Family: Ethel Lezama Griffin (mom), David (brother) and three garage kitties (I’m a shameless cat person); daughter of the late Dr. David J. Griffin Years in the Golden Isles: Decades (now y’all know a lady never reveals her age); I returned home in 2015 from let’s just say eons in NYC and Paris Schools: Glynn Academy, Yale, honorary PhD from the New York School of Interior Design Occupation: Interior designer; I’m looking forward to launching my new design blog in 2020, which will offer lots of DIY design solutions and inspiration. I’m beyond honored to be included in Garden & Gun’s hot-off-the-presses new book, “Southern Women,” an inspiring collection profiling more than 100 dynamic and trailblazing females that define who the Southern woman is now. Having the opportunity to mentor the next generation of what I call “badass belles” is the best part of my moving home. Who or what inspired you to be become an interior designer: After years of being a fashion publicist in NYC and Paris, I got into a huge, Devil Wears Prada-style spat with my Vogue editor just before my 30th birthday. I called my mother in tears (after several glasses of Chardonnay), and she gave me the best advice ever – “Sugar, why not take one of your hobbies and turn it into a job?” I applied to the New York School of Interior Design the next day. Your style in five words: Sophisticated, approachable, warm, textured, colorful, detailed. Rooms should always look like the people who live in them. I wrote a book called “Design Rules” (Gotham Books 2009), but that’s the one rule I never break. (OK, that’s more than five, but I am nothing if not loquacious, so do please forgive me.) Favorite landmark in the Golden Isles: The gazebo at Mary Ross Park is one of many. I can’t rave enough about the excitement brewing in downtown Brunswick right now. I moved to Harlem from NYC’s Upper East Side at the very beginning of the Harlem Renaissance (one of my BFF’s found Bill Clinton his post-presidential office on 125th Street), and it’s delightful to see the same spirit coming alive in my hometown – honey, I remember when downtown was a destination. A local you admire: My mother is my true style icon – it’s heartwarming that although dementia has now stolen most of her memories, it hasn’t diminished her style. Her expert eye is still intact, and she still examines my outfit head-to-toe every time I leave the house. And comments. Describe a perfect Saturday for you in the Golden Isles: Happiness for me is about looking and seeing – I could go on house tours all day long, extra credit if they’re historical. The breathtaking beauty of coastal Georgia’s landscape never fails to amaze me – I could drive along our back roads and tree-lined vistas for hours on end, just admiring the view. We’re beyond blessed to have so much still-intact architecture from so many bygone eras – from the Jekyll cottages to Old Town Brunswick to the Village’s craftsman beach bungalows – pure eye candy. Our sunsets are among the world’s most beautiful (and le crepuscule is my favorite time of day), so I’d wrap up lazily taking one in over cocktails, and then head home for dinner with mom.
Share a few favorite fabric collections, paint colors and go-to items for design on the coast: I was worried about accessing to-the-trade fabric collections locally when I first moved home (fabrics are the one thing it’s truly hard to see accurately online), but the collections at Restoration Imports and Pierce & Parker are vast and I drag clients there endlessly to shop. Deliberately white walls look modern and fresh, but sterile whites are still design no-no’s. Sherwin Williams’ Spare White and Benjamin Moore’s Glacier White are warmer whites that deliver. (Style Tip: Always look at your whites in the space they’re going in, in both daylight and at night, before committing to one.) For the perfect tranquil island pale blue, you can’t go wrong with Sherwin Williams’ Lullaby. And if you just can’t stand white walls, Benjamin Moore’s Classic Gray and Muslin are sweet sun-kissed pales that add a perfect drop of color – like your white walls spent a day at the beach. Accessory-wise, I know it’s tempting to cross the line into kitschy and overindulge in beach-themed accessories when we live so close to the shore, but I encourage clients to exercise restraint and sprinkle them judiciously throughout their spaces, strategically, in small doses: one ginormous whelk shell atop a couple of coffee table books makes a chic-er seaside style statement than a gazillion little shells strewn all over. For greenery, palmetto fronds make the best and longest-lasting floral statements. And I just discovered the world’s most gorgeous faux fiddle leaf fig trees (designers’ faves!) at Edward on St. Simons Island – I mean, lifelike! With zero maintenance! Describe Garden & Gun’s new book and your thrill to be included in “Southern Women: More Than 100 Stories of Innovators, Artists, and Icons:” When Haskell Harris, G&G’s editor-in-chief, called me in May 2018 to tell me about their latest project and ask if I’d participate, I was floored. The book profiles trailblazing Southern females, living and posthumously, in seven categories: Performers & Players, Chefs & Mixologists, Innovators & Iconoclasts, Artists & Artisans, Singers Songwriters, Writers Readers, and Tastemakers & Trendsetters. I’m honored to be one of the 18 Tastemakers. Like all of us born south of the Mason Dixon line, I wear my Southernness as a badge of pride – after my African-Americanness, it’s my chief identifying characteristic. I can’t imagine having been born anywhere else in the world other than the Brunswick of my birth, and I love the insanely Southern parents heaven gave me. I used to keep a copy of photographer Jack Leigh’s iconic book, “The Land I’m From,” on my coffee table in NYC, because Southerners have had a visceral attachment to their landscape ever since Scarlett O’Hara stood on the porch of Tara and declared that she’d think about that tomorrow. (Just kidding!) To be included with G&G’s 18 favorite Southern tastemakers and trendsetters is an ineffable lifetime honor. I am humbled and grateful.