photos courtesy of Huff-Dewberry
Southern Home (SH): What was your aha moment, when you knew you were destined to decorate?
Will Huff (WH): I never really had a specific one. My father was an interior decorator, and I was always interested. I constantly rearranged my room and even rearranged houses for some of my friends’ parents. My dad discouraged me from going into the business, because he knew that being a successful designer is much more than picking fabrics and furniture—he used to tell me it was 10% creative and 90% business. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s and I tried a few other career options that he finally helped steer me into the direction to become an interior designer. Once I actually started working in the field I’d been around my whole life, I knew I’d made the right choice.
Heather Dewberry (HD): As an English major in college, I landed an internship at Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles magazine, and fell in love with design while I was there. I returned to Vanderbilt and took “History of the Decorative Arts” my senior year and made an A. Excited, I went to my art history professor to thank him and let him know I thought I’d be pursuing a career in design. He dryly replied, “It will be such a nice hobby for you.”
SH: Little did that professor know, Heather. Y’all first met while working for legendary Atlanta decorator Dan Carithers. What’s the most enduring piece of advice or design lesson he gave you?
HD: He taught us that there were no hard-and-fast rules, to think outside the box, and not to limit ourselves in our selections—anything was possible. The Huff-Dewberry office is now in the same space where Will and I first met, so it feels like we’ve come full circle.
WH: Although Dan had many witticisms, we picked up the most from just watching him. He once told me he could find something “good-looking” in any store, no matter how bad the store was. It’s that mentality of always looking at pieces for their own intrinsic beauty and not letting a label or price determine something’s value that I’ve held on to.
HD: We jokingly called Dan “The King of Khaki.” His color schemes were very simplified, often one color plus his favorite chocolate brown or off-white. Many times he used a fabric en suite throughout the room. Both approaches leave your eye to see all the incredible antiques and lines of the room instead of focusing on a fabric.
SH: Choose a piece of furniture or decorative object that best encapsulates your personality or aesthetic.
WH: An antique Oushak rug. It’s both formal and approachable at the same time, which sums me up, I think.
HD: A console table with incredible molding details, a painted finish, and unusual marble top. Consoles add personality to rooms full of brown wood furniture—combine one with a great pair of upholstered benches or a wicker trunk underneath and a room will instantly relax. They should be invited to every house party, and I’d like to be, too.
SH: How are your styles similar and how do they differ?
WH: We agree on aesthetics most of the time. It’s that last 10% where things get really interesting, when we do a showhouse together or a joint project and we have to work it out. But collaboration stretches each of us further—after working together for 20 years, we’ve learned if the other feels strongly, there’s typically a reason and perhaps that element should be examined further or altered.
HD: We like to play a game called, “Do you hate it?” We walk into each other’s office with a fabric or piece of furniture for consideration. Most of the time, we don’t hate it.
SH: What’s a skill or trait the other one has that you’d love to borrow?
HD: Will has great engineering skills and a sense of geometry (my only C in high school). He also has an excellent knack for finding the perfect rug for every job, and he really loves the hunt. Will’s an excellent snowboarder, too, and I barely ski.
WH: Not only can Heather relate any life situation to a Barry Manilow song, she also can throw together a beautiful tablescape at the drop of a hat! She also gets much more excited about choosing cabinet hardware than I do…I wish I could channel some of her enthusiasm for that.
SH: Name a few design motifs or elements you have on repeat.
WH: Plates and brackets in groupings on walls and starburst mirrors have been a part of our vernacular since we started the company. We look for interesting objects to hang on walls other than just prints and art to add dimension and interest to rooms. Another thing we consistently use is custom, upholstered furniture. We definitely want our rooms to be beautiful, but we also want people to be comfortable in them.
HD: Patterned wallpaper, antique barometers, painted tole light fixtures, and anything bamboo all speak my love language.
SH: Do you have a favorite room to design?
HD: Give me a bedroom any day. I enjoy creating an amazing cocoon where people can unwind and relax. Plus, I love bed canopies, papered walls, and fine linens. As a big reader myself, I often climb into bed with a book, and it’s a treat to have a pretty space to look forward to.
WH: I really don’t have a favorite room to design, but if I had to choose, I’d say living rooms and family rooms. I like figuring out how to space plan those rooms to work within the client’s lifestyle so we can tailor each project in terms of function, as well as form.
SH: We’ve been through a time like no other, where we’ve all spent more time at home than ever. What lasting impact do you think that will have in the way we want to decorate and live in our houses?
HD: When the pandemic hit, we were humbled by clients who took the time to email or text to let us know how much they enjoyed their homes and how grateful they were to have a beautiful space to escape. When people spend more time at home, they realize how important comfortable and well-executed interior design is to them. Our clients also learned to really live in all their rooms, and that the antique desk in the living room could now serve as a de facto home office and not just a place to entertain.
WH: We’ve had more requests for outdoor living spaces. We love creating fully upholstered custom pieces that can withstand the elements, so that it truly feels like an indoor space and stretches the home’s square footage. Pretty laundry rooms with great wallpaper have also been a recurring request.
(SH): Finally, what should no Southern home be without?
WH: Good food and drink. We love hospitality, and having a go-to appetizer and signature drink prepares you for that last minute get-together. At the Huff house, it might be margaritas and homemade salsa or wine with whatever charcuterie board we can put together. Of course, from a design perspective, a Southern home needs at least one family heirloom. If our clients don’t have one, we can add a special piece to be passed down to the next generation.
HD: I vote for china—I have a serious addiction. I believe conversations while gathered around a beautifully set table create special memories and traditions for our family and guests. Our four kids have already started putting their names on their favorite patterns. It’s a good excuse to keep buying more, although I’m not sure my husband agrees!
he SAID/ she SAID
Will: Linen velvet
Heather: Custom-colored hand-screened prints or newly recolored documents
Always on the hunt for:
Will: A bargain
Heather: One-of-a-kind benches and side chairs, celadon Wedgwood, and aptware
Signature color combination:
Will: Anything with chocolate brown
Heather: Green and blue
Favorite furniture period:
Will: Louis XVI
Heather: Louis XV
Who/what inspires me:
Will: Mother Nature
Heather: Lorenzo Castillo, Daniel Romualdez, Bunny Williams, Markham Roberts, Celerie Kemble, and Ashley Whittaker
Where I recharge:
Will: Anywhere coastal
Heather: Santa Barbara, Ojai, and the adjoining wine region
Trend I avoid:
Will: Anything posted all over social media
Heather: When everything matches
If I weren’t a designer, I’d be a:
Will: Computer programmer
Heather: Magazine editor
Little luxury I can’t live without:
Will: My Sid Mashburn sports coats
Heather: Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey tea and Badedas Original Rich Bath Gelee
Will: An old English country manor house
Heather: A Mediterranean house in Santa Barbara
Will: If you buy well, you only cry once!
Heather: I completely agree with Will on that one.