flower: Jackye, you have such a refined way with color, fabric, and antiques, as if you’ve been living and working with them forever. Is decorating something you’ve always been interested in? JACKYE LANHAM: Not really. I had a nomadic childhood. My father was an army officer, and we moved every two or so years. We lived in Greece, Japan, Washington, D.C., and in the southeastern United States. Our family was always provided housing on the base wherever we were stationed, so I grew up without a permanent house. But when I went off to college at the University of Alabama, my dad insisted I pursue a degree that came with a career. I chose interior design. When I graduated, I worked for a commercial furniture company whose clients were banks, offices, libraries, and schools. I had no idea what I was doing, and it was like being thrown in the water and learning how to swim! Then I married and moved to Atlanta, and began working with Tom Hayes, who owned a fabulous antiques company, as well as a couple of wholesale businesses. I traveled to the Philippines, Hong Kong, Great Britain, Spain, and France to buy, design, and develop furniture and decorative arts. I loved it, and believe it’s when I truly cultivated my style. When I struck out on my own to finally begin my career as an interior designer, I was ready.
How did your globe-trotting childhood impact your aesthetic and the design choices you make now? I have collections from my travels, of course, but I think my upbringing has affected my sense of home and place most of all. I’m a homebody now, and very focused on comfort and personality. I’m always drawn to things that are beautiful, classic, and timeless, rather than trends. Again, I think that comes from all that moving while I was growing up. We packed only the essentials and most beloved things. Settling into each new place was like unearthing old treasures that I would arrange in a fresh way. So I guess I was a decorator, even when I didn’t realize it.
We love your classic sense of style—a big congratulations, by the way, on your recent lifetime achievement award from the Southeast chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art—and it’s so interesting to tie your origins to how you decorate today. Collections seem to be particularly important to how your rooms come together. What do you personally like to collect and display? I love antique maps, paintings and drawings of people and animals, silver, and porcelains of all kinds. But when I’m working for clients, things need to reflect the personality of the homeowners—something that is inherited or reflects a passion or a place. For example, for a project in Harbor Springs, Michigan, we framed local souvenir spoons, license plates, wine openers, city pennants, restaurant menus, old sailing photographs, and historic downtown images. They gave the house instant history and soul.
Your color palette seems to follow that same classic bent—refined and subtle versus bold and trendy. It’s never harsh and always easy on the eyes. Early on in my career, I had a client who adored dramatic, bright colors. I thought I would try it for myself. I painted my dining room a coral red and the living room a dramatic black. I couldn’t stand it. Everything was repainted within three days! I realized it didn’t make sense for me to veer from my preferred color path—I lean toward hues that have been faded by the sun, time, and use.
Finally, what’s your philosophy on flowers when you are arranging or giving a room that finishing touch? I love using flowers and greenery from the garden in natural arrangements, but sometimes I also incorporate colors that give punch to a space. I try to use them the way a fine artist uses color to make a painting come alive. While I’m not apt to paint a room hot pink, I love the pop of a hot-pink peony. I grow them in my Atlanta garden, and they are a bit persnickety. I feel blessed to get a few blossoms every year!
My greatest influence… I’m an Anglophile and adore the English countryside. The minute I stepped into an English country house (Chatsworth was the first), I was hooked. All the history, furniture, relaxed style, and the dogs! From Nancy Lancaster to Tom Parr, Colefax & Fowler has been a huge influence on me.
The flowers I love to clip from my garden… Gardenias. They’re so old-fashioned and remind me of lazy days at Virginia Beach with my grandfather. I have a beautiful photograph of my mother on her wedding day holding a cascade of gardenias as her bouquet. When she passed away, a friend brought me a gardenia bush that I planted by my front door. To pass by it in the summer and inhale the scent is wonderful.
My favorite kind of fabric… Irish linen for its substantial weight and faded colors. You can’t go wrong with it.
A go-to paint color… Benjamin Moore’s Gray Cashmere 2138-60. It’s a soft blue-gray that changes with the light.
Antiques that catch my eye… I’m always fascinated by the interpretation of one country’s eye on another country’s style, such as Spanish Colonial, Irish Chippendale, and my favorite, Anglo-Indian.
I’m currently collecting… Silver bone-marrow scoops. They’re so interesting and historical, and we use them for stirring cocktails now.
My most prized possession… A 19th-century American coin silver tea set. It’s engraved with a wheat-sheaf pattern, and it combines all the things I love—silver, history, nature, and the fact that my husband gave it to me.
By Frances MacDougall | Photography by Emily Jenkins Followill