Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

With a neutral backdrop and cherished antiques as her guide, designer Mallory Smith creates a festive atmosphere for her family's holiday celebrations.

Text by Tiffany Adams
Photography by John O’Hagan

Growing up in her mother’s Leeds, Alabama, antiques shop, Maison de France, was an inspiring experience for Mallory Smith. “My whole life I knew I wanted to be an interior designer. I think it’s in my blood,” she says.

Days spent in the shop not only influenced her career path, but also her style, which she defines as rustic elegance. “There’s a formality to it, but it’s also comfortable—which is so important to me,” says the designer who opened Mallory Smith Interiors in 1997. “I want people to feel welcome when they walk into a home and not be afraid to sit on the furniture.”

Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

Interior design by Mallory Smith Interiors, Photography by John O’Hagan

Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

Interior design by Mallory Smith Interiors, Photography by John O’Hagan

Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

Interior design by Mallory Smith Interiors, Photography by John O’Hagan

Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

Interior design by Mallory Smith Interiors, Photography by John O’Hagan

Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

Interior design by Mallory Smith Interiors, Photography by John O’Hagan

Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

Interior design by Mallory Smith Interiors, Photography by John O’Hagan

Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

Interior design by Mallory Smith Interiors, Photography by John O’Hagan

Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

Interior design by Mallory Smith Interiors, Photography by John O’Hagan

Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

Interior design by Mallory Smith Interiors, Photography by John O’Hagan

Past Perfected by Mallory Smith

Interior design by Mallory Smith Interiors, Photography by John O’Hagan

It was this philosophy that guided the renovation of a home she and her husband, Dr. Drayton Smith, purchased two years ago in Birmingham, Alabama. Smith wanted the house to keep its formal airs while also functioning as a family home and a place comfortable enough for the couple’s three children— Tucker, Ellie, and Tanner. “A friend came to see the house right after we purchased it and said ‘Mallory, this is you; you’re never going to leave,’” says Smith.

Built in 1983 as the personal home of well-known Alabama developer Ham Perkins, Smith says the structure was immaculately completed with great attention to detail. The rooms, while small in number, are gracious in size and give the home an inviting sense of grandeur. As the third owners of the house, the Smiths immediately renovated the floors, kitchen, and baths and painted the majority of the home in an all-white palette.

While these changes helped to make the home feel more like the family’s own, the house retained many of the features that originally drew the couple to it. For example, all the millwork and trim stayed intact, including the stained pieces in the study, where a plaid fabric original to the room also remains. “We spend a lot of time in there. It’s a smaller room, but I think that makes it more inviting,” says Smith. “My whole house is white, but sometimes people love the coziness of this space.”

The design elements in the study were not the only pieces Smith incorporated into her rendition of the home. The dining room chandelier is original but was formerly located in the master bath. “I moved it here to put it on display,” says Smith. And, in that room as well as several other common spaces, real wood columns keep their place. Additionally, the foyer’s marble flooring stayed to coordinate with the home’s presence and palette, while Smith updated the original stair railing with a coat of black paint to make it feel current. One of the most striking features also remained in place: a French mirror seen over the living room’s fireplace. “It’s an antique the previous owners purchased in the early 1980s for this space,” Smith says of the piece.

When it comes to holiday décor, the designer takes a less-is-more approach. “I only use greenery for the holidays, and I try to pull a lot from my yard,” she says. “Because my house is so neutral, the greenery brings in a different color that stands out.” Fresh trees are also a must-have on her list with a main tree featuring taupe, white, and gold ornaments going up in the living room and a second, affectionately known as the kids’ tree, on display upstairs. “I think it’s important to have a tree with all the special ornaments your kids have made at school and collected through the years, but I also love the look of a formal tree,” she says, noting how it complements both her own style and the style of the home.