Monday, February 20, 2012

Decorator I Love: Bravo, Phoebe Howard

The great and talented Mrs. Howard’s glamorous and inspiring new book, ‘The Joy of Decorating, Southern Style with Mrs. Howard’ celebrates the beauty of Southern style and a gracious approach to living.

Written in collaboration with the great expert on Southern regional style and design, Susan Sully, the book is both style inspiration and an authoritative guide. 

In ‘The Joy of Decorating’, the divine Mrs. Howard has organized design projects by theme: Inviting, Inspiring, Timeless, Graceful, Tranquil, Casual and Comfortable.

These are all descriptions that have been used to describe Mrs. Howard’s work. They illustrate the many different ways she strives to make her houses look and feel. 

The book epitomizes the grace and elegance of Southern interior design. After reading it with Mrs. Howard as a trusted guide, I think I’m getting a glimpse of why Southern style and décor are so compelling. 

‘Simplicity is the essence of tranquility.’—Mrs. Howard 

Special offer to the readers of The Style Saloniste:

Through a special agreement with Mrs. Howard, my readers can get the book for 20 percent off: You pay $40 instead of $50.

To purchase a signed copy of the book directly from Mrs. Howard, please use the following discount code below when purchasing from the site Click on ‘buy the book’.

The discount code is TSSJOD

When you go to the Phoebe Howard website, check on ‘buy the book’, click on ‘discount,’ add the code (TSSJOD), and then be sure to hit ‘update’ to the right of the code box.

With each book purchased through Phoebe Howard readers will also receive an elegant free paint chart, which lists 15 of Phoebe’s favorite paint combinations of wall, trim and ceiling colors. It is truly inspiring.

The colors are subtle, surprising, versatile and seductive. This special chart will provide inspiration for years of painting (and is a reason to purchase the book).

Included in the 257 page book is a resource list, and highly inspiring chapters on dining rooms, paint colors, casual rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms (delicious) and the cream of the crop of Mrs. Howard’s decorating.

Phoebe Howard with her husband and collaborator, Jim Howard.

"To walk into a Phoebe Howard room is to walk into a calm, elegant world that is naturally comfortable. Phoebe’s rooms take the edge off life.

Two years ago House Beautiful asked Phoebe and her husband Jim to design an apartment in New York for our show house project called Hearst Designer Visions. On the 50-something floor of a Mid-town building, it was like living inside a cloud. An apartment at that height can be unnerving, but this one was calm and soothing. Phoebe's rooms take the edge off life."
  — Newell Turner, Editor-in-Chief, House Beautiful 

Come with me for a private and exclusive STYLE SALONISTE chat with Phoebe Howard. I recently sat down for a conversation with Phoebe. Pour yourself a glass of wine or make a cup of tea, and join us for our tete-a-tete.

DDS: Phoebe, congratulations on your new book, your first book! It is so fresh and wonderfully inspiring. It's beautiful. I adore your quotes like, ‘I try to imagine dining rooms in full swing, candles burning, music playing, glasses tinkling, people laughing and enjoying time together.” You must have enjoyed working on your book. 
PH: Thanks! I really did enjoy the process. Doug Turshen, the book's designer, has a great eye and made it so easy for me. Also, Susan Sully, who wrote the text, is very talented and easy to work with. The hard part was editing my photography. I would have liked to have included some other images. I am already thinking about another book. It is kind of like a pregnancy — hard when you are going through it, but when you have the baby, you somehow forget about all the pain! 

DDS: There are such a variety of interiors all over the East Coast—but they have a consistent beautifully edited look and a clarity that is rare in design today. They're restrained, superbly edited, crisp, fresh, and calm. 
PH: Thank you, Diane. I know that I bring a sense of order to my rooms. I simply don't like clutter or chaos, and I always try to inject some personality from my clients into my projects. That is always my goal. I think the fact that I am untrained formally in design gives my rooms a natural feeling, and I think some decorators simply try too hard or get too tricky. I am practical, and it is important to me that my rooms really function for their intended purpose as well as be beautiful. 

DDS: This is Southern without the heavy-handed clichés. You believe that the best gift you can give yourself is a pocket of tranquility in a busy life. 
PH: Southern people care about their interiors more than any other region of this country, in my opinion. We have all been raised to give our homes priority, and that they should always feel gracious and welcoming. It is just part of our genetic makeup, something you can't fight! 

DDS: You work on every project with your husband Jim. It is definitely the interior architecture of Jim—who gets the interiors right first and then you can decorate. He understands proportion and balance and harmony—that are essential to any interior no matter the location or architecture. 
PH: Jim and I do not work on every project together, but on a select few each year. We do design the stores together, and he does the architectural shell, while I decorate them and merchandise them. It is very hard to decorate a room with no architectural integrity. Jim and I are very lucky that we have complementary skills, and it is a business model that works for us. We are actually going to build a new house for ourselves sometime in the near future. We have never lived in a new house, always renovated older houses. We are both very excited and looking forward to designing and building this house.

We were recently working on our house in Jacksonville together. Jim suggested that we should use high-gloss lacquer on the ceiling, which has a beautiful crown molding. By capturing and reflecting the light, the glossy paint seems to lift the eight-foot ceiling high above the room. It adds a glow, an extra dimension. So our collaboration enhances our work enormously. 

DDS: Your forte is rich neutrals, don't you think? It's never a simple white! It's never just plain beige. The background you create with these complex neutrals gives your room a very harmonious feeling. 
PH: It is true. I love neutrals for myself personally. I like to say that I am married to beige, and I have affairs with color! I have learned to embrace color, and I am definitely not afraid of it. It is actually a lot harder for me to decorate a neutral space, because the subtle nuances have a strong impact. I also think that in a neutral room, you really need good architecture, good antiques, and art.

Color is something that I think can disguise a lot of flaws. My clients usually fall into two groups, those who love color, and those that don't. There is rarely much crossover. 

DDS: I live in California and love it. But the moment I read the expression 'Southern Style' I want to get on a plane. I think it is the rich history implied in those old mahogany beds and the dark wood furniture that suggests plantations and centuries of old families. 

But you do it with a light hand.
PH: Come on down, not only would you see some lovely places, but we would make sure you have a good time as well! We love to entertain and love any excuse for a party. And one thing is for sure: there are lots of interesting characters so you will never be bored. The South is a very interesting, layered and complex place. We might talk slow, but we are anything but! 

DDS: Phoebe, thank you so much. Wonderful to chat. 

About Mrs. Howard

Fourteen years ago, Phoebe and Jim Howard opened the doors to their first store, Mrs. Howard, in Jacksonville, Florida, hoping to demystify the decorating process for their customers. The goal was simple: to create a retail space that showcased Jim's architectural and decorating talent, and Phoebe's natural skills for buying, decorating and merchandising. With equal parts of exceptional customer service and a well-rounded mix of furniture, antiques and accessories, the store was an instant success. Five years later, they added another store, Max & Company, which features a younger, more modern appeal. Now, the Howards have Mrs. Howard and Max & Company stores in Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Florida, Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia.

Over the years, Phoebe Howard's penchant for creating stylish spaces has evolved into her own brand of decorating, which has garnered praise from national media as well as her clients. Known for her fresh take on traditional style, Phoebe's work can only be characterized by its timelessness and her mantra to "keep it pretty." While she is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on Southern style, Phoebe is well regarded for her business acumen as well, catering to both homeowners as well as other members of the design community (including decorators, interior designers and architects) who have embraced the Mrs. Howard aesthetic for their own clients. Through her shops, she was one of the first entrepreneurs in Florida to introduce unique domestic and international lines to the area. And today, she continues to scour the globe for new products for her stores and clients, as well as create her own exclusive line of pillows, lamps, mirrors and case goods.

The Mrs. Howard and Max & Company shops, as well as Phoebe's own decorating projects, are a veritable library of design inspiration, and have been published in Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Coastal Living, Cottage Living, Southern Accents, InStyle and Traditional Home, among others. 

Phoebe will be on a book tour. Readers can see the preliminary tour schedule here:

Photo credits: 
Josh Savage Gibson was the principal photographer for the book. Photography used her with express permission of the publisher.

Where to find Phoebe Howard:
online at 
and Jim:

(there is a Mrs. Howard and a Max & Company store at each of these addresses) 

425 Peachtree Hills Avenue Suite #23
Atlanta, GA 30305

Jacksonville Beach
2400 Third Street South Suite #304
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250

4128 Herschel Street
Jacksonville, FL 32210


1001 East Morehead Street
Charlotte, NC 28204

Store Hours: M-F 10-5, Sat 11-4


The enchanted home said...

This was fabulous...great interview. I am a big big fan of Phobes and so excited about adding her book to my collection, I know I am going to love it and am really happy I get a little thank you!
Wonderful interview..she is such a wonderful talent and loved hearing about her work.

Porchlight Interiors said...

Thanks so much for this fabulous post! We just adore Phoebe's style and I have just headed over to buy the book - can't wait to get my copy. Really enjoyed the interview!!! Cheers, Tracey xx

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Friends--near and far!

I love your comments. Thank you.

Phoebe Howard has so many fans around the world--and her work is an inspiration to all.

The new book has depth, character and warmth. I am confident it will become one of your favorites.

very best and be sure to stay in touch, DIANE

Tammy said...

What a great post on a fellow Southern designer. Phoebe and Jim are truly two of the best talents of the South.

peggy braswell said...

A Grand post on a fellow Southern designer + what a treat. Congratulations Phoebe & Jim. Thank you,Diane.

Windlost said...

Hi Diane,

I really enjoyed this post - I have been a fan of Phoebe & Jim Howard since I saw their first room. I love the pared-down traditional look and serenity of her rooms, and especially her use of interesting antiques in these quiet, elegant rooms. She rarely makes a mis-step in my book, and I find it funny to note that she says people are either colour people or they are not - so true.

If I could hire any designers, it would be Phoebe & Jim. No bells and whistles, but quiet, elegant spaces to showcase your art and antiques and rest the mind after a long day!!

Regards, Terri