In Home Design, Buy What You Love and Make It Work

By Stacey Wiedower
Originally published 01:20 p.m., May 22, 2014
Photo by Yolanda M. James

Designer’s Own Home: This story is part of an occasional series that takes a look inside the homes of local interior designers.

Selena McAdamsMemphis interior designer Selena McAdams has the problem a lot of designers have — she’s exposed to so many styles it’s hard to put her finger on a favorite.

In her own home, though, McAdams does what she does for her clients. She finds pieces she loves and blends them with pieces passed down through generations of family to create a space that speaks to and about the people who live in it.

“If you stick true to what you love, it will all come together within your own space,” said McAdams, owner of Spruce, a home and gift shop on Sanderlin Avenue. “You have to trust your gut in your own house, and all your pieces will come together and be a good reflection of you.”

McAdams’ East Memphis house epitomizes the eclectic mix. In her family room, the sofa alone spans decades of design history by combining the classic Chesterfield form with a modern low profile and tuxedo shape. Throughout the house, traditional antiques flow seamlessly with modern furnishings, and the space has a restful, comfortable quality that’s definitely by design.

“I’ve always loved clean lines,” McAdams said. “I also love French influence. I love so many different things, and I think the end picture of all those worlds coming together is where I like to live.”

McAdams’ personal style complements her home, and that’s intentional, too. When she meets with clients, she studies everything about them — the way they dress, they way they carry themselves — because those things offer clues to how they live.

“People will say, ‘Do you want to meet at the shop?’ And I say, ‘No, I definitely want to be in your house. I want to see your space and how you live day in and day out,’” McAdams said. “I try to make the house look like the client, a concise and edited version of the client. I don’t want people to walk in and go, ‘Oh, Selena did this house.’ I want them to walk in and go, ‘Oh, this house is beautiful.’”

Whether working in her own home or someone else’s, McAdams also considers the practical along with the aesthetic. She has two daughters, 6 and 2, and a Brittany mix named Henry. And though her home is filled with beautiful things, it’s meant to withstand wear.

“The thing I hear people say most is, ‘I don’t want to invest in this because we’re hard on our stuff,’” she said. “But within the walls of this house, our family is so hard on our stuff — dogs, kids, Popsicles. Function is top of my list. ”

McAdams also believes in practicality when it comes to working around family heirlooms and existing items.

She’s inherited several pieces from family, like a drop-leaf table in the family room and an upholstered chair in the living room. That hasn’t stopped her from buying pieces she loves in styles that seem at first glance to be in opposition to those pieces — like the oval Eero Saarinen dining table in her breakfast room and the molded plastic midcentury chair that’s pulled up to an antique desk in her family room.

“I’m definitely one of those people who has family pieces you have to work with,” she said. “They might not be who you are, but somehow you have to meld those worlds and make it work. I tell people to buy what you love because that’s from you. ”

McAdams began implementing that philosophy in her own house as soon as she finished design school and started working. Her first job in the field was as a buyer for a European antiques store, and she fell in love with a cherry French armoire with chevron doors.

“I was newly married and we did not have the money to get that piece of furniture,” she said with a laugh. “And I was like, ‘I’ll work it out.’”

She bought the piece on a payment plan, and to this day it’s a central item in her home. It’s in her master bedroom, across from her low-profile upholstered bed and next to a mod, vintage-inspired club chair that rests on a disco-gold pedestal base.

“Armoires are kind of becoming a thing of the past, but there’s something about it I just love,” she said. “But I probably wouldn’t feel that way if it didn’t have that crazy chair next to it; it’s definitely the juxtaposition of those pieces together.”

McAdams’ formal living room, the front room of the home, espouses that philosophy. On one side of the room, a contemporary chaise longue sits near a large-scale abstract painting by Hamlett Dobbins. In front of the chaise is a gilded curule stool — a form that dates to ancient Egypt. And across the room, a sculpted modern accent table rests between traditional upholstered chairs.

The kitchen, which the McAdamses gutted and reworked with the help of architect David Anderson, features dark wood cabinetry with crisp modern lines mixed with white-painted lower cabinets. Antiqued mirror on the backsplash was McAdams’ idea.

“Garner’s Frame Shop on Perkins antiqued it for me,” she said. “You can’t even tell if it’s dirty, and if grease splatters it’s as easy as Windex to clean it. I didn’t want the whole kitchen to be tile because I wanted it to be part of the living rooms — the mirror dresses it up. You dim the lights and the kitchen goes away. It becomes this beautiful room versus it just being a kitchen.”

McAdams’ main goal for her home was to create a space her family can truly live in, and they live in every inch of it. She eliminated a formal dining room and replaced it with a breakfast room that opens to the kitchen because she knew her family would use it daily.

“That’s one of the things I wanted with my own space — I wanted to open it up and use every square foot every day of our lives,” she said. “I don’t need a big house, but the house that I have I want to be as functional as it can be. A lot of those rules, people are afraid to break. But if you can cross over that barrier of what you should and shouldn’t do, that’s when really good things happen functionally.”

© 2014 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online

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