Interior designer Jessica Davis grew up in a creative household where all her classmates enjoyed coming over because of the fun vibe. “My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all loved and celebrated the arts,”the Nashville, TN, designer says. “My friends always looked forward to sleepovers at our house because they knew my mother would have a fun craft for us to do together, like painting ceramic face masks or making decorative Christmas ornaments.” Jessica also watched her mother repurpose furniture and her father restore antiques as a side job, so not surprisingly, the designer’s own grown-up house has a hands-on — and playful — spirit itself.
Over in Atlanta, GA, Gina Sims also carries on the can-do attitude of her parents in her own house. “I come from generations of great style, house pride … and limited resources,” the interior designer recalls. “But I saw that having less to spend breeds creativity and ingenuity. If you want it, you have to do your research and figure out a way to make it happen. For my mother, that meant she learned how to sew the intricately beautiful window treatments she desired.”
For these two creative types, family life doesn’t hamper interior design; kids actually inspire a different kind of house style, as they’re finding with their own children. With both of these designers, houses aren’t just for show … all sorts of great family memories are made here. Enjoy our two house tours today!
Home Tour #1: The home of Gina Sims
Gina lives in a mid-century ranch in Decatur, GA (an artsy city right next to Atlanta), with Anna, 8, Caleb, 5, and her husband, Greg.
The laid-back town fits her approach to family living and design. “When I was growing up, our home was a source of pride, but never too precious to enjoy,” she says. “That’s the key. Many people think that when the kids are out of the house, then they can have the home they’ve always wanted, but why wait 18 years to enjoy your home?”
Her advice: Invest in good bones and durable upholstery to last for years. “If you are going to be constantly worried about someone messing something up, it’s not the piece for you at this time,” she says. “I like rustic wood coffee tables for homes with kids, for example. Dings and scratches only add to the character.” Also, she says, when children are small, it’s hard to keep toys from invading every space. “When my kids were old enough to pick up their toys, I moved toys to their rooms, but created play stations around the house,” says Gina. “The art table and display area in the kitchen is a good example of that.”
The Sims family, pictured here in Piedmont Park
Gina is a fan of this removable wallpaper from Sherwin-Williams, which will peel right off when she’s tired of the look. “The dark color hides imperfections in the wall and is easy to wipe clean,” she says, adding, “I love wallpaper! I mostly use it on accent walls, small bathrooms or rooms with wainscoting. It makes anything special and is a far cry from the tiny floral messes from the ’80s.” The table is originally from Crate & Barrel and the wooden chairs are vintage. “I always love a mix of chairs,” says the designer. “Here, some have metal backs with wood seats, and the vintage ones have wood backs and leather seats.” She’s proud of the deal on the light fixture … a thrift store find her brother picked up for $3.
Gina found this teal chair in her husband’s grandmother’s basement. “I love mid-century pieces for their clean lines and quality craftsmanship,” she says. “The price point is often accessible, and these pieces mix beautifully with other design styles — I recommend mixing them with other styles, actually. I find that if the whole room is strictly mid-century, it risks looking like a movie set.”
“I like a lot of color, but opted to keep the sofa a dark, family-friendly shade and punch the color with pillows, rugs, window treatments,” says the designer. “These green, raw silk window treatments were made from fabric I used in our wedding, actually!” Pillows with patterns are great kid-friendly options, she adds. The arc lamp is a classic mid-century look, but also very family-friendly. Kept behind the sofa, there is nothing to knock it over and it gives great overall light without feeling bulky.
A study behind the Sims’ kitchen is a former enclosed carport that now serves as Gina’s home office. Her husband grew up with this leather chair in his home. “His family was surprised that I wanted it, but the patina is precisely why I love it,” says Gina. “It is insanely comfortable and my go-to reading chair for obvious reasons.” The rug and shelves are from IKEA.
“I found this Jenny Lind bed on Craigslist,” says Gina. “I had plans to repaint it but after I started sanding and realized it had already been painted several times, I decided this color was perfect!” Gina made this silhouette of her daughter from a picture taken of her while she was sitting still watching TV, and layered it on top of patterned origami paper for extra color and interest. As an easy design idea, Gina mixed several colored and patterned sheet sets on her daughter’s bed, with the end result: a floral flat sheet, striped pillowcase and a polka-dot top sheet. “I found them at different places all over town at great prices, and they are so much more fun than a plain solid color,” says Gina.
Gina loves robots and collected them even before kids were in the picture. “I knew they would be part of my children’s rooms — girl or boy,” she says. Some are new from local toy stores, and many are flea market finds. The art is kept whimsical with Gina’s own paintings, found objects and local prints found at stores around town in Decatur.
Design-loving Gina is entertaining, as well. Click here to check out the video with her daughter that went viral on YouTube (in their wallpapered dining room).
Home Tour #2: The home of Jessica Davis
Jessica was first drawn to her Nashville house because of the layout. The single mother to Valor, 3, and Lincoln, 2, saw potential in its open floor plan. “Since the boys are young and this plan has all of the bedrooms on the second floor, I’m able to be close to them,” she explains. “This house allows all of the ‘public’ space to be on one level for living, if you will, and the ‘private’ space to be on a separate level, which functions well for us.”
Jessica graduated from Watkins College of Art with both interior design and art classes, giving her the right amount of practical and abstract knowledge. “My fine arts background sets me apart from other designers in my approach and process, I think,” says Jessica. “I see a space very much like I view a canvas, incorporating the necessary elements: line, texture, balance, harmony in a seamless and passionate way.”
“I thought numbering the stairs would be an interesting way for the boys to learn to count,” says Jessica. “We count the numbers each night as we head upstairs for bedtime! I also love the fun/whimsical message it sends as soon as entering the house.” A neighbor’s dog, Bailey, often spends time at the Davis house.
The designer, clad in a pink polka-dot dress, is all about carefree style. Jessica picked up the upholstered chair at Goodwill, then had it covered in cost-effective denim, which is both easy to clean and reminiscent of little boys. She painted and distressed the frame herself. “I love seeing the antique tricycle in the room, as well,” she says. “This is one that Lincoln (my youngest), rides through the house daily, though he thinks it’s actually a BICYCLE, which is funny. It was their father’s tricycle, so it has sentimental value, too.”
“The dining room is one of my favorite rooms,” says Jessica. “The secretary was a Craigslist find, and I snagged Superman from a local thrift store called Cool Stuff, Weird Things.” The oversize light fixture pulls in just the right amount of texture and scale, she says, and the eating area is particularly low maintenance. “We have all of our meals here, so it’s used quite frequently,” says the designer. “I found an inexpensive, synthetic blend rug with a pattern that cleans easily, but hides spills as they arise. The table is reclaimed and something I never have to worry about getting hurt, as it just adds to the look. And the chairs are a life saver. They’re heavy acrylic and can simply be wiped clean with a damp cloth, so cleanup from meals or arts and crafts is a breeze.”
Jessica chose Pottery Barn’s Comfort Square sectional with cotton blend slipcovers in white, which are surprisingly durable. “When they get dirty, I can pull them off and toss in the washer (even with a bit of bleach, if needed), so for me, the white works even better than if they were a color,” she says. The designer is a big fan of white, since the interesting accessories seem to “pop” against it. As for the roller skates, “I LOVE to roller skate and find any excuse to do so,” says Jessica. “I grew up roller skating in my grandmother’s basement and later worked as a manager at Sonic Drive-In through high school and college and got to roller skate at work. I was actually able to purchase my first home, a foreclosure/fixer upper, when I was 21 with the tip money I made roller skating at Sonic. Now, I roller skate in our house and let the boys chase me around.”
“I wanted the children to have a music room,” says Jessica. “Living in Nashville, the music culture is important for us to embrace and explore.” The piano came from Nashville Piano Rescue in East Nashville, where pianos are restored by the owner of the shop. “The piano is dated 1910, and the house was built in 1908,” she says, “so it was important for me to have something from the same era. The pairing with the large contemporary art created such an interesting juxtaposition and spoke to the creative intent of the space for me.”
The mini-stove was a Christmas present for the boys so they could “cook” while Jessica prepares meals in the adjacent kitchen; the designer appreciates its white, retro design. Above it hangs her great-grandmother’s print of the “Last Supper,” shown in its original frame.
The master bedroom came with its own sitting room, which Jessica enjoys as her refuge. She added her grandmother’s rocker, as well as an antique rug from the 1800s, and an antique vanity dresser from her family. She likes the combination of old items with the original pop art on the wall. “I love to mix pieces from different eras and styles,” says Jessica. “For me, that is where the true challenge lies, and where you find the most interesting interiors.”
“The white-on-white color scheme in the kitchen helps things feel ‘clean’ and open in my opinion,” says Jessica. She pulled some of the warmth from the butcher-block island top into the lighting, oversized pendants from Crate & Barrel with a wooden accent.
Playful design, whimsical accents and a carefree outlook are all easy elements any family can incorporate into their interior design. These are great starting points! Bottom line? (And this may be the only time you hear this when it involves children … ) There are no rules. Be creative, have fun with your space and make your home your own!
See more of Gina’s work at Ginasimsdesigns.com. And thanks to Christina Wedge for the beautiful house photography and Cati Teague for the portrait images.
See more of Jessica’s work at jldesignnashville.com. And thanks to Leslee Mitchell Photography for the great photographs.