A Classic Spin on Quirky Decorating

HGTV Magazine discovered a Georgia ranch house that's all about the push-pull of opposites—just like the couple who lives here.
By: Kathleen Renda and Jennifer Berno DeCleene

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (Styled by Elizabeth Demos)

A Stand-Out Home

As you wind your way along the gently curving walkway that leads to Emily and Patrick McCarthy’s 1980s ranch house in Savannah, GA, it’s hard not to notice the front door. Painted a fiesta-ready orange red (Piñata by Benjamin Moore), it’s an unsubtle hint that what’s inside this home near the saltwater marshes isn’t going to be typical. While Patrick’s born-and-bred-in-Savannah style is pretty much in sync with what’s popular locally — “He’s more straightlaced than I am,” says Emily—she gravitates toward bold decor and was determined to bring some va-va-voom to the 2,700-square-foot house.

Best of Both Worlds

To ensure her fun-loving exuberance and Patrick’s buttoned-up traditionalism wouldn’t turn into clashing chaos, she teamed with designer Kathryn Myrick to create a cohesive look out of family heirlooms, eclectic accessories, and break-the-rules pattern mixing. But Emily admits it wasn’t always easy going. “I had to tone down the animal prints,” she says. “It’s a compromise, but that’s what marriage is all about.”


An oak console table from Patrick’s family got Emily’s approval with the addition of a custom linen skirt. “It wasn’t our style,” she says, “but he wanted to hang on to it.” The flax-color linen skirt trimmed with crisp white twill tape keeps it classic. She paired it with a gold pineapple lamp from HomeGoods, a vintage tureen turned planter, and a sunburst mirror from local shop Clutter. The black-and-white rug is from One Kings Lane.  Quirky: A ceiling light with a patterned drum shade

Living Room

In what Emily dubs the preppy safari room, a pair of 1960s brass giraffes mingle with a microsuede sofa and a hand-me-down chair with a shamrock green linen slipcover. The one-of-a-kind coffee table was fashioned from a metal base Emily unearthed at a vintage shop and a poplar and sapele mahogany top crafted by Patrick and his dad. The black-and-white pillows are from Marimekko, and the palm leaf–patterned ones are from Society Social. Quirky: Art in assorted sizes and frames arranged in a random configuration. Classic: Identical Asian end tables flanking the sofa 

Dining Room

With its hand-painted gold walls and touches of bright persimmon, the dining room “shocked Patrick, but I have to push him out of his comfort zone,” says Emily. To loosen up the formal 1980s dining set inherited from his family and the Parsons chairs from her grandmother, Emily added slipcovers: two sewn from a graphic Kelly Wearstler fabric and four in monogrammed white denim. Quirky: Patterned cardboard sleeves on a super-white chandelier

Dining Room

Classic: Wedding china in a plantation-style cabinet. Quirky: Hand-painted orange squiggles on the dining room walls. Quirky: A trellis print blown up to a huge scale

Family Room

Two pieces originally belonging to Emily’s piano-teacher grandmother—the 75-year-old baby grand and the skirted sofa—take center stage. Ceramic garden stools from One Kings Lane pull double duty as drink perches and extra seating when there’s a party. Hanging above the Worlds Away sideboard are wedding photos of Emily and Patrick’s extended family that go back five generations. Quirky: A large hexagonal print on the drapes. Classic: A neutral cowhide rug 


Almost everything in the kitchen—from the Corian countertops to the raised-panel cabinets—is the way the couple found it. Their only changes: painting the backsplash tiles and cabinets white (Ultra Pure White by Behr) and the walls a muted gray (Metropolitan by Benjamin Moore). The orange-and-white window shades were made with cotton fabric from Jo-Ann Fabrics. "There’s a rustic-cottage charm to the cabinets that I love," says Emily.

Screened Porch

The 500-square-foot screened porch has built-in bench seating around the perimeter and views of the backyard’s pond. "I wanted a tropical, Palm Beach-y feeling on the screened porch," says Emily. The “lounge” features an ottoman with a white denim slipcover, and secondhand armchairs and a faux-bamboo sofa that were lacquered black. The dining spot has a teak table from Patrick’s parents, more vintage dining chairs, and a snappy black-and-white-striped tablecloth made with Sunbrella fabric. Quirky: Pillows featuring leaping zebras. Classic: Vintage rattan chairs with shield-shaped backs

Rhett's Room

Since a 3-year-old’s likes and dislikes can change weekly, Rhett’s fad-free bedroom includes olive green walls (Creekside Green by Benjamin Moore) and a cowhide rug from Gilt. The blue travel trunk belonged to Emily’s globe-trotting grandparents; the pine rocking horse was Patrick’s boyhood toy, handcrafted by his father. Classic: Taupe-and-tan duvet covers. Quirky: Mega headboards that stretch almost 6 feet high


The quirky large-scale leopard spots Emily painted on the wall freehand set the tone in Rhett’s rollicking playroom. The striped rug from HomeGoods layers on more pattern—and hides stains. The sturdy train table was built by Patrick’s grandfather 15 years ago. Simple green window panels feature the same Lacefield Designs linen as in the living room.

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