The design team of Roger Higgins and Ann Shipp helps a Nashville family create a lighter look at home.
Written and Produced by Jenny Bradley
Photography by Reid Rolls
Sometimes the stars just align.
Living on 50 acres just outside of Nashville, Jeff and Lori Orr enjoyed the privacy their property offered but not the maintenance it involved. So when a country music singer approached the couple to buy their home, they realized that it might just be a sign that it was time to downsize.
The timing was perfect—their two older children had left for college (daughter Emily, 18, and son John, 15, still live at home), and the Orrs were in the market for a smaller home—but the time frame was tight.
Enter aligning stars. “There was a house in Nashville that we had always admired,” recalls Lori. “To our surprise, the owners had relocated to New York, and the house was on the market.”
A move to the 100-year-old Mediterranean-style home represented a 180-degree turn for the family. Light-filled—offering more windows and glass doors than wall space—it was a bright contrast to the Gothic-style house they’d just sold.
While the change was welcome, it meant that much of the furniture that had worked so well in their previous house now felt out of place. Wanting to retain their family heirlooms and some large-scale pieces they’d collected over time, they called in Roger Higgins and Ann Shipp to help them create a home that would be a compilation of dark and light, old and new.
“I try to instill a sense of accumulation in every home I work on,” says Higgins. “In this case, we were collecting the big pieces that create a strong base. The Orrs also wanted the interior to be inviting, so that guests and family could spend time lounging and conversing. It was really important for the entire house to be very comfortable and approachable.”
To preserve that approachable ambience, Higgins incorporated unexpected touches throughout. For this house that meant mixing clean lines and contemporary elements with Mediterranean-inspired architecture and classic, comfortable furnishings.
“The house has Mediterranean details while still maintaining a traditional Southern feel,” says Higgins. “I threw in classic items like the sisal rug—which I compare to a good pair of blue jeans because they look as good with a dress shirt as they do dressed-down with a simple T-shirt. Using elements like a casual rug in a more formal space can create a balanced, updated sensibility and also keep the area from becoming too stuffy.”
With four children and three dogs, stuffy was definitely not an option. Casual, durable materials such as washed velvets and linens were de rigueur throughout the home, and texture was incorporated to hide wear and add visual interest. And while there was a self-imposed ban on silk upholstery, Higgins managed to sneak in a silk throw pillow or two for a bit of decadence.
In the living room, arguably the most formal space in the house, a sisal rug takes center stage, tempering the room’s more formal furnishings, parquet floors, lush textures, and gilt details. Pattern is used minimally—the fine striation on the walls is barely noticeable—and the toned-down, Mediterranean-inspired palette is subtle and soothing.
An antique Flemish tapestry hanging behind a sofa acts as a touchstone—highlighting the home’s color story in its neutrals, rich hunter greens, and delicate blues. An amalgamation of Lori’s favorite hues, it was the impetus for the home’s palette.
“Roger has a keen ability to choose colors that complement his clients’ personal tastes,” says Lori. “We focused on creams, grays, blues, and sages—all of my favorites. Roger’s goal was for each room to have a relationship with the rest of the house, so you’ll find these colors throughout.”
In the dining room, the existing gray-green upholstery on the walls added drama but seemed overly dark and heavy to Lori. To lighten up the space, Higgins upholstered the host and hostess chairs in a feminine embroidered fabric and used an ethereal sheer fabric at the windows. To increase the femininity factor, a lavabo hanging on the wall above the antique sideboard is home to orchids, magnolias, and other greens, depending on the season.
The kitchen was the home’s one major overhaul. Located in the center of the house, the dark, skimpy area had only two small doorways. Craving a light-filled space in which family and friends could congregate, the Orrs hired architect Ron Farris to create an open space that encourages lingering over meals and allows a view of the family room, dining room, and pool.
“Sun pours in from every direction,” says Lori. “The kitchen as a whole is the hub of our daily activity. The ample island is a necessity for a family of six, and we wear it out.”
The kitchen is also home to an antique Jackson Press—a family heirloom that showcases a collection of glassware and McCarty pottery from Mississippi.
In the adjoining family room, Higgins chose a leather daybed with a plush upholstered cushion to anchor the space. It’s ideally placed for television viewing and is the perfect spot for an afternoon nap, but the Orrs took some convincing. “I wasn’t sure if my family would find it comfortable,” says Lori. “But we all absolutely love it. It’s the best seat in the room!” Armchairs in graphite mohair and a tailored stripe offer additional seating.
Prompted by a sketch brought home from a trip abroad, the master bedroom’s cream-and-gray scheme produces instant “ahhs.” Overlooking the manicured backyard and pool area, the spa-like space was built with restfulness in mind. Pattern and bold colors are kept to a minimum. Plush textures—chenille on the upholstered headboard and a Flokati rug—add visual interest but avoid being overly feminine.
“We love living here,” says Lori. “It is a true refuge for us.”
Interior designer: Roger Higgins and Ann Shipp, R. Higgins Interiors, 2000 Blair Blvd., Nashville, TN, 37212; 615/297-9632, rhigginsinteriors.com.
Chest between chairs; mirror above chest; slip-covered chairs by window: owner’s collection.
Slipcover fabric (“Quincy”/Aqua #0649404): Stroheim, 800/763-0524, stroheim.com.