Huff Harrington has been a staple of fine art and home furnishings for years, born from two committed, Atlanta-based Francophiles: Ann Huff and Meg Harrington. These two women saw the need to spread their love of all things French and started the business as a successful art gallery, which eventually became the stepping stone to their home furnishings and lifestyle store. And now these ladies are taking the business one step further — expanding into interior design with a full-service firm, Huff Harrington Design. Ann and Meg, along with their team of talented interior designers, will work with clients on a much deeper level and help create a space that truly reflects the homeowner. We sat down with Meg (Ann was, you guessed it, in France at the time) to discuss the new Huff Harrington Design and what the business means to not only them, but their devoted clients and clients-to-be.
What is your favorite part about designing a space, from start to finish?
We have two favorite parts: The first is the creative/inspiration process that gives each job its unique personality and fits the aesthetic of the homeowner — it requires a lot of listening, interpreting and asking hundreds of questions. The second part is the installation when all that creative collaboration becomes a reality in the space. It’s the most gratifying moment when the client oohs, ahhs and gasps with joy.
Why did you decide to move to interior design? Will this be in addition to the retail side of the business?
We’ve been quietly designing for our clients for years but decided it was time to offer it as an official service at Huff Harrington. Interior design fits perfectly hand-in-hand with our retail offerings of home furnishings and special one-of-a-kinds from France.
What would you say is your design firm’s signature style/look? There’s a lot of emphasis on “old and new.” How do you translate that to decorating a space?
Without a doubt, our mantra is “it’s all about the mix,” and that’s not a trendy statement! The French, for one, have been designing this way for centuries. Pieces are inherited and handed down from generation to generation, but each generation adds something new, so you end up with rooms that feel interesting, layered and very authentic.
We strongly believe that enduring design incorporates a lovely balance of old and new so, for example, we love nothing more than pairing a Louis XVI commode under a fabulous new abstract painting. We like the tension that juxtaposition presents — it keeps a room feeling collected and real. And yes, we firmly believe that every room needs an antique and original art! But in a nutshell, we like rooms that look and feel pretty (or handsome), are functional and are thoughtfully designed.
Some examples of this old and new include: abstract art paired with an antique commode; an oversized starburst mirror created from vintage wood hanging over a sleek and low sofa; a modern dining table anchored by two antique mouton chairs, beautifully upholstered in a new, chic fabric; low and sexy armchairs paired with a brass and glass coffee table from the 1970s; and a crusty and crunchy 1800s painting in the place of honor over a sleek and spare console.
How did you select the designers who will help lead this new aspect of the business?
We’re so lucky to have an incredible team in place. Three of our designers have been with us for years, either as merchandisers or designers, and we were lucky to connect with two other talented individuals who bring years of creative design to the table. And we [Ann and Meg] will be involved with projects, as well.
As of right now, how does the design process work with new clients?
We’re busy … and we’re thrilled!
We do a lot of listening with new clients. We like to meet in the space and listen carefully to what the client is saying. Then we take that conversation and translate it into a plan that involves the creative inspiration, as well as the logistics. Sometimes, we have clients come into the store looking for immediate gratification. We can do that too, thanks to the inventory we always have on the floor or at the gallery. Those are usually short and sweet little jobs that result in happy clients.
We’re working with about five clients right now with projects that range from living space redos to a new, beautiful beach house in the Northeast. And we just finished with Southeastern Designer Showhouse, which is always an honor to participate in.
What is the most challenging aspect of designing a client’s space? What has been the most outrageous request you’ve ever had from a client?
We always want our clients to be thrilled when the job winds down. Most of it we can control, but every once in a while, there are pieces to the puzzle that we can’t control. That’s definitely the most challenging aspect of design.
We can’t think of any requests that have been too outrageous, but we can tell you that designing spaces in Paris or in other countries can be interesting, to say the least. We’ve carried over bags and bags of triple-lined silk curtains, nice fluffy pillows (hard to find in other countries), bedding, Stitch Witch (because you just never know when you’re going to need it), curtain hardware, paintings and coffee table books. We arrive in Paris looking like pack horses!
We know you all go to Europe frequently in the pursuit of extraordinary pieces. What’s the best/coolest/favorite item you’ve ever picked up there? Did you keep it for yourself or offer it to your client?
After every trip, we high-five and say, “That was the best buy ever!” But yes, there have been a couple standouts that we dutifully sold at the store.
Ann really loves old art, and there was a spectacular large horizontal landscape from the early 1800s that she fell hard for. It was beautifully framed in a crusty, old, gold frame that was peeling and chipped, and the canvas itself was a little worn, but the painting had a mesmerizing luminosity to it. It didn’t take long for it to sell, and Ann was crushed! And on one of our early shopping trips, I went gaga for an 1800s Provençal commode that was painted the most beautiful blue-green and was perfectly crunchy. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. We paid way too much for it, but I’m happy to say it went to a very happy, chic home here in Atlanta … and I had a tear in my eyes as it walked out the door.
What should homeowners look for when trying to hire their own designer? How important is it to build a strong relationship together?
Good question! First of all, there needs to be a personal connection/charisma between the designer and the client — you’re going to be spending a lot of time together so you need to like each other! Second, there needs to be a contract in place so everyone knows what the road map looks like and expectations are met and managed. Third, you should be on the same page aesthetically. And fourth, the process should be fun!
Where do you want to see Huff Harrington Design in five years?
We’re already thrilled with the progress we’ve made in such a short time, so if, in five years, we have a roster of lovely, happy clients and a waiting list for our services, we’d be over the moon. And we hope we’re still having fun!
Thank you, Meg! To learn more about Huff Harrington Design, meet their team of designers and ogle past projects, click HERE.
Meet more amazing women from around the South. Click HERE.