As I was preparing for our trip to Americus, Georgia to attend a dear friend’s wedding, I recalled hearing, a long time ago, about the interior decorator and antique dealer Furlow Gatewood, who resides in Americus. Back then, when I looked at the images of his homes, I instantly fell in love with his classic, yet idiosyncratic style—it’s what I might call an elevated cottage style.
Furlow Gatewood, in his late nineties now, was born and raised in Americus, and his cluster of houses are part of his families’ original property. There is a main barn, three houses, and several outbuildings and gardens. After some time in Manhattan and Savannah, Gatewood returned to Americus and began his work designing, decorating, and living here. He is self-taught and often begins a project without planning but relying on his vision and instinct. His knowledge about architecture, design, and antiques is widely respected and sought after. Those who know him describe him as the quintessential Southern gentleman with an exquisite eye for what is beautiful and interesting to him, with a touch of whimsy.
I thought I’d revisit the rooms of Furlow Gatewood and I’m so glad that I did. Here are 5 ideas to borrow (and love!).
- Begin with an architectural element that you love and build a room around it. For Gatewood, Gothic architecture is what speaks to him, and many of his rooms began with a single door or window or mantle that he used as a focal point. Even for those of us with smaller houses and budgets, a great architectural find might catch our eye and inspire a whole new look.
- Remember that comfort and refinement can go together. Don’t be afraid of blending high and low, old and new, humble and majestic. I love rooms that have the look of a woman wearing jeans and a t-shirt with strands and strands of pearls.
- Start with a neutral palette (for Furlow it is classic blue, and shades of white and gray), but don’t overlook the dramatic effect of a dash of color. In many of Gatewood’s rooms there are pieces of furniture in soft reds or greens, and in one room the trim is painted a classic, garden green.
4.Keep window treatments to a minimum—shutters, or wooden blinds, or simply forget about them altogether.
5.Rethink green. Despite the fact that Gatewood once owned a flower shop, I noticed very few floral arrangement in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, there are potted ferns and palms, topiaries, and vases of magnolia leaves—lovely calm green accents.
If I were to sum up my impression of Furlow Gatewood’s philosophy, I think it is about paying attention to detail, embracing beauty, but never taking it all too seriously.
Much of what I’ve learned about Gatewood has been though Julia Reed’s gorgeous book One Man’s Folly: The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood. And in Bunny William’s introduction to the book she mentions that he eats lunch everyday at Granny’s Kitchen in Americus, so at the time of this post I might just be looking for him there!
*photos for this post are from Veranda Magazine