Fresh Perspective

Antiques impresario and showroom owner Mary Prillaman views her treasured collections in a whole new light, thanks to the intuitive eye of interior designer Susan Ferrier.

When you’re in the antiques business, each piece is personal. There’s an emotional connection, fond memory or unique story attached to every object. And when living and breathing fine design is your trade, as it is for Mary Prillaman, owner of MacRae and Holland & Company, it’s almost by default that you become an avid collector in the process.

Seventeenth- and 18th-century portraits, corner chairs, hat stands, English water filters, creamware, pewter—Prillaman’s collections are as numerous as they are exquisite. But they are also carefully curated, just like the company she keeps.

Enter Susan Ferrier of McAlpine Booth & Ferrier Interiors, to whom Prillaman had the pleasure of being introduced through a collaboration on a furniture line for MacRae with Ferrier’s colleague, architect Bobby McAlpine. A design dream team, McAlpine, Ferrier and Prillaman hit it off famously—and ultimately led to Prillaman enlisting the designer to become editor-in-chief of her most prized possessions for the refresh of her Buckhead home.

And where many designers might have been overwhelmed by the sheer spectrum of choices—Prillaman has a warehouse filled with benchmade pieces from her businesses as well as her own impeccable finds—Ferrier was nonplussed, committing herself to finding and using only pieces Prillaman could truly not live without, regardless of the period or style.

Of particularly sentimental value were a trio of University of the South uniforms, worn by her great-grandfather, which Prillaman found stuffed in a bag in her grandmother’s attic. After having the coats cleaned, repaired and preserved in shadow boxes, she knew she wanted the collection to play a role in her home’s redesign, but it was Ferrier who envisioned the uniforms’ blue-and-tan hues as the jumping point for the home’s palette.

Next, the designer’s task was to create a sophisticated but livable environment for this serious collector, without it appearing too much like a showroom. “When your life is about furniture, you have to be careful. In your own home, there must be a little bit of a departure,” says Ferrier. Even so, the pair looked at pieces in Prillaman’s lines that would be “good ambassadors in tying in the new with the old,” she says.

If there’s one room that best captures this delicate balance, it’s the dining room, where color, pattern and texture imbue the intimate space with a rich, multi-layered patina only Ferrier could accomplish. Here, a commanding Holland & Company dining table draws energy from skirted feminine chairs and a cowhide banquette, while floor-to-ceiling draperies, along with a floating mirror, add architectural structure.

It’s in the details, though, that Ferrier’s deft balance of old and new, light and dark, hard and soft, reigns. “When you’re working with a lot of different influences, it’s important to pay attention to where things are placed as you don’t want them to appear redundant or out of place,” she says. Instead, the designer imbued the house with a sense of rhythm, weaving Prillaman’s prized collections from room to room in such a way that they not only appear unified when separated, they also make the rooms feel crisp, clean, and above all, memorable. “From the moment you walk in, you can tell a really interesting person lives here,” Ferrier says.

LIVE THE LIFESTYLE  Mary Prillaman shares a few of her favorite things
Collections: Antique water filters, corner chairs and maps of Paris.
Artists: Sally Mann, Bernd Haussman and Rinne Allen.
Linens: Thomas O’Brien for Target.
Cocktail: The Marie Antoinette at The Ritz London hotel.
Playlist: Wilco, Pylon and Lucinda Williams.
Films: Little Miss Sunshine, The Royal Tenenbaums and Great Expectations.
Weekend Reading: Finding Home by Bobby McAlpine.
Fashion: Marni, Emerson Fry and Matta.
Candle: Maura Peters’ Orange Jasmine.
Next Destination: Portugal.

Interior Design Susan Ferrier, McAlpine, Booth & Ferrier Interiors. (404) 501-9200; For the kitchen’™s renovation and space planning, Prillaman collaborated with Beth Barfield Designs.