Everyday Elegance

Designer Mary Lauren McBride takes a house from fine to fabulous by including many unique and custom pieces and an enviable collection of art to bring fresh style throughout.

Photography by Laurey Glenn | Stylist Morgan Stephenson
Walls in grass cloth (Schumacher) add depth to the dining room and set off the furnishings, including a custom dining table from MDM Design Studio; a pair of antique chandeliers from Genoa, Italy; and a series of framed architectural fragments.

You know the feeling when you’ve found a house that checks all your boxes—your favorite neighborhood, the ideal size, great outdoor space, and an ideal floor plan—but sometimes there is still something that doesn’t quite feel like ‘you.’ That’s what Wansley and Ryan Griffin thought when they toured a home in Vestavia Hills. “The house had a farmhouse attitude that didn’t align with their personal style,” says interior designer Mary Lauren McBride. But in the end, the assets far outweighed any negatives.

“With our children entering the teenage years, we wanted a bigger place that had a separate area for them to hang out and feel independent while still allowing us to keep an eye on them,” says Wansley. “The basement here was ideal.”

Another plus was that the home required no major renovations—no walls to move and no kitchen or baths to be reworked. Instead, smaller changes made a world of difference, thanks to Mary Lauren who gave it a winsome reboot.

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The light-flooded living room, filled with nuanced accents, imparts a calm yet welcoming atmosphere and looks out over the golf course.

The homeowner and designer worked tirelessly to curate the engaging living room gallery wall. “We are both symmetrical thinkers, so we had to let that go! You want a gallery wall to feel organic.”

— Mary Lauren McBride

Paint went a long way—a range of creamy whites imparts softness to the walls. In the dining room, a grass cloth wallcovering brings welcome texture. “I’m drawn to a mix of textures and finishes within a neutral palette,” says Wansley. “Mary Lauren knew how to make that happen with velvet, mohair, nubby carpets (from Billy Brown Flooring), and antiques with patina, but she didn’t choose anything that can’t handle a busy family.”

Other easy transformations involved updating lighting, hardware, and plumbing fixtures. Wansley also shed her existing well-loved furnishings that had been around “through all the babies,” she says. A few cherished family pieces remained, but Mary Lauren was able to work with an almost blank slate.

Wansley has a design royalty aunt, Cindy Smith, a founder of Circa Interiors in Charlotte with an outpost in Mountain Brook, so most of the upholstery is from Lee Industries. Mirrors and other decorative touches also come from the well-loved Mountain Brook shop.

Mary Lauren often includes custom pieces in her projects, including this library table topped with a piece of art by McKenzie Dove. Armchairs are from Maison by Pam Evans. A Clarence House trim used on the leading edge of the drapery and on the Roman shades inspired the color palette in the room.

Art was paramount in the reimaging of the home. “We wanted our selections to feel like they had been acquired over time,” says Mary Lauren. To achieve that effect, she turned to unconventional choices in a variety of mediums. In the dining room, a grouping of carefully handpicked architectural fragments framed in shadow boxes draws the eye in. An outstanding formal gallery wall in the living room features a map of the family’s regular vacation spot in the Bahamas, along with pieces from Maison by Pam Evans in Mountain Brook Village, artwork from Birmingham-based McKenzie Dove, a white sandstone piece from Chattanooga artist Brook Soss, a mirror from Circa, and select botanical prints and etchings from Arceneaux Gallery in Homewood. Mary Lauren took the couple’s favorite hymn and had it realized in calligraphy and framed for the vestibule leading to the primary bedroom.

The home’s revamped style extends to the outside as well. Falkner Gardens spiffed up the landscape in the front yard while Mary Lauren filled the back entertaining space with furnishings from Summer Classics donned with pillows in fabric from Alessandra Branca and a custom table from Elegant Earth. “The back looks out onto a lake where the boys like to fish, as well as onto a golf course to tee off,” says Wansley. “It suits our lifestyle in all respects.”

Make it Yours

Using smart design tweaks and the addition of custom pieces, antiques, and art, Mary Lauren McBride shares how she traded farmhouse style for Southern elegance.

Peel away excess. Part of the process involved taking things away. We removed some of the shiplap or painted it so it wouldn’t look so prominent.

Restain the floors. The original hardwood floors were lovely, but the finish was gray. Stripping them down and restaining them in a natural finish reset the stage.

Add new lighting. We replaced all of the light fixtures in this home which instantly elevated it and made it unique. I mixed in antiques and new fixtures—some with a little edge—that better fit the scale and style of the new rooms.

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