferences?

It may be my current phase in life, but having two small children and a dog, I aim for family-friendly and comfortable, but with style. The challenge is creating comfort and warmth using elegant shapes and maybe a few more precious pieces peppered in. These days, people are inundated with images from Pinterest and Instagram of rooms that are entirely white — all-white kitchens, all-white living rooms — which is a nice, clean approach, but in reality I prefer warmth. I want somewhere to cozy up with our family, a space where guests like to visit and feel at home.

What is the theme of your booth at the Antiques at the Gardens event?

Our booth is nature-inspired; the show is at the Botanical Gardens after all! We are using a mix of antiques and new pieces and bringing in some art from an amazing artist in Atlanta, Michael Dines. It will have a lot of natural materials, iron and greens and blues.

“I wouldn’t label our firm with a particular design aesthetic as it is very client-dependent,” says Virginia. Image: Rustic White Interiors

The Atlanta-based designer is most excited about visiting friends and family in her Birmingham hometown, saying, “I’m excited to see friends from growing up and further familiarizing myself with Birmingham’s design industry.” Image: Rustic White Interiors

“Finding inspiration through our clients is my favorite part of the job,” says Virginia. Image: Rustic White Interiors

Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment?

We are loving burled wood at the moment. While it’s a nod to mid-century modern design, it’s become more ubiquitous of late, and we love the opportunity to add some warmth and up the cool factor in a room. As far as “trends” go, I wouldn’t say we pay much attention. For us, it’s more about creating a space that’s timeless, which always means a respect for classic proportions and scale.

Once you understand the client’s style and needs, what guides your design process?

In terms of the decorating process, we start with the big pieces, fabrics and lighting. Then we move onto the occasional items. We bring in accessories last and all at once; that’s a process of trial and error that you typically have to see in situ before selecting.

When it comes to architecture, if you get that right on the front end, your options are limitless. With architecture that’s a bit wonky, you’ll have to be more strategic with decorating. Interior architecture and interior design are intrinsically linked in that way.

What are you most looking forward to at the Antiques at the Gardens?

Visiting my hometown!

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Betsy Hayes

Vice President of Blackjack Horticulture | Birmingham, AL

Betsy Hayes, Vice President of Blackjack Horticulture | Image: Allison Kanne of Blackjack Horticulture

Tell us about Blackjack Horticulture.

Blackjack Horticulture is a full-service landscape company. We do landscape installation, maintenance, masonry, and floriculture. Occasionally we’ll also do carpentry.

What sets Blackjack apart from other landscape firms?

We listen to our clients and deliver on what we say we’ll do. Customer service is our main priority. Two of our company values are honesty and integrity, and I feel that they are demonstrated in our work.

Describe the entrance garden that Blackjack is designing and installing at the Antiques at the Gardens event.

It’s going to be a Southern take on The Secret Garden, not walled off completely, but I want elements of surprise throughout the entire garden installation, vignettes for the guests to discover. I’m looking for plants that aren’t always used, and with it being in October, it isn’t easy to find blooming plants. So I’m being creative with plant selection, which we had to do last year as well, and I actually really like that challenge.

Blackjack Horticulture creates stunning outdoor living spaces, not only installing and maintaining the landscape, but also handling the masonry, hardscapes, patios, retaining walls, outdoor lighting and more. Image: Stacey Richardson Photography

Birminghamian Betsy looks forward to the Antiques at the Gardens each year. “I love seeing the community of people coming together for the event each year, both those preparing behind the scenes and those attending,” she says. Image: Stacey Richardson Photography

“I’ve worked at Blackjack for over 13 years and still love it,” says Betsy of the firm, which does residential and commercial work. Image: Stacey Richardson Photography

What inspires your design aesthetic?

I like trying new cultivars of Southern staples. My goal in a design is to invoke more than one of the senses, like a plant’s fragrance or texture. In flower designs, I always try to think through what would cause someone to reach down to touch or smell the flowers. It’s fun to watch people interact with your work.

Share your top landscaping tips, tricks or secrets with us gardening amateurs.

When planting flowers in pots, there are a lot of annuals that you can make trail simply by tilting them over the edge when you plant them. They may not be a true “trailing” flower but will hang over the side when given the right conditions. This helps your pots have more dimension!

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Jared Hughes

Interior Designer of Jared Hughes Design | Atlanta, GA

Tell us about your design aesthetic and how you approach each project.

My design aesthetic and approach are very similar. I love global influences. I travel as much as I can and constantly find beautiful pieces from all over the world to inspire me — from Syrian inlay and Chinese porcelain to Moroccan metalwork and traditional Central Asian fabrics. I love to pair all of these unexpected pieces together with a traditional approach to design. It feels like a contemporary take on an English country house. I really am inspired by color and fabrics when it comes down to the core of my approach!

Favorite recent trends?

I am loving the maximalist trend and the return of color. Most everything I am attracted to in the world is colorful. I also love a youthful approach to brown furniture; I love it mixed in more minimal and contemporary spaces or layered in a more traditional room. There is always a place for it!

Textures and patterns are expertly mixed in this inviting sitting room. Image: Hector Sanchez

This bedroom perfectly captures Jared’s love for color and fabrics, as well as his global influence. Image: Hector Sanchez

A collection of oversized Ming vases provide a delightful smattering of blue and white; while a collection of art, new and old, and a vintage kelim-adorned chair present pops of red. Image: Hector Sanchez

Share your top insider design tips for creating fabulous spaces.

Buy antiques. Don’t sell all of your family’s unwanted furniture. Abstract art looks great mixed in traditional homes. Do not take design too seriously!

What are you most excited about at the Antiques at the Gardens?

I am excited to shop for myself and my clients! We love antiques at Jared Hughes Design!

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Susan Lamb and Blair Parkes

Interior Designers of Parkes & Lamb Interiors | Nashville, TN

Susan Lamb and Blair Parkes of Parkes & Lamb Interiors | Image: Mary Craven Photography

Tell us about your design aesthetic.

Our designs generally have a warm, livable and timeless feel. We’re both drawn to clean simple lines, natural materials, texture and muted colors and often use these elements to design spaces that are layered and collected.

Paint a picture of what your curated space will look like at the Antiques at the Gardens.

It will be representative of our design aesthetic — an engaging backdrop, beautiful fabrics, lots of texture and, of course, some antiques!

Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment, and, alternately, any timeless aspects of design that you cling to?

We always try to incorporate natural elements and lots of texture in our design. White oak and unlacquered brass are certainly having a moment right now, but we feel these materials are more timeless than trendy.

“Every client has a different story and different needs,” says Susan. Blair agrees, adding, “It’s our job to discover their unique style and design preferences so we can create inspired spaces that are tailored to the client and hopefully feel like a welcomed retreat at the end of the day.” Image: Mary Craven Photography

This boy’s bedroom is equal parts cozy and elegant with a subtle playfulness. Image: Mary Craven Photography

This bright and airy kitchen marries soft wood tones with gorgeous whites and striking seafoam pendant lights. Image: Mary Craven Photography

Share your top designer secrets with us regular folk.

Every room needs an antique. Give your family heirloom pieces that you are unsure of a chance. When paired with more modern furniture, it will give the room depth.

What are you most excited about at the Antiques at the Gardens?

We are so excited to be a part of the Birmingham design community for the weekend! We are looking forward to getting to know the other designers and tastemakers, as well as seeing all of the other talents showcased throughout the weekend.

Antiques at the Gardens takes place at Birmingham Botanical Gardens October 3-6, 2019. Purchase tickets, find the complete lineup and more at bbgardens.org.

This article is sponsored by Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens.