Debonair architect Bill Ingram may keep a low profile, but his talents are surprisingly far-reaching. That gorgeous Southern Living Idea House in Birmingham last spring? Yep … Bill’s architectural design. Chances are, you’ve also coveted his own house in Southern Accents and House Beautiful, and projects of his appearing in Veranda and Garden & Gun. Not surprisingly, he’s been named ADAC’s Southeastern Architect of the Year.

Let’s find out more about this talented Southerner who is the subject of our affections in this month’s Interior Designer Crush.

Bill Ingram | Image: Luker Photography

Bill Ingram | Image: Luker Photography

When did you know as a child you were meant to be in a creative field? Were you someone always turning an empty box into a playhouse, or making things with Legos?

I always knew I wanted to create things and I did play with Legos and Lincoln Logs. I remember having some sort of kit with plastic I-beams & columns and snap-on curtain wall panels, with which I made buildings and parked my Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels around. Mostly, though, I liked to draw houses and floor plans and I still do!

Why did you decide to be an architect? What are the pros and cons to being an architect?

I guess I decided to be an architect the day I knew what one was, although growing up I didn’t know any — but I enjoyed studying architects and their buildings. I love seeing my designs realized and feel a certain legacy from that. I would say the negatives are at times dealing with people who don’t get it. I do my best work for those who trust and believe in me.

“This was one of my own that began as a watered-down version of what it is now,” says Bill. “I added the wood shingle roof, the center dormer, the cedar shakes and the green shutters. The original proportions were pleasant enough, but adding the dormer and raising up the windows did wonders for it.” Image: Simon Watson  and House Beautiful

For the 2016 Southern Living Idea House, the magazine gave Bill an inspiration photo from an old issue. “I was shown an avocado green kitchen, so the dark green I used was a fresher green that felt more restful, like being under a big tree,” he says. Image: Laurey Glenn for Southern Living

In the same showhouse, Bill strived to bring the outdoors in for the family room just off the kitchen. A tented ceiling made a basic square room feel airy like a garden room, he explains. Image: Laurey Glenn for Southern Living

What are your favorite features of your own house? Do you have a favorite type of residential architecture that you respond to and why?

Currently I have a lake house in Lake Martin, Alabama, that I built about ten years ago and it looks better now than it did then and has settled into the landscape perfectly. It is a boxy shingled house with a deep overhanging roof and a deceiving scale, appearing much larger than it is. I see traditional formal elements in it, yet it is a relaxed house with no new and shiny parts. I’ve renovated and built many houses for myself and in general most houses you find are only partially authentic to begin with or they have lost their luster over time. I love being able to see what’s missing and to make a house a full realization of what it wants to be. I tell people that my favorite houses are either classic flat-front Georgian houses or crisp architectural modern ones. Both to me are pure and rational. A storybook house doesn’t hold much appeal to me personally if it oozes too much (often fake) sentiment.

Who are some of your role models, architecturally speaking?

Architects like David Adler and John Staub come to mind; they both designed restrained classic houses that are timeless and beautiful still today. A late California modernist like Craig Ellwood is one of my enduring favorites. He personified the pure modern aesthetic of southern California with houses that were pristine creations made for casual inside/outside living.

Do you do interior design work as well as architecture?

I do some interior design work for my clients as an extension of the architecture, and also enjoy working with a good interior decorator.

This warm and dark entry hall at the lake is a preamble to the main room, which is tall and bright. Image: Chris Luker

Natural materials and an open family room define this lake house. Photo: Chris Luker

Natural materials and an open family room define this lake house. Image: Chris Luker

Another lake house features a curved landing that serves as a sitting space outside two second-floor guest bedrooms. Image: Sylvia Martin Photography

What are some of your favorite stores or showrooms/sources in the southeast that readers might not know about for home furnishings?

Parc Monceau Antiques in Atlanta is a go-to for antiques, and you can’t go wrong at Mrs. Howard and Max & Co. — either for antiques or new home furnishings. Most designers also rely on many of the showrooms at ADAC as well for all the national showrooms and lines. ADAC is now open to the public, although you will need your designer to purchase. Fun retail sources are also Dixon-Rye and the catalog source of Serena & Lily, who are about to open a store in Atlanta.

What are some restaurants or hotels in the southeast that get it right, design-wise?

Right now I really like Zero George in Charleston. It’s a collection of old Charleston houses converted into a small hotel … it’s very fresh and well done, and they were able to keep the historic feeling. Also, the Dunmore on Harbour Island in the Bahamas is one of my favorites. It was redecorated a few years ago by Amanda Lindroth; she also made it fresh and chic, yet still with a nod to old Bahamas.

The same house with the curved stair landing at Lake Martin. I love this house with its All-American feel of crisp white trim and gambrel roof form, it is both familiar and different. Photo credit: Chris Luker

The same house with the curved stair landing at Lake Martin. We love this house, with its All-American feel of crisp white trim and gambrel roof form. It is both familiar and different. Image: Chris Luker

A shower with French doors opens directly into a private wall-in back garden at a former house of Bill’s. Image: Simon Watson and House Beautiful

“This was a new house we designed in San Antonio, Texas, with white-painted brick, blue shutters and the owner’s signature coral color at the front door,” says Bill. Image: Bill Ingram Architects

What are some things people should always splurge on, house-wise, and conversely, what are areas where it might be ok to take a budget approach?

I would always opt to build smaller if you need to, and use your money for quality materials that will hold up over time. Even for people who like to cook, a lot of expensive appliances now are a waste of money and take up space. A well-designed quality space well furnished is so much more appealing to me than just filling up a space with stuff.

Does Alabama, your home state, have a certain style?

Alabama has many styles and it varies from town to town. Places like Montgomery or Huntsville with their antebellum history have a rich heritage of innate traditional design, whereas Birmingham, which is a relatively new city, carries on the tradition of early 20th century period houses such as English Tudor, Mediterranean, and Colonial.

“This room does triple duty as kitchen, dining and living room, and to me, the painted striped floor scaled the room up and made it appear larger and more cohesive,” says Bill. Image: Simon Watson and House Beautiful

This master bath was designed to feel like an old house, perhaps with a bath made from a porch closed in. Image: Sylvia Martin Photography

A new modern farmhouse in Serenbe outside of Atlanta uses familiar country house forms. Bill played with scale so the house appears simple and small, but is really much larger inside than it looks. Image: Chris Luker

What’s a design feature you wish would go away, and what’s one that never goes out of style?

I’ve never been a huge fan of dark painted window sashes, although they do have a place and it seems every new house is now painted white. There is nothing more beautiful than a well-executed white painted brick house, but an ugly house painted white is still ugly, just white.

Thanks to Bill Ingram for sharing some insight into your design world and inspiration. See more designers we love and the spaces they create in our “Homes” section, and prepare to swoon!