Fine Balance

Designer Beth McMillan helps her client up the style quotient in her home by mixing her enviable collection of antiques with more modern pieces and helping solve some decorating challenges along the way.

The house was designed by Henry Sprott Long & Associates while the original landscaping comes from the genius of Ryan Gainey. Photos by Jean Allsopp
For the large-scaled den, Beth needed to include some generously sized pieces such as the square coffee table in shagreen from Defining Home, which adds visual weight to the room. A dramatic chandelier—one of a pair purchased on 1st Dibs—proved ideal for setting off the high-beamed ceiling.

What to do in a large bowling alley-shaped den with four entrances, 13-foot ceilings, and a collection of exotic animal trophies, plus the need to be party-ready in less than 10 weeks? Well, if you are a savvy homeowner, you get some backup support. “I hired Beth not only because I knew she could tackle this challenging room, but also because I admired her style and ability to infuse modern elements into a house while working with what I already had,” says the homeowner. “She’s not a dictatorial designer but rather a very collaborative one.”

Beth’s jumping-off point for the den involved adding some pieces with a light and sophisticated touch to tie in with the hunting trophies. She included an oversized coffee table, a rug with a tribal pattern from Paige Albright Orientals, and re-covered French armchairs in vintage zebra hides with exposed manes that the homeowner discovered when searching for unique finds online. “She has such a beautiful collection of antiques, so we used them in the den to bring some warmth and age to the large space,” says Beth. She also hung the homeowner’s large chandeliers, purchased on 1st Dibs. “I had buyer’s remorse about them, but Beth simply looked at them and said, ‘Let’s use them.’ They ended up being perfect,” says the homeowner. Though stylish, the room offers comfort with new generous upholstery and swivel chairs. “We needed a lot of seating in the space, and it had to be positioned so everyone could see the TV which was hidden in a cabinet—a bit of a challenge in the long, linear-shaped room,” says Beth.

While the den was the most immediate concern, Beth also turned her attention to other rooms. The living room had beautiful antiques but needed more of a connection to the other spaces given the openness of the floor plan. “I added a zebra rug and fur pillows,” says Beth. “And to instill a modern edge, I included a glass coffee table.” In the kitchen eating nook, the owner already had a crystal chandelier, but something felt off. “Instead of suggesting something new, Beth added black shades, which gave that perfect punctuation mark in the space,” says the homeowner.

To inject a modern edge into the antiques-filled living room, Beth added a zebra rug, fur pillows made from a vintage fur coat, and a two-tiered glass coffee table. With privacy not an issue, Beth dispensed with window treatments to keep with an architecturally clean line and to put the focus on the antiques. Books, mirrors, and special pieces from the homeowner’s collection of antiques bring elegance throughout the home.


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The designer also encouraged her client to display some treasures that were hidden away. “She has amazing collections of treasured porcelain, and we decided to show them off rather than store them,” says Beth. “We stacked the plates in various leveled tiers on the twin buffets, which gave them a sculptural look. Now, my client can admire them every day, and they create a topic of conversation for guests.” Silver came out of hiding, as did antique chess pieces that Beth placed near a grouping of antique, white-leather books.

The overall design scheme reads streamlined and neutral, allowing the antiques to shine against the primarily white palette and pine floors. To keep the space from looking too sparse, however, Beth brought in some handsome yet glamorous elements such as French mirrors, luxurious skins and furs, tribal accents, and touches of faux fur. The result is a home that strikes a perfect balance in every way.


The remodeled kitchen includes Calacatta Vagli marble, which is a touch more subtle than its gold cousin. Existing cabinets were reused. The breakfast nook provides that great balance of old and new as a crystal-and-gilt French chandelier holds court with a tulip table and antique jeweler’s clock.
In the decidedly French master bedroom, Beth was inspired by European luxury hotels. The sophisticated look springs from the faceted crystal chandelier, carved gold headboard, and white bedding.

Beth McMillan

People hire Beth for many reasons—for her sense of color, her fashionable edge, and her keen eye when it comes to fabrics and scale. But perhaps most importantly is Beth’s ability to turn a client’s heartfelt desires into beautifully appointed and highly livable spaces. She doesn’t make sweeping statements about how a space should be but instead truly listens to each client to make sense of it all. And although each of her design schemes is highly personal, there are a few things that Beth loves—compelling art, antiques mixed with more modern pieces, and some glamorous touches.

Contractor: Steve Ray, Ray Building Company, 205.868.6800 Interior Design: Beth McMillan, McMillan Interiors, 205.527.9792, Landscape: Daviscapes, Inc., 205.453.5275. Den: rug: Paige Albright Orientals,; antique books: Antiquities, 205.870.1030,; antique chest: Architectural Heritage, 205.322.3538,; sofas: Lee Industries through Richard Tubb,; Kelly Wearstler bench: Circa,; Master Bedroom: Matouk linens: Three Sheets,; martini table: Design Supply, 205.777.3464

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