Kindred Spirits

Sisters and design partners outfit a Highlands, North Carolina, getaway with a delightful juxtaposition of European antiques and edgy touches

Anne Erbesfield and Cathleen Carrington are designers, business partners, sisters and best friends. For more than 30 years, they’ve worked together to create beautiful interiors for their clients in Atlanta, playing off each other’s design sensibilities and sense of fun. It’s not uncommon for one sister to visit the other’s home and stealthily rearrange decor to the delight of the other. This kindred design perspective and humor-forward approach has fortified their relationship beyond the typical bounds of sisterhood. “We’re best friends,” says Erbesfield.

And after a visit to the North Carolina High Country, Erbesfield found the perfect mountain retreat that was a short walk from the charming downtown, featured a spectacular view of Satulah Mountain and had plenty of extra space to host family and friends.

The designer wanted a vacation home that celebrated her love of travel, antiques and art, and with Carrington’s help, she deftly embellished spaces with an eclectic mix of treasured finds acquired over more than 30 years of European travel. “So much of the art and accessories have a travel story, some very funny to retell,” says Erbesfield.

In the living room, they turned a one-and-a-half story wall into a soaring composition, anchored by old French herb-drying racks. “They were covered in dirt and so expensive,” Erbesfield recalls with a laugh. “The shop owner said, ‘That’s French dirt, and you’re getting it
for free.’”

Antique etchings, tramp art frames, pewter, white pottery and architectural fragments also enrich the living room canvas, along with a number of contemporary accents like a whitewashed root cocktail table and aubergine occasional chair. “With an experienced eye, the mix of vintage with new complements both styles,” says Erbesfield of the sisters’ aptitude for amping up intrigue with edgy pieces.

For a splash of color, the duo applied a portiere in dramatic green linen between the living room and sunroom. “It creates a grand entrance, enhances the verdant scene outside and adds a softness,” says Erbesfield. The hue is echoed on Baker club chairs that have been re-covered many times and displayed in four different homes. “Repurposing pieces and collections gives them a fresh new perspective,” says Carrington.

White shiplap walls lend a crisp, cozy feel heightened by harmonious arrangements of antiques and accessories for an effect that feels like a welcome embrace. In the dining room, hand-colored Lo Forti Fine Prints botanical prints and other earthy elements—such as an antique terracotta urn filled with horns and a gothic-style iron chandelier—project a casual warmth.

Each bedroom has its own personality without being overtly themed. The primary bedroom is awash in an ethereal palette and balanced mix of old and new finds. “The walnut armoire is an antique from a buying trip to France 23 years ago,” says Erbesfield. “It’s been housed in Atlanta, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and Highlands. It goes where I go.”

And with a rotating cast of beloved guests, the duo has hit the high mark in this Highlands home. Says Erbesfield, “Every person wants a welcoming home that says, ‘Come on in, you’ll like it here.’”

INTERIOR DESIGN Anne Erbesfield & Cathleen Carrington, Parker Design Associates, Inc. ARCHITECT George Smith LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Planters, (404) 261-6002; KITCHEN AND BATH DESIGNER Beth Barfield, Beth Barfield Designs