How Two Design Partners Decorate Their Own Homes
They work, play and decorate together — so it’s no surprise
these two best friends have super-similar styles. HGTV Magazine takes you inside their respective homes.
"You know when you meet someone and your brains just mesh? That’s what happened with us,” says Lathem Gordon of her friend and business partner, Cate Dunning. The two met while working at an Atlanta design firm four years ago and hit it off so well that they decided to open their own interiors company, GordonDunning, based out of a carriage house in Lathem’s backyard. They not only collaborate on ideas for client projects but also weigh in on decorating decisions in each other’s homes — which is a piece of cake, since they live just a mile apart in Decatur, GA. (Having easygoing husbands who don’t mind a third opinion helps too.)
It’s pure coincidence that Cate and Lathem both live in Cape Cod–style homes built in the late 1940s that are sized at around 1,300 square feet, with red front doors that almost match. But inside, any similarities are the result of late nights spent collaborating on Pinterest boards, a shared passion for blue and white, and pushing the other out of her comfort zone. “I know Lathem’s house so well, and vice versa, that when one of us is overwhelmed by 10 fabric options for drapes, the other can pick a winner,” says Cate. “It’s like having a very decisive twin.”
Click through to see inside both homes.
Click through to see inside both homes.
Lathem's Living Room
This room started with the navy polyester-blend velvet sofa from Lee Industries that stands up to toddler spills (Lathem and her husband, Jason, have two daughters). After Lathem carried around a sample of a client’s floral Brunschwig & Fils fabric for weeks, Cate nudged her to make some pillows out of it for herself. The wingback chair belonged to Lathem’s grandmother. To bring it out of the ’70s, she gray-washed the legs and had it reupholstered in a geometric Annie Selke fabric. With so much new stuff, Lathem wanted a rug that felt old, so she picked a handwoven wool one with a faded look from Lulu & Georgia.
Cate's Living Room
The Turkish rug lumbar pillow on the sofa, which Cate scored from a rug dealer, set the tone for her cozy living room. “I freaked out over its colors and texture, and I had to have it,” she says. Along with navy velvet pillows, it perks up the neutral linen Bernhardt sofa. For extra seating, her husband, Chris, built a bench between the two bookcases, and Cate added a red mohair velvet chair from Scott Antique Markets in Atlanta. The painting above the sofa, of Cate’s parents’ farm, was done by an artist she went to college with. Both she and Lathem love to use blue-and-white garden stools everywhere as side tables and seating.
Inspired by Cate’s kitchen, Lathem gave hers a much-needed update a year ago. “The cabinets used to be dark wood,” she says. “I thought about painting them navy or emerald, but seeing how Cate’s white cabinets look with a dark tile floor, I knew that was the way to go.” To save money, she kept the slate tile floor and the lower cabinets. She added the upper ones, painted all the cabinets Alabaster by Sherwin-Williams, and chose brushed nickel pulls from IKEA to match the stainless steel countertops. The walls are painted Classic Gray by Benjamin Moore, and the runner is from One Kings Lane.
The space was already equipped with white raised-panel cabinets when Cate and Chris moved in — all she had to do was add new pulls from The Home Depot. The blue laminate counters, on the other hand, needed to go, so Cate replaced them with butcher block from IKEA. “I wanted an island, but since we don’t have a dining room, I also wanted a table,” says Cate. So Chris built an adjustable kitchen island/table by securing slabs of IKEA butcher block counters onto trestle legs, also from IKEA. For sit-down dinners with friends, they lower it and pull up different chairs. Cate picked the chandelier from Ro Sham Beaux because it “feels more dining room than kitchen.”
“After stressing over which blue to use for weeks, Cate finally forced me to pick a favorite,” says Lathem. She settled on Van Courtland Blue by Benjamin Moore, and from there she had drapes made with Thibaut fabric — “another sample I carried around for months” — bought lamps from Ro Sham Beaux, and had a keystone linen headboard custom-made. To top her quilted Pottery Barn comforter, Lathem bought 11 throws at HomeGoods. “I just couldn’t decide, and Cate was out of town,” she says. “When she finally got home, I made her come over to pick one.” They chose this cozy plaid with tassels and returned the rest.
Ever since using this blue (Naval by Sherwin-Williams) in a client’s dining room, Cate wanted a navy room of her own. The flamingo and blue heron prints from Nostalgia Fine Art were Lathem’s idea. “Lathem loves birds, and I’d forgotten how much I loved them as a kid until I met her,” she says. Popped in brass frames, they lean against the wall on top of West Elm dressers. She used one of her favorite fabrics — a pink and coral floral by Schumacher — for a pillow. The crystal lamp is from Cate’s grandmother, and the marble one is from West Elm.
Partially covered by a pergola, the back porch is where Lathem loves to have friends over, especially Cate and Chris. “My daughters love Aunt Cate. Our oldest asked if she could come on vacation with us,” says Lathem. The four wicker chairs, which form a curved sectional when pushed together, came with the house and were in good shape, so Lathem had the cushions reupholstered in gray outdoor fabric by Robert Allen and added some boom-pow pillows, including the pink palm leaf pattern by The Blush Label. “Cate and I were equally obsessed, but she said I had to have them to match my pink umbrella,” says Lathem. The garden stools (blue and white, of course!) are from HomeGoods.
The screened-in porch off the kitchen “is more of a living room than our real living room,” says Cate. It’s where she and Lathem and their husbands hang out most. “We truly never get sick of each other,” says Cate. She made the space feel like a real room by adding drapes sewn from Robert Allen fabric, a mahogany-stained daybed from overstock.com — “Lathem held my hand as I ordered it because I kept changing my mind,” she says — and an outdoor rug with a tiny diamond print from Annie Selke’s Dash & Albert. Cate spray-painted hand-me-down rockers and a thrift store coffee table white for a uniform look.