Story by Donna Cornelius • Photos by Lee Walls
The beautifully appointed rooms in the Decorators’ ShowHouse don’t just create themselves.
From the planning that starts the process to putting the final details in place, designers who participate in the Alabama Symphony Orchestra fundraiser put in weeks of time, effort and hard work before the house is visitor-ready.
It’s challenging enough to take on one ShowHouse room. Lynne Coker, owner of Homewood’s Lynne Coker Interiors, doubled her workload this year by designing two rooms. Despite the extra effort required, Coker’s not complaining.
“I put in a bid for one room, but when I was asked to do two, I was delighted,” she said.
Coker put her signature style on the ShowHouse’s living room on the main level and the library upstairs.
“It was a joy working on two different rooms,” she said.
Coker’s not the only participant who has more than one ShowHouse space. Others are Griffith Art Gallery, Pottery Barn Kids, Umphrey Interiors and The White House Interiors.
Coker’s ShowHouse debut as a designer was in 2003.
“I’m so honored to take part,” she said. “I’m always thrilled when I get the notice to come and preview the house. It’s a great organization. Everyone is so kind that they make you look forward to the process.”
The Library: A Palette of Pages
Coker said she hadn’t planned on designing a library.
“But it’s such a dramatic room with the black-and-white draperies and double doors, and it’s the perfect size for a library,” she said. “It’s not too overwhelming a space.”
Calling the room “Frame of Reference,” Coker gave what had been deep gold walls a fresh coat of white paint. She also removed window shutters to bring in more light.
Furniture in the room is kept to a minimum. Instead of a bulky executive-style desk, Coker placed an elegant writing table in front of the windows.
Dark blue high-backed chairs provide places to curl up with a good book but don’t overwhelm the space. A playful contemporary painting also brings in shades of blue.
“I think the chairs fit the room well, as does the desk,” she said. “The painting helped me keep the room joyful, whimsical and minimal. I love putting blue with black and white.”
Coker came up with an especially creative way to display the stars of any well put together library: the books. They’re color-coded, arranged in a rainbow of groups.
“Most of us typically organize our books by subject matter or author,” she said. “This way makes it joyful. You can have a biography of a fashion icon next to a Perry Mason mystery or a book about the Yankees.”
She said she gathered many of the volumes over the years. Among her favorite sources are Friends of the Library book sales, particularly at the Homewood Public Library and the Birmingham Public Library.
“You get bags at the sales and fill them with treasures,” Coker said. “It’s the thrill of the hunt.”
She said that while many people will stock their shelves until they’re bursting with books, she likes to leave space in between.
“If you put the books on their sides, you can see what you’re looking for easily,” Coker said. “People will ask about dust jackets. I save them, but you’ll find that the spines alone look great and give the display a whole other dimension.”
She said it’s easy to convert a room into a library for those who have space in their homes to do so.
“You can start with white walls and bring color in with books,” Coker said. “Don’t make the room too crowded. It’s easy to remove furniture and then put things back and start again.”
The Living Room: Lovely and Livable
Not so long ago, living rooms were special-occasion spaces. These days, home owners often want these rooms to be not only stylishly pretty but also user-friendly. The ShowHouse living room is both.
“It’s a little bit formal, but the fabrics on the sofa and chairs are stain-resistant,” Coker said.
For the walls of the room, Coker selected “Slipper Satin,” an off-white shade of paint from Farrow & Ball.
“It has just enough sheen so your eye will move across the walls,” she said. “I wanted to add some color, so I brought in blue, grey, green, cream and maize.”
Mirrors above the fireplace and on either side of it already were in place in the room.
“I think it’s fun to use mirrors, whether they’re installed in the walls or brought in,” Coker said. “They make the room look larger and reflect light.”
More lighting elements include lamps of different heights, and natural light shines in through the windows.
“The draperies are a blend of linen and velvet – a linen backdrop, and on top, a velvet with a pattern,” she said.
Chinoiserie chairs and a cocktail table with a mirrored surface sit atop a rug with soft, muted colors. A bamboo motif repeats itself in the table’s legs and in patterns in the rug.
A painting above the sofa is by Linda Ellen Price, one of Coker’s favorite artists.
“I can pick her paintings out of any collection,” Coker said. “This one is of the Alabama Theatre, and that’s where my parents had their first date.”
Two other paintings in the room are by Dirk Walker.
“All are from the Beverly McNeal Gallery,” Coker said. “They are so wonderful to work with there. In the summer particularly, they have sessions where artists paint right in front of you and talk about what they’re doing. It’s a great learning experience.”
The library and living room aren’t Coker’s only contributions to the ShowHouse. She’ll be leading one of the Decorator Seminars. Her presentation, set for 1 p.m. on May 2, is called “Create an Inspiration Board: Five Tools for Visualizing Your Ideas.” She said the topic was inspired by “people who have hired me in the past.”
“Many say they have no idea how to visualize what they want,” Coker said. “Selecting paint, colors and other things can be hard. There are many tools you can use that are available at no charge. I’ll show you things you can do to build a board.”
Lynne Coker Interiors is a Homewood-based, full-service design firm. For more information, visit lynnecokerinteriors.com or follow the company on Twitter. You also can reach Coker at 999-9046 or email her at [email protected].