At home with fashion designer Stephanie Carter
Most rising stars in the fashion industry would set their sights on New York or Los Angeles, but Stephanie Carter, founder of her own fashion house, Judith March, opted for a runway less traveled. At 31, she has come a long way from her family’s Alabama farm to make a splash in the world of fashion—all the while retaining close ties to her Southern roots and small-town sensibilities.
When the clothing designer set up shop in Florida, she was initially content to live in a dated ’80s beach house a block from the Gulf in Seagrove, an older waterfront village. But when the time came to update her digs, she turned to Paige Sumblin Schnell, a designer at Tracery Interiors. “We met through mutual friends who owned a local wine bar,” recalls Stephanie. “I loved her shop in Rosemary Beach, and then we realized we grew up 40 miles apart in rural Alabama.” It was a perfect fit. “I gave Paige my vision. She took it and ran.”
Surrounded by the pattern and color of her fashion career, Stephanie prefers to dial down the volume at the end of the day. “The house is a backdrop intentionally muted and monochromatic to allow Stephanie to experiment with fabrics, patterns, and colors with different seasons,” explains Schnell. For continuity and a sense of calm, the interior designer used the same shadowy gray paint throughout the house, changing the percentages of the formula to create varying intensities. “It’s a surprisingly complex color, changing during the day depending on the light,” she notes. The house is surrounded by trees that also influence the color tones in different spaces.
“A fashion designer must be changing constantly, which is good, because I get easily bored,” admits Stephanie. “I wanted a home with good bones, one that would give me the option to mix things up.” The multi-shades-of-gray palette sets the perfect stage for layering and pairing of textures and materials.
Schnell relaxed the living room with a jute rug and a cowhide ottoman, and happily incorporated vintage items Stephanie had collected. The roof of the house was raised to create the living room’s vaulted ceiling, which is clad with pecky cypress. The height introduces volume and natural light, and accommodates Stephanie’s cherished antique doors that sit above the mantel.
A scalloped archway added to the foyer sets the stage for the elegant touches to come in the living room, including a ballroom-worthy chandelier and stately antique sideboard with mirror. The dining room table is another of Stephanie’s prized possessions. Schnell combined it with an upholstered bench with scalloped back, an antique crystal chandelier, and slipcovered chairs in tune with Stephanie’s casual approach to family meals and entertaining.
To enhance the home’s wide-open, sun-washed feel and to link the living room and sunroom, Schnell opened up walls on either side of the fireplace. The symmetrical openings encourage traffic from indoors to out, while bringing in more Florida sun. A new two-sided fireplace also makes both rooms more inviting.
Like Stephanie’s approach to fashion, the house sways from glam to kid-friendly without missing a beat. For all the sophistication, it’s still a beach house and home to Stephanie’s 6-year-old son, Fox, who is decidedly all-boy. Consequently, there’s nothing fussy about Fox’s bedroom. Custom-designed twin beds, which appear to hang from the ceiling on ropes, are actually grounded on platforms. Old gym lockers offer playful and practical ways to store toys and shoes.
Before the renovation, there was a balcony at the top of the stairs. Schnell capitalized on this previously wasted space to create a dressing area accentuated with an archway similar to the one in the foyer.
The space that might witness the most activity, however, is not a room but Stephanie’s closet, a capacious sanctuary carved out of found space under the raised roof. The master suite is truly Stephanie’s inner sanctum. Enlivened with personality through unexpected pairings of textures and materials, the room is as moody, cloistered, and dramatic as a vintage haute couture gown. Sweeping curtains of raw silk hang from industrial hardware.
Stephanie believes that living apart from the hustle and bustle of the industry affords more leeway for creativity when designing. She also maintains that there is inspiration in the moment—anything can inspire the next collection. “My home is my anchor and my blank canvas,” says Stephanie. “It allows me to be me.”
Photography: Colleen Duffley
Interior Design: Paige Sumblin Schnell and Anna Kay Porch, Tracery, 72 Main St., Rosemary Beach, FL 32461; 850/231-6755, traceryinteriors.com.
Pretty Living Room Sideboard
An antique Belgian sideboard with a mirror anchors one end of the living room; the dining area is at the opposite end of the space.
See more of the living room and details on the following slide.
Hints of Silver
Silvery details, like mercury glass accessories and antiqued glass, give the living room alluring touches of patina.
Lofty Living Room in Lovely Neutrals
An archway gracefully connects the foyer to the central living area. The living room’s ceiling was lofted, allowing space for an elaborate crystal chandelier. Cotton- and linen-upholstered seating pieces gathered around the fireplace are sophisticated, comfortable, and durable for owner Stephanie Carter and her young son. The cowhide ottoman is a custom design by Tracery, the interior designer’s firm based in Rosemary, Florida.
Light and Restful Sunroom
Outdoor views and cozy armchairs from Lee Industries offer comfort.
See sunroom details on the following slide.
A small antique urn holds decorative spools of golden thread, alluding to Stephanie’s stylish career in fashion.
Staircase and Family Photographs
A metal balustrade was replaced with horizontal wood railings in keeping with the home’s new rustic flavor, including wire-brushed oak floors with a whitewashed finish. Family photos line the walls leading up the staircase.
Cozy on the Couch
Louis, a tiny Havanese, snuggles in the sofa pillows from Dwell Studio.
Open Gray Kitchen
Opening into the dining room, the renovated and enlarged kitchen has a peninsula that provides seating for informal dining. The cabinets are painted Benjamin Moore’s “Kendall Charcoal.” Schnell designed a pair of custom light fixtures from vintage lamp parts and heavy rope. Stephanie loves to cook, so the kitchen is outfitted and arranged for casual eat-in dinner parties. The delicate window treatment over the kitchen sink was sewn by a seamstress at her fashion firm.
See kitchen details on the following slide.
Colorful Mementoes in the Kitchen
A colorful Crosley portable turntable and artwork by 6-year old Fox give the gray kitchen personality.
Dining Room with Elegant Details
Although the dining and living rooms are one continuous space, the dining room’s ceiling was not lofted to preserve the intimacy of the eating area. A versatile bench along the wall and slipcovered side chairs from Lee Industries surround an antique table.
Details on the following slide.
Antique Dining Table
The glass-topped antique dining table adds an interesting touch to the room.
Master Bedroom in Silver and Grays
A headboard from Lee Industries is paired with custom-designed drapery hardware crafted of galvanized water pipes for a mix of the industrial and the elegant—much like Stephanie’s own fashions. The window and bed draperies are silk in two colors, gray and eggplant.
Details on the following slides.
Master Bedroom Sitting Area
A cozy slipcovered chair is a peaceful spot for reading in the dramatic master bedroom.
Above the reading chair hangs a glittering antique chandelier.
Antique Sliding Panels
Schnell had a set of antique doors fabricated into sliding panels for the bath.
Restful Master Bath
Sconces from Currey & Company illuminate the soaking tub and pebbled tile floor.
More of the master bath on the following slide.
Feminine Details in the Master Bath
Elegant and contemporary finishes mix, including marble countertops and a pair of mirrors with feminine details.
Spacious Master Closet
The reconfigured upstairs provides space for an expanded closet with plenty of area to show off Stephanie’s array of shoes and bags, from cowboy boots to stilettoes to vintage luggage.
See more of the master closet on the following slide.
Master Closet Shelves
“The great thing about clothes is that you can be Jackie O. today and Janis Joplin tomorrow,” says homeowner and fashion designer Stephanie Carter.
Pretty Dressing Area
Stephanie Carter and son Fox play at her dressing table while Louis, a Teeny Tiny Havanese, watches from his bed in a vintage Louis Vuitton suitcase. The dressing area was created by enclosing an open balcony at the top of the stairs. The space has floor-to-ceiling mirrors, a vintage dressing table, and antlers where Stephanie displays jewelry and accessories sold at Deja Vu.
Whimsical Child’s Bedroom
Fox’s bedroom is a six-year-old’s dream: Twin custom beds appear to hang from thick ropes, but are grounded on platforms. Fish artwork behind the beds keeps the mood youthful.
Stephanie Carter: A Southern Fashion House
A visionary and a pragmatist, Stephanie Carter cuts a stylish swath as founder and designer at Déjà Vu , Judith March , and Jacque + Janis . At the age of 21, Stephanie sold her Mustang for $4,000 to start a traveling trunk show that she took to country clubs and sorority houses. Next, she opened her first Deja Vu shop in Panama City Beach, Florida, followed by boutiques in Seaside, Key West, and Fairhope, Alabama. Stephanie’s experience as a retailer allowed her to recognize the need for whimsical and sophisticated dresses at attainable prices.
Turning Designs into Brands
Buoyed by the popularity of Déjà Vu , in the summer of 2009 Stephanie invested her talents and passion into creating her own brand, Judith March , which currently is carried in more than 1,200 boutiques.
Next year, the designer is forging ahead with the launch of Jacque + Janis , an upscale line of women’s clothing.
From her earliest ventures as a teen model and budding entrepreneur, Stephanie drew inspiration from diverse style-setters. In the world of fashion, celebrities come and go, yet Stephanie’s personal icons have remained constant: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Janis Joplin.
Granted, the two personalities were polar opposites in terms of fashion, philosophy, and a whole lot more, yet Stephanie’s loyalties have never wavered. Now, as she expands her fashion empire with a new corporate entity of designer-label fashions that swing from sophisticated to bohemian in the blink of an eye and a splash of color, it’s only fitting to pay homage to her longtime muses.