bold & beautiful

It’s perfectly fine to combine bold color, modern accents, precious antiques, and whimsical accessories to create one marvelous mélange.

Interior Design, Holly Hollingsworth Phillips
Interview, Alice Welsh Doyle
Photography, Ashley Sellner

As you enter interior designer Holly Hollingsworth Phillips’ home, you get the impression that you are visiting a sophisticated funhouse at a chic amusement park. You never know what surprises await you as you make your way through the living spaces. In the sitting room, a large fuchsia velvet sofa sits opposite a black lacquer high boy; two mirrored demilune console tables shine under the windows with their Oly sconces while bold Ralph Lauren tiger striped velvet chairs which Phillips repurposed and moved from another room, flank the sofa. In fact, her rooms are never in a static state. The odds that things will be exactly the same on your next visit are highly unlikely.

As a designer, I always end up with things that didn’t work for a client, and I like to experiment in my own home,” she says. “I also think the idea of decorating has evolved. It used to be ‘do it once and be done’; now clients are interested in changing things up – freshening up rooms frequently with new pieces and accessories. I probably do it more than most people, but that’s because it’s my business and my passion.

More surprises reveal themselves in the dining room, which is painted an arresting and bold orange (Farrow & Ball Charlotte’s Locks). “I wanted it to look like the inside of an Hermès box,” says Phillips. It certainly has that feel as you are enveloped in this chic hue while sitting around a gleaming circular table under what can best be described as an oversized Lucite flower orb chandelier (Cyan Design). This statement piece offers a modern, lighthearted accent among the antiques.

When it comes to my own home, I don’t like super serious rooms. I like unexpected touches and interesting mixes of pieces.

Phillips is a second-generation designer; her mother Nancy Hollingsworth founded the English Room where Phillips is now a co-owner, so beautiful things surrounded her at a very early age. When most of us were still playing with Barbie or GI Joe, she was on buying trips in Europe with her mother, and allowed to buy one painting per trip. This is reflected in the many oil paintings of dogs and other animals that grace the walls, combined with the more contemporary works that abound in her home. “I still love the old paintings,” says Phillips. “But I prefer a more eclectic look, so they are mixed with more modern art.”

Phillips has a true eye for art – no surprise given her background. Just a few of her professional accomplishments include working at Sotheby’s in New York, completing Sotheby’s 17th and 18th century decorative arts program in London and the Winter Institute at Winterthur plus working at Travis & Co. at ADAC in Atlanta and with Alexandra Stoddard in New York. But when she talks about the art in her own home, you can tell that she only buys what she loves, not things for investment. Of course with her expert eye, the pieces often do turn out to be worth much more than she originally paid. Phillips looks for new artists at Hidell Brooks Gallery in Charlotte and others during her buying trips. In her own home are pieces by Selena Beaudry, Rana Rochat, Melinda Hackett, and Amanda Stone Talley, among others.

Your final stop in the funhouse is the wood paneled den which is what Phillips calls an “adult room” where she and her husband unwind after the three Phillips children are in bed. If she had her way, she would have painted the entire paneling, but lost this battle with her husband. Still, she has made the room unique with a calmer feel than the other living spaces. Calm in no way translates to boring – your eyes wander about the room, taking in one interesting detail after another. There’s the whimsical chair found at a Paris flea market and rumored to have once been in a renowned Paris hair salon where Jackie O had her hair styled; the skull fireplace andirons; a collection of colorful hand-blown glass pieces from Seattle-based firm glassybaby; a chair upholstered in the signature Lulu DK fabric “Chant”; a leather donkey; and orange lacquered side tables. In this inspiring room, Phillips often works on her blog “Musings of a Design Aficionado,” where she shares the stylish and chic, but also the reality of being a working designer with a family.

After leaving the comfortable den and before heading out the front door, you will want to take one more turn through the funhouse where formal lives side-by-side with comfort, where whimsy and serious join hands, and where color and print are everywhere. You are already looking forward to another visit to the mad and marvelous mix of a daring and inspired decorator.

holly’s signatures

1. Chinoiserie furniture and decorative accents, 
foo dog statues.
2. Bold colors and a self-professed addiction to animal prints.
3. Seagrass rugs layered with softer pieces like a zebra skin.
4. Contemporary art mixed with more traditional oil paintings.
5. Skulls.
6. Lots of texture though fabrics and pillows.
7. Translucent and mirrored pieces.
8. Lacquered furniture.
9. Touches of whimsy in the accessories.
10. Nothing too serious or formal; rooms you use every day

This interview was conducted late 2012.

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