Bathed in Blue
A classically inspired Duluth home captures the spirit and passion of its gracious owner.
Beth Elsey’s Georgian-style home is a vision of class, elegance and a bit of Southern flair—just like the homeowner herself. It would be hard to guess that this beautifully appointed residence was decorated solely by this one-time nurse, who spent more than 20 years working with needles and stethoscopes. But Elsey’s childhood gives a glimpse into her underlying passion. “I was fortunate to grow up in a family that loved and appreciated art and architecture,” she recalls. “I loved visiting my Grandma’s art studio because there were always different works in progress—oil paintings in one corner and pottery waiting to be fired in another.”
But it was warm summer days spent on the sandy beaches of Dog Island, a tiny landmass in the Gulf of Mexico, which truly planted a love of art in Elsey and her cousins. “We’d stay for four weeks at the beach house and take sketch pads, charcoals and watercolors. We worked on a different project each year; one year we’d do collages, the next needlework,” she shares. “My grandmother encouraged us to do anything in the realm of art, and all of her grandchildren now have some type of artistic ability.”
Elsey’s artistic passion fell into interiors. She left a nursing career in 1997 to open an interiors shop in south Georgia with a friend, the store’s luxe and varied inventory of home furnishings, china and crystal giving Elsey an outlet to share her tailored and graceful style. But her husband’s eventual job transfer meant leaving the successful venture behind, and re-focusing her creative energy on a new home in Duluth.
She drew inspiration from her idyllic childhood summers. “I love the colors of the beach, especially all spectrums of blue, from the water to the sky,” Elsey says. “I also love the whites of the shells, and the neutrals of sand and driftwood. All of those influences dictated the direction.”
The home’s icy blue walls, however, started as light yellow. “Over the past nine years, this home has truly been a work in progress,” she explains. “I think you have to live in a space for a while so you can see how it looks during different times of the day and during different seasons.” But once the walls were transformed, Elsey’s vision began to take shape. Sofas, chairs and other furnishings were soon reupholstered to match the fresh color scheme.
Elsey also introduced new items, such as the custom blue-and-white screen painted by Raymond Goins in the formal living room—the Chinoiserie-style panels a nod to the owner’s love of nature. In fact, several rooms boast views of the plantings she personally tends to, including potted Meyer lemon trees on the back patio that are visible from the screened-in porch. “I’m assuming most Southerners have a similar experience, but I can never remember my mother buying flowers. We used whatever was growing in the garden,” she shares.
The home’s classical style is also a testament to Elsey’s love of symmetry; mirror-image seating arrangements and paired accessories give each room a balanced and calming ambience. And although Elsey refers to her style as elegant and ordered, she quickly adds, “it’s important to keep your sense of humor about your home. It doesn’t need to be so perfect that you’ll break down if something is broken.” Her three beautiful Labradors, Emma, Sophie and Olive, are allowed everywhere and have inevitably left their mark. “Yes, they chew on the furniture, but it gives it character,” she laughs.
Essentially, it’s a reflection of Elsey’s gentle demeanor and that, after all, is what a home should mirror—the owners themselves.
For the blue and white paint colors in her own home, designer Beth Elsey selected an array of soft and pretty hues.
+ Living Room walls Benjamin Moore Healing Aloe trim Benjamin Moore Bavarian Cream
+ Dining Room walls Farrow & Ball Oval Room Blue over Farrow & Ball Light Blue in custom strié finish trim Benjamin Moore Bavarian Cream
+ Keeping Room and Breakfast Room walls and trim Benjamin Moore Bavarian Cream ceiling Benjamin Moore Healing Aloe (at 25 percent strength)
+ Master Bedroom walls Benjamin Moore Silver Crest trim Bavarian Cream
INTERIOR DESIGN Elizabeth Elsey, (404) 735-0840; elizabethelsey.com