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SCAD President Shares Design Secrets of Eccentric Southerners

paula20070829_psw_034_v2Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Richmond Academy of Medical Alliance Foundation (phew!) luncheon at The Jefferson Hotel with guest speaker Paula Wallace, the founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design. I’m not sure how one goes about starting a college, but in 1978 she did, and now it’s the largest art and design school in the country. Amazing!

Here’s what’s happening at SCAD:

Designer Isabel Toledo (recently of Michelle-Obama-inaugural-suit fame) is coming to the fashion school’s fashion week this year; last year “The Wrestler” premiered at its film festival; through its Working Class program, students actually design for major corporations (they do the photography for the West Elm catalogue, for example); they have an amazing shop of student work called Shop SCAD; and an incredible campus in the medieval town of Lacoste in the south of France. I don’t know about you, but I was totally blown away.

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And if VCU’s art’s school isn’t jealous yet: SCAD just stole VCU associate dean Joe Siepel, widely recognized as the secret to VCU no. 1 ranked sculpture program. After hearing all that’s going on at SCAD, I can see what attracted him. I wonder if he’ll take me with him.

Paula picked up the antique dressmaker’s mannequin at a French flea market and cleverly paired it with a student’s triptych painting of a clothes line and placed them in the stairwell on SCAD’s to-die-for Lacoste campus.

But let’s talk design…

Wallace is an educator and designer and her husband, Glenn, an interior designer, has renovated and decorated many of SCAD’s historic buildings around Savannah.

In her talk, Paula outlined her six principles of successful design:elib_portraithallway

1. Start with Art. “Art can give your house surprisingly magic.”

The Wallaces began their upstairs hallway decor with four, regal and serious portraits, then kept adding to their collection with less important works and all of a sudden an incredible installation was born. Paula even said they have fun at dinner parties coming up with stories behind the characters.

2. Follow your Bliss.

“Don’t be afraid of color, use it and enjoy it.”

20063030_scad_jonesIn this Atlanta dining room the ice-blue walls are trimmed in black and a faux-regal border is painted around an antique screen. A park bench and mis-matched chairs welcome all to the table.

3. Listen and Talk to the Architecture.

4. Be Eccentric. Express yourself and have fun.

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The owners of this coastal South Carolina home hang a hurricane cross above the bed to ward off ghosts (not storms). The modern glass lamp is an unexpected contrast to the antique Italian daybed panels.

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In their Savannah loft, the Tenenbaum family (yes, those Tenenbaums) hung a bold nude in a warm and textured room.

5. Create Your Own Art Installations with Collections. Wallace used an example of a homeowner who covered a wall with cuckoo clocks: One clock is German granny, many are fun!

Amelia Island Condo

In the Wallace’s former beach condo they used old recipes found in an old family home and decoupaged them all over the kitchen table. Children’s life vests are used as curtain tie-backs and a student’s art adds pop to the wall.

6. Make Friendly Spaces. With pools of light, round tables and intimate gathering areas.

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Several of the homes she discussed were featured in “A House in the South,” the charming 2008 book Paula co-wrote with interiors writer, Frances Schultz. Each home in the book embodies Paula’s love of fun interiors that reflect their quirky Southern owners. And from her talk, it’s obvious she belives that expressing your personality – and hopefully eccentricity – should be at the forefront when designing your space. Amen to that sister!

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