Text: Tiffany Adams
Photography: Dustin Peck
Trust is key to long-distance relationships—especially when it comes to home renovations. For Florida-based designer Nellie Howard Ossi and her Raleigh, North Carolina, client, it proved to be paramount to a refresh that took place during the pandemic. “This was a FaceTime project,” Ossi says, “which is not something you can do with just anyone.” Luckily, the client had a “numbers brain” for measuring as well as the vision to see a swatch and imagine how it would look in a real-life application.
Having met more than a decade prior in the Jacksonville location of Mrs. Howard, Ossi’s parents’ store, the two hit it off and had an immediate rapport. “In a decorating relationship, you have to have chemistry, and she and I clicked from the beginning,” the designer says. Ossi—who grew up in the shop while her mother, Phoebe, and father, Jim, built their design careers—returned to work there after graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design. Starting out as a self-proclaimed coffee-fetcher, she soon became the store’s buyer and began taking on design projects of her own. “I knew the ropes of retail, and the shop has always felt like a second home to me,” she says.
Having this firsthand knowledge also gave Ossi insight into the Mrs. Howard aesthetic so many of their clients want to capture. “I think people come to us for a fresh take on traditional Southern style that is clean and classic,” she says of the look she now helps to cultivate. “This client’s children have gone off to college now, and she really wanted to elevate their house, kick it up a bit,” the designer says. “A lot of the things they had were already in our wheelhouse,” she adds, pointing to cherished pieces such as the dining table, chairs, and breakfast room furniture—all of which had been purchased at Mrs. Howard years prior.
Starting in the living room, the signature style was woven into the space with the addition of a palette featuring understated yet upbeat blue hues. A game table from the Mrs. Howard for Sherrill Furniture collection was a must-have and created a dedicated spot for bridge gatherings as well as pre-dinner cocktails. From there, the project had a domino effect, leading to updates in almost every room of the house, with the owners’ bath receiving the most extensive renovation. Here, a 10-panel bird and botanical wallpaper scene is the star of the design. In the connecting bedroom, a soft vanilla palette creates a peaceful retreat. “The client said she feels like she is floating on a cloud in this space—what a compliment,” Ossi says.
There were also opportunities to step outside the box. For example, high-gloss teal paint, a mirrored backsplash, and sconces that act as a finishing jewellike accessory give the bar a glamorous feel. “She had seen a bar my mom designed, and we used that as inspiration,” Ossi says. “It’s a little bit more moody and sexy.” Upstairs in the girl’s bedroom, lavender—a favorite for both mother and daughter—was employed. A custom-embroidered fabric creates the outside of the canopy drape, while a light green check lines its interior—an inspired pairing of both textiles and colors.
While the entire project was completed virtually, no detail or accessory was overlooked. “We added a collection of William Yeoward vases throughout the house because she constantly has fresh flowers in rotation,” Ossi says. Similarly, sets of spring, fall, and holiday pillows and lampshades were specified, allowing the look to continually evolve as the seasons and the owners’ preferences change.