We are reprinting it with their kind permission. As a bonus for our blog readers, I’ve included some of our original design drawings of the house. The article was written by Mimi Reed and photographed by Mali Azima.
01VER-susan-ferrier-fireplace-deDesigner Susan Ferrier reacts to strongly masculine architecture like a grande dame storming a men’s club. Give her empty rooms composed of virile materials and strict, cerebral grids, and she’ll treat them with furnishings that are boldly voluptuous, a tad rustic, and movie-star glamorous.

This gracious stone residence in Mountain Brook, Alabama, is a case in point. Designed by the renowned residential architect Bobby McAlpine, who has been Ferrier’s working partner for 15 years, it was inspired by the area’s rich inventory of beautifully wrought, 1920s English-style houses and cottages.

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Built in 2011 for a young family, the house features an H-shape plan with spans of handmade leaded windows that offer views from the front door to the back gardens. Tactile finishes, like wire-brushed oak floors, abound, and a 25-foot-square, double-height living area will probably smell like a cypress sachet forever.

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Ferrier began her feminine siege just inside the front door. “I wanted it atmospheric, soft, a little bit foggy,” she says. “A house is not just visual—it should be sensual.” Concrete tile flooring convinced her to lay down a white goatskin rug that seems like the height of impractical decadence, until she explains that goatskin is full of lanolin and stays clean even if you tromp on it in muddy boots. She installed an eccentric hooded chair as sentry, covering it in lustrous blue silk velvet.

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Besides designing rooms in which you want to touch everything twice, Ferrier is known for creating spaces of great scale. “I like large, quiet things as opposed to small, chattery things,” she says. “They’re like bass notes in the choir.” In decorating the dining area, she was thrilled when she found an enormous, graphic iron chandelier to hang like a great galleon over the table. “Everyone thought it would be too big, but I said, ‘Wait until the furniture arrives. Then you’ll understand that a light fixture has to relate to the architecture and not necessarily to the furnishings.'”

Corinthian capitals made into lamps anchor the room, adding patina to this sweeping space that is open to a salon-style living area and, off to the side, a slightly richer, more reserved lounge overlooking a terraced backyard.

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Ferrier saved some of her boldest moves for the master bedroom, where the colors are delicate but the scale is decidedly not. She curtained the bed on three sides with miles of creamy velvet so that despite all the windows, the homeowners can sleep in total darkness. An espresso-brown headboard makes for a strong contrast, as does the long silk taffeta pillow in stormy gray-blue-green. “I don’t know what to call that blue—maybe it’s the color of labradorite,” she says finally, with striking precision.

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Of course, Ferrier’s rooms have to have a small dose of sparkle. At the foot of the bed, a sofa shimmers in pinstripe velvet, its small pillows trimmed with metallic Indian embroidery. Pulled up to it is a silvery faux-bois table with crystal orbs cupped in its branches. Exuberantly personal, this table could be gratuitous bling in someone else’s hands, but Ferrier uses it like a piece of fine sculpture.

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“I can hand her a house that’s as masculine as an English humidor,” McAlpine says, “and she will find the glamour and femininity to lift it out of the swamp.”

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3 comments

  1. BenzAndie says:

    I eyed this magazine feature more than once. Ms. Ferrier is a master of composition. Please, please reveal the provenance of the table in front of the sofa at the foot of the bed—the golden branch clutching crystal orbs. I beg you.

  2. Janine Dunn says:

    Bravo!!! Another wonderful creation!!! Warm, cozy yet sophisticated. Beautifully done! Again!!
    A McAlpine home has been on my Wish List for years!!! Still hopeful!
    Janine

  3. Gail Lowry, Allied ASID says:

    Lovely home! Would like to recreate something close…are plans available for purchase?

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