When I lived in Knoxville, my good friend/pretend big sister always had issues of Southern Living lying around her home. As a New Englander/Midwesterner, I tend to stick to geographically vague periodicals and was a bit suspicious of a magazine produced below the Mason-Dixon line. However, I always enjoyed leafing through the issues at her house.
Recently, this same friend treated me to a gift subscription of Southern Living. For the sake of good recipes and decorating tips, I was willing to set aside my New England allegiance. Only two issues in and I am not only hooked, I have learned a lot.
First, to be a truly classy professional decorator in the South, you have to give your children pretentious and/or ridiculous names. The designers interviewed usually have kids named Tinsley, Sterling, Cashmere and so forth. I tend to like more simple, classic names, although I do like the name Finn for a boy and Evan for a girl. Those may qualify. I may fit in yet.
Second, good Southern decorating means covering every inch of your home in...stuff. Thus far, there are no modern, minimalist designers featured. The rooms the magazine features are beautiful, but there is furniture, knicknacks and wall art covering every inch of every space. I find that claustrophobic personally, but it makes for a beautiful photo spread. Most importantly, it gives you a plethora of examples on how to mix and match textures, shapes and styles.
Third, it is good style form to pick three colors, generally one neutral and two bolder hues, and decorate your entire home in them. I feel like this must not include your kids rooms, though. Your daughter wants to paint their room orange? Too bad...it doesn’t go with your Old World Caribbean theme. Your son is into Cars and Batman? Too bad...his room is getting aqua wallpaper with a coral motif. I think exceptions are probably made here.
Fourth, Southern Living is published for busy people, probably mostly homemakers with kids. It was a bit of a scandal, after years of subscribing to Bon Appetit, to see recipes that include cans of cream of mushroom soup and canned green beans, but most of the recipes are actually really delicious. I’ll probably still make my own cream of mushroom base and will always be faithful to fresh (in a pinch frozen) produce, but the end result will be the same: good, hearty food. And anyone, Southern or otherwise, can appreciate that.
I may not want to exactly copy everything I see in the pages of Southern Living (moose antlers above my bed? No way.), but it is full of inspiring craft, decorating and cooking ideas. If you haven't checked out this magazine before and are sitting in an airport or hanging out at a bookstore coffee shop, I highly recommend picking up an issue. It just may surprise you.