Text: Emily Jackson
Photos: John O’Hagan
“My style is antiques and color,” says Patricia McLean. Well-versed in the pedigree of one-of-a-kind treasures, provenanced pieces always serve as the inspiration for the rooms she decorates. Such was the case when she stumbled upon an antique Serapi rug while scheming a holiday showhouse bedroom design a few years ago. The rug’s once-rich jewel tones, now tempered by time to softer peach and blue hues, influenced the elegant space’s palette and prompted a pair of visitors to purchase it on the spot. The couple, avid decorative arts collectors, recognized McLean’s kindred appreciation for preserving the past and enlisted the designer to refresh their family home.
Set thoughtfully in a Georgia forest along the Chattahoochee River, the Lowcountry-style house blends seamlessly into its bucolic surroundings. “The homeowner designed the house 54 years ago on family land to be nestled down in the woods. The way it is situated makes it such a special house,” says McLean. Stonework, a cedar shake roof, and garden-inspired iron gates ground the exterior, while exposed ceiling beams and waxed brick floors indoors echo the natural setting just beyond. The couple’s extensive antique acquisitions, including porcelains, paintings, brasses, bronzes, and silver, fit into the fabric of the traditional yet fresh design. “I always start with the antiques, and then I layer in the textiles and furniture. Their beautiful collections, including a lot of family pieces, excited me and were just so much fun to incorporate,” she says.
In the living room, an heirloom breakfront passed down from the homeowner’s mother, houses an impressive display of export Chinese porcelain. A menagerie of English miniature chests delights in the den amongst prized bronze renderings of the American West. Although formal in its rich homage to history, the home exudes warmth and welcomes guests into its many hospitable spaces. “The house unfolds beautifully with a layout that flows for entertaining. The scale of the rooms is large, but we created groupings that relate to each other and become great conversation areas,” she says. Comfortable seating appointments upholstered in whimsical patterns from Brunschwig & Fils, GP&J Baker, and Cowtan & Tout lend an approachable flair. An inviting feel was imperative to the couple, who enjoy the role of consummate hosts, especially during the holiday season, when a mix of philanthropic parties and family celebrations take place.
Festive preparations begin around Thanksgiving with the statement Christmas tree, a two-week decorating affair that involves a professional tucking thousands of lights into its branches. McLean’s client enjoys placing her cherished ornaments from years past throughout while adding new decorations every season. Verdant greenery and blossoming arrangements featuring winter florals and fruit enliven the gathering spaces. In the dining room, a formal holiday dinner scene is set with grand candelabras, Repousse silver goblets, and place cards for each guest, including the couple’s four grown children and many grandchildren. “The family does their unwrapping of gifts and then enjoys a Christmas dinner, where everyone is made to feel special. They use their finery to set the table—it’s ceremonial,” says McLean.
In the evening, a roaring fire in the den encourages more holiday merriment, as children play atop the Serapi rug that serendipitously led McLean to this memorable design endeavor. “To me it’s about the whole: They love their house, and they love their yard. Everything is well thought out, and there is a lot of patina involved. It’s a home that has a warm glow. As soon as you walk in, it just welcomes you,” she says. “They have a happy life with their children and grandchildren, and Christmas is the highlight of everything.”