If you frequently travel in the South, chances are you’ve run across Libby Patrick’s interior architectural designs a time or two. The founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Sims Patrick Studio was been born in Memphis, TN, and raised in Decatur, AL, but her visions grace high-end residential and commercial projects from one coast to the other — including properties like the historic Battle House Hotel in Mobile, Alabama. Infusing Southern hospitality into every project, Libby creates inviting, unique boutique spaces that wow. Please welcome our newest Interior Designer Crush, Libby Patrick!
How did you begin your incredible interior design career?
Growing up, I always loved to draw and paint. I had health issues when I was young — thyroid cancer — so I used drawing, painting, and doodling to pass the time when I couldn’t be anywhere else. I also had an uncle who was an architect. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do in high school, I did an internship at his firm, which happened to be a prominent architecture and interior design firm here in Atlanta. My dad wanted me to go to school in-state, so I ended up at Auburn. It was an incredible adventure. I started my career in Atlanta with a big architecture firm, Stevens and Wilkinson, and learned how to design big public spaces through the projects that came in. I’ve done every kind of interior design project type, from corporate to healthcare to senior living to entertainment and shopping malls.
When we had our son, I wanted to be home with him, so I left the company where I was a principal designer and started Sims Patrick Studio in the basement of my house. I wanted to continue my career, but I also wanted flexibility. We had the company in the basement for seven years. Now, we’re in an office building.
What led you to design hotels?
High-end residential is where I started, but I always wanted to do hotels. Years ago, we got commissioned to do the Battle House Hotel in Mobile, Alabama, and that’s how we got started doing hotels. After that, it was by word of mouth. Design-wise, it’s always been about storytelling, and we primarily do boutique hotels. We also do one-of-a-kind, destination-type independent projects. Hotels are probably the most complicated project types, especially if you count the spa and wellness component, restaurants, guest rooms, and lobby spaces.
You’ve designed hotels throughout the South. Are there particular elements that you include in each project?
We want everybody to feel like a star in the spaces that we design, and we want that to start at their arrival and last through checkout. So, there are things that I always think about, like having a refreshment stand — something that represents hospitality as someone walks into the space. We want people to be relaxed and feel at home immediately. When we’re doing reception desks, we always ask, “How can we make people feel invited and comfortable and relaxed, even if it’s a very high-end, fancy hotel?”
Where do you curate your design pieces and find inspiration?
Pretty much everything we do is custom. Often, I get my inspiration from researching a location; we do a huge amount of research about the local flora and fauna, wildlife, food, music, and culture surrounding a hotel. We want our design to respond to something meaningful to create an immersive experience. I think that’s what people are looking for — they want to learn about what’s around them, where the best restaurants are, the best museums, parks, and botanical gardens. They want to know what to wear and what they should do while they’re there, even if it’s for a business trip.
The objective is to learn everything that history provides but also ask, “Where are we going? What’s the hotel of tomorrow?” We immerse ourselves in that environment to create something that’s one of a kind.
Do you have a favorite project to date?
I’m doing a pet project right now, which is my favorite at the moment. I bought a property in my hometown, Decatur, Alabama. There’s a two-acre site with an 1835 home, and I’m creating a 55-room boutique hotel with a spa, upscale restaurant, cafe, and big event space overlooking the Tennessee River. I’m so excited about it!
We’re picking up on the roaring ’20s, which was the home’s heyday. It will have a glamorous flavor with a mixture of old antiques and new sculptural-type furniture. The hotel itself will be an upscale lake house, but warm and friendly. I’m trying to carry on my mom and dad’s legacy through this project.
There’s a considerable focus on sacred spaces lately. Do you have a happy place in your home that you retreat to for solace and peace of mind?
I have several! I’m into wellness, so I have two spaces — one is my studio downstairs, where I have my Peloton and my rowing machine. I also have a studio where I create a lot of things. For instance, I have an easel and a huge table to lay projects out. It’s in the lower level of my home and overlooks my back garden. You’ve got to put a little bit of vacation in every day. We’re blurring the lines between working at home and the office, and I believe that’s the way of the future — everyone is trying to make their homes a little more work-like and their workspaces more home-like.
Do you have a design secret or trick of the trade that you might be able to share?
For me, it’s about the visual editing of spaces. I like to walk into a room as if I’m having a party — what would I want people to see and not see? I’m always looking at things and thinking, “Oh goodness, all of those things are spread out and cluttered! How can we group them so they’re more powerful?” Think about what you want to feel, your focal points, and how things react to one another. I’m all about the interior language that we’re creating. What are you looking at, and do you like it? If not, don’t put it out.
Can you describe your design philosophy in a few words?
Shape places into memories.
Thank you for sharing your expertise with us, Libby, and thanks to Sims Patrick Studio for supplying the beautiful images!
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