Stephanie Sabbe is renowned for her ‘granny chic’ interior design aesthetic. Merging antique treasures with modern pieces, she seamlessly marries old and new in a way that has caught the eye of both homeowners and industry peers around the South — and she’s continuing to make a splash with the recent addition of a retail shop, Heirloom Artifacts, in her home city of Nashville, TN. Join us as we get to know our latest Interior Design Crush!
What inspired your love of interior design?
I feel like I was born an interior designer. It’s just the way my brain has always worked, even though I did not grow up around high-end design. But good design is everywhere if you are looking for it. I have said this would be my career since I was 7, after asking a fortune teller at a school carnival what I would be when I grew up. I loved going on field trips to local historic sites. I did my third-grade project on the Traveller’s Rest Historic House and then, years later, had my wedding reception there. I just love good design.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Familiar, comfortable, collected, warm, historic, inviting, and unique.
You spent years designing in New England but were born and raised in Tennessee. How has living on both the East Coast and in the South influenced your design sensibilities?
I say I trained to be a designer in Tennessee but did not become a designer until I moved to New England. Being immersed in that kind of historic architecture was the most amazing experience. After starting my own firm, one of my very first projects was on Dwight Street in Boston’s South End. It was a full brownstone built in the 1800s, with all original fireplaces, stair railings, and moldings. Those are details I could never have learned from a book. But there I was, measuring and drawing to make sure the new worked with the old. I love learning, and there was always so much to learn in Boston.
You are a Nashville native. Where are your favorite local places to shop for interior design elements, and where do you go locally for inspiration?
My family loves White’s Mercantile. I think my husband takes my kids there for every single holiday that involves buying me a gift because he knows it’s easy! My friend April Tomlin is hosting pop-up shops for her online store, and I find those very inspirational. I find the Nashville hospitality scene very inspirational. I recently went to the bar on top of the Optimist (Le Loup) in Germantown and just kept thinking, “This is amazing. I want to design like this!”
What prompted you to open your new Belle Meade shop, Heirloom Artifacts, and what can we look forward to shopping for there?
I make decisions quickly. One Tuesday, the September before last, I just decided I should open a shop. It took me a minute after the build-out to get my head around what I actually wanted to sell and who we wanted to be. I am very passionate about community and love taking classes on things I never plan to master, so our classes drove the shop’s layout. I wanted to be able to clear all of the goods out and set up for a knitting or cookie decorating class (both of which we have already hosted). And then the shop is a collection of pieces that feel like us or the homes we create. Hopefully, when people walk in, they will say, “I get it; I get how I want my home to feel.” We sell the pieces to help get them there.
What piece of design advice can you offer us to elevate our homes?
Be original. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Dig deep into what spaces have made you happy in your life, whether it be your grandmother’s kitchen table or a new boutique hotel, and lean into that to create a space uniquely you. NEVER design your home for the approval of others. Never decorate hoping someone will walk in and be “wowed” or compliment what you have done. Because when they don’t, it will break your heart. Do everything for you and your people; if people like it, great. And if they don’t, just assume your design skills are so off the charts people just don’t get it.
What is your favorite space or design element in your own home, and why?
We have a library that I refuse to call a library because it sounds too fancy. But it is a library, and despite the fact that the dog ripped the bullion fringe off both sofas, it is hands down the best room in my house.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the world — be it another designer or a dream client, who would it be?
Such a good question! I would LOVE to work with Ben Pentreath or Gil Schafer. I really think we should all take sabbatical years where we leave our own firms and intern for someone else for a year. I miss being a student. I am always learning, but one day I woke up, and I was the boss, and well … I wish I could go back and tell young, naive me, “Stop trying to get to the top of a corporate ladder you didn’t even know existed when you enrolled in design school and focus on your craft.” Lean into those who want to teach and away from those who want to climb.
What design trends or influences are you most excited about this year?
I designed a lamp that will launch this year that I am insanely excited about. It is called the Thompson Branch. I feel like cordless lamps are a big deal right now in our industry, but there are not many wooden cordless lamps. Pleated fabric shades are also back in the spotlight, and we have developed our own line that will pair with the lamps.
Can you describe your design philosophy in five words?
This is too hard! Ha!
To design authentic spaces for authentic people. (To and for are not in the word count, right?)
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