SH: Do you believe Southern style has evolved in general during the time you’ve lived here?
SK: What I have seen, particularly over the last 10 years, is that homeowners want their interiors to be more edited and not as overdecorated and overcollected, even in very traditional houses. I love to use clients’ beautiful antiques and accessories, but I like to give these items a younger and fresher look with the use of paint, carpets, drapery, and a lot of editing. I’ll also mix in modern pieces, but again, I always keep that foundation
SH: We’ve often heard you say how vital it is to create the right “architectural envelope.” Since the houses you’ve worked on have architectural styles that run the gamut, what are the common threads that are important to you?
SK: I’ll look first at the floor plan of the house and work on it to make sure the home is flowing and living well. If you can get that right, then the house will feel good no matter what direction the decorating takes. And it’s important to take into account the sense of place, because obviously, a beach house needs to look and feel different from one on a street in Buckhead. I love working as part of a team—not only with an architect, but also with a landscape architect. I advise clients to hire the whole group, because the way people really want to live today is fully inside and out.
SH: When you find yourself in a position where decorating needs to compensate for the architecture—perhaps when you haven’t been involved in a team from the beginning stages—what’s your approach?
SK: Paint ends up being an amazingly strong player when you make a change. I love white, and it’s also really trending right now. When we paint the walls white, it looks instantly updated, particularly when there’s some kind of unusual feature that we want to make disappear. Then we can start layering on top of that. In my Kips Bay showhouse room last year, there was a big bulkhead in the ceiling, which gave me a bit of a panic attack. We couldn’t lower the whole ceiling because it would interfere with a window.
I added molding in the part that was raised, in the same depth as the bulkhead. I painted the ceiling, molding, and walls Farrow & Ball Pointing, a high-gloss white. It minimized the ceiling and diverted attention from what would have been an awkward detail.
SH: White does factor prominently in a lot of your rooms. It seems simple, but it’s often hard to get right. What makes it so challenging?
SK: Many whites have a fluorescent undertone, and when you paint with them, they just don’t look refined enough. It’s important to choose one with enough dimension to be sophisticated. The shade known as flat ceiling white is one of my pet peeves in life.