Ben Johnston & Southern Style Now
We've asked your favorite Southern Designers how they define Southern Style now...
Q: What does “Southern Style Now” mean to you?
For me, “Southern Style Now” is about discovering the enduring values that persevere in the huge melting pot in which we find ourselves. Growing up in Houston, I was raised on the rapidly expanding flavors, sights, and sounds of diverse influences, and yet despite all of these changes...
"I see our culture holding dear to the concepts of hospitality and graciousness.":
Q: How do you reinterpret Southern traditions in your work?
I think it’s through my desire to reference the cultures that have impacted my hometown: African and Asian influences especially. There is such a warmth and exoticism I find there that really speaks to me and influences my work.
"a warmth and exoticism...that really speaks to me..."
Q: Can you see a thread of Southern influence woven into your interiors? If so, how does it display itself?
I keep coming back to many Neoclassicism design principles that heavily influenced the South during a pivotal time in its settlement. The architectural language serves as the foundation on which I layer the eclectic and exotic influences of other cultures.
"I keep coming back to many Neoclassicism design principles..."
Q: Finally, do you have a favorite Southern Style Now (Festival or Showhouse) anecdote that you can share with us?
Oh yes!... At the 2017 Traditional Home Showhouse, the centerpiece of my Master Dressing Room featured a beautiful octagonal “sociable”—a multi-sided upholstered piece that was a throw-back to the Victorian Age. It was originally going to be a traditional, skirted piece in purple velvet, but when the velvet arrived at our furniture workroom, it was all creased… We convinced the manufacturer to overnight us twenty more yards, and yet again, it was all creased! With only a few days to spare before move-in, my team and I had to decide what to do with forty yards of ruined fabric. We decided to scrap the traditional styling of the piece, and ruchéd the entire piece and it turned out to be divine! I absolutely love happy accidents, and this was definitely one of them.
Benjamin Johnston creates classic, cool spaces that take inspiration from a variety of cultures and time periods, blending new and vintage pieces to create contemporary spaces that feel curated over a lifetime. He accomplishes this tasteful mix while adhering to the classic design principles of balance and simplicity, through the application of clean lines and tailored details—timeless sensibilities he credits to his previous study and practice of architecture. He often utilizes tone-on-tone palettes to create a harmonious balance and then punctuates them with unexpected moments to delight and surprise. Each of Ben's distinctive spaces operates beyond pure function to create a desired mood and ambiance, while still embodying his unmistakable sense of style.