Simple Sophistication

When it comes to getting away, Atlanta tastemaker Kay Douglass and her family answer the beck and call of their 1920s lodge-turned-vacation home on Lake Rabun.

CLINTON SMITH: You formerly had a vacation house at Rosemary Beach, which you have since sold. How’d you end up at Lake Rabun?
Kay Douglass: “Funny enough, my husband, Jim, went to the lake for the first time last year while I was on a buying trip to France. He went up on an invite from a friend and came back saying that he had found the perfect lake, and it was only one-and-a-half hours away from Atlanta. We didn’t discuss it again until one hot, sultry June day, when we called Lakemont real estate agent Michael McGaughey on a whim and asked if we could come up—in two hours! He laughed, said ‘yes,’ and just a few weeks later we knew that we had found the perfect house!”

You’ve had the lake house for less than a year now. How have you found that your city and country houses differ?
“I have colors at the lake that I probably could not live with everyday—the orange and that crazy fuschia. However, I like nothing more than going up and walking into those light and bright rooms with striking colors. It’s kind of like when you walk into a great hotel—a happy surprise! At home, my house is much more toned down, all very white with only pops of yellow.”

How many people can sleep over?
“We can have up to 12 people sleeping comfortably, but when we went house hunting we had no intention of having as many bedrooms.  Since the house was a former lodge, there are just so many little rooms. Now, each bedroom has its own bright color palette—citron, cobalt, orange and verde.”

Your use of color is genius. Both your city and country houses implore lots and lots of white as a backdrop, but pops of color always seem strategically placed, never haphazard. What’s your philosophy?
“I think most environments dictate their color palette. At the lake, the color of the floors takes on a big role. In this particular house, the pine floors have an orange undertone, so that led first to choosing orange accents, which is not such a departure for me. So, I had to add a surprise to the space as well, which, in the living room, was the fuschia-colored chairs.”

What’s inspiring you at this very moment?
“Right now, I’m about pushing the limits of design with crazy, unexpected color combinations! I’m also about using bright and happy rugs. When I was in Paris for my last buying trip for my shop, South of Market, we found these really fun rugs in bright colors to help spice up our neutral spaces.”

You must be talking about those cowhide rugs in the bedrooms—the ones in citron and verde. Now that’s some kind of color!
“I found these amazing hand-dyed rugs and couldn’t get enough of them, so I bought them for myself to add a little extra oomph to the bedrooms. I love doing houses for myself because I’m never hesitant to experiment! I’m hoping to get more soon for my store to spread the love!”

Your interiors always make powerful statements while using very few objects, yet they never feel empty or cold. How do you do that?
“This is my favorite part of design and how my shop  originally began. I love finding unusual things and giving them new life. It only takes a few really special items to give a house that feeling. When it comes to clients, this part is always interesting. Convincing the client that the crazy object we’re proposing is a must-have to complete their room is sometimes a challenge, but it almost always becomes their favorite and most talked about thing in the house!”

Jim and Kay Douglass’ primary residence in Atlanta was featured in our May 2009 issue and has since been published in the Italian edition of Architectural Digest, as well as the Brazilian, Russian and French versions of Elle Decor. 

Kay Douglass, South of Market, 345 Peachtree Hills Ave. NE, Suite 100, Atlanta 30305. (404) 995-9399.
173 King St., Charleston, South Carolina 29401. (843) 723-1114;