Lure of the Lake

Along the shores of Lake Martin, Alabama, designer Susan Ferrier and architect Bobby McAlpine create a chic camp-style retreat.

When a stylish, busy couple approached Susan Ferrier to decorate their newly purchased lake house, they presented the Atlanta designer with a tall order: Create a clean, contemporary-looking home that would be warm and welcoming for family and friends. Rising to the challenge, Ferrier mixed polished furnishings with rustic elements to craft a lake house interior that is comfortable and surprisingly sophisticated, too.

Located at Lake Martin, Alabama, the house is part of a camp designed by Ferrier’s colleague, architect Bobby McAlpine. While the houses have similar exteriors and the same open floor plan, the interiors are where the homeowners’ individuality flourishes. The heart of this particular house is the living room, a soaring space from which other rooms radiate. According to Ferrier, the cool color palette was a “reaction” to the honey-colored, cypress-clad walls throughout the house. Inky blues and shades of white were chosen as “a counterpoint to the natural warmth of the walls as well as an attempt to cool down a very warm space.” So as not to intrude on the home’s modern feel, Ferrier bypassed antique furniture in favor of sleek, clean-lined pieces. An upholstered sofa and chairs are covered in durable linen and cotton, while silk and metallic leather pillows introduce a glamorous sheen to the space. And in an effort to tame the living room’s impressive volume, Ferrier selected a striking industrial light fixture and statuesque curtains to fill the room’s upper reaches.

To “take away the slickness” that often pervades contemporary interiors, Ferrier also introduced layers of texture to warm up the spaces. In the dining room and kitchen, for instance, metal, stone and unique fabrics create tactile counterpoints to wood walls, floors and ceilings. The dining room console, covered in faux leather with nailhead trim, all but begs to be touched while white linen-slipcovered chairs form a soft, airy perimeter around the wood-slab dining table. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, hide-covered stools and white leather benches provide comfortable perches at the wood-and-concrete island.

Because the upstairs master suite has the same distinctive cypress walls, Ferrier again called on a color scheme of blues, creams and steel grays, this time in less high-contrast shades. “Using softer variations of the color palette utilized in a home creates a more restful environment,” says the designer. But even though the color scheme is lighter, the room is no less dynamic thanks to Ferrier’s deft mix of straight lines and organic shapes. Nowhere is this more evident than in the master bath, where sinuous wooden branch sconces hold court amidst metal mirrors and rectangular wooden-and-porcelain vanities.

Her approach to working with contrasting elements is to “meet somewhere in the middle,” says Ferrier. “Using varying elements in an interior challenges you to take a leap from one of the elements to the next, and in that dynamic arc or middle ground, you experience a completely individual and personal way to see a space.” By skillfully and strategically playing color, scale and texture against one another, Ferrier has managed to design an interior that is not just visually and intellectually stimulating but—more importantly—physically relaxing, too.

Designer Susan Ferrier’s Style Secrets

What are the essentials for any lake house?  A comfortable place outside to lounge with evening cocktails, a great sound system throughout, WiFi and comfortable beds to land in at the end of the day.

What’s on your weekend playlist?  On the weekends, I like to listen to movies, mostly old, because it makes me feel like my house is full of stimulating people that I would not normally have access to, and it takes my mind to remote locations.

I can’t live with …  small ideas and ideals.

I can’t live without …  my husband, my jewelry, global travel, my pets and my dreams.

No home is complete without …  reminders of the life you have lived and the life you intend to live.

How do you relax?  I have to leave the country. Traveling abroad places me in unfamiliar settings and circumstances, so I am forced to let go and walk through it all by observing but not participating. It is like listening to music rather than having to compose the music that makes up my everyday life.

How do you beat the heat and stay cool?  If I cannot be totally submerged in water with a cocktail full of ice, an air-conditioned parked car will do.

Interior Design Susan Ferrier, McAlpine, Booth & Ferrier Interiors, Atlanta, (404) 501-9200; Architecture McAlpine Tankersley Architecture, Montgomery, (334) 262-8315;