The Difference is in the Details

During the holidays, guests of Rhanya and Mike Eskridge are likely to be greeted with the aroma of homemade chili and the sounds of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”—that is, if they can get past the Eskridges’ welcoming committee. A crew of rescue dogs greet visitors with friendly barks and sloppy kisses. 

“I love to entertain during the holidays, ” Rhanya says. “I always serve simple meals and prepare all the details ahead of time so that I can enjoy my guests.” And it’s this plan-ahead entertaining style and friendly demeanor that have provided the design inspiration for her home. 

Although the original house was built in the 1940s, it was renovated by Brian Barrett of Barrett Architecture Studio 10 years ago for the previous owners. The original windows and 8-foot ceilings were replaced by a vaulted cathedral ceiling and large stately windows. Formerly brick, the exterior received a stone façade, giving it more of an elegant farmhouse feel.

Rhanya’s friend and designer Alison Smith worked to create a welcoming interior that would hold up to both pets and children. When it came to the grand linear expanse that makes up the living area, Alison delineated furniture to create cozy sitting areas. “We broke it into three sections—a sitting area,  a foyer, and a living room—and let them work together as one space, ” Alison explains.

- Sponsors -

Since Rhanya claims to be afraid of too much color, Alison focused on neutral tones with a sprinkling of blue accents and subtle patterns. An antique Oriental rug and a blue-velvet settee lend an air of elegance, while the 9-foot-long sofa covered in cream linen speaks to the durable nature of the interiors. The result is a warm, inviting area that serves as the hub of the home for both the Eskridge family and their many guests.


ABOVE LEFT Alison Smith (left) and Rhanya Eskridge

ABOVE RIGHT The square dining room features a custom round table conducive to dinner party conversations. A two-tiered chandelier hangs above the table emphasizing the height of the ceiling. Upholstered chairs add a touch of shimmery elegance.


ABOVE RIGHT A simple but elegant banquette adorns the family’s breakfast area, and a rustic farmhouse table lends a cozy and welcoming air. Cedar red throw pillows add texture and interest while mirroring the colors of the Oriental rug. 

Decorating Simplified

Alison and Rhanya offer easy decorating tips that can be used for the holidays and year round. 

Use preserved boxwood wreaths for a lasting impression.
Wreaths make a big statement above the kitchen sink. “I wanted to make this commonly used space special since the family spends so much time here, ” Alison says. Added flair comes in the ribbon. By layering a cedar red on top of a neutral, the ribbon repeats the colors of the Oriental rug in the adjoining breakfast area.


Incorporate decorative accents that complement the style of the space.
Angel silhouettes pair perfectly with the vintage English pub doors in the home’s central hallway. While the rectangular wooden doors add architectural interest to the space, the curved lines of the angels’ wings soften the edges. Outside, a simple garland of cedar and pine frames the front door. A store-bought wreath gains notice with the addition of artichokes, pinecones, chartreuse greenery, and a plaid bow.


Snip greenery and flowers from your own yard or buy from a grocery store to create inexpensive, DIY arrangements.
Alison created a bold arrangement of holiday colors to anchor the dining room table (above left), while sprinkling smaller arrangements throughout the house, as seen on the guest bedroom table at right. “Placing live garland and branches in unexpected places, such as in a chandelier or a bathroom, adds warmth and texture to any space, ” says Alison.

Interiors: Alison Smith,   Alison Smith Interiors • [email protected]. 205.427.3547; Architect: Brian Barrett,  Barrett Architecture Studio • 700 29th Street South. 205.250.6161. Dining room: chandelier: Chelsea House mirror: Uttermost table: The Nest • 2720 19th Pl. South. 205.870.1264 sofa: Restoration Hardware.; armoire: At Home Furnishings • 2921 18th Street. 205.879.3510.; art in bedroom: Meredith Keith 205.910.5369.; fireplace stools:

text by Ragan Wesson • photos by Jean Allsopp

Get the best of Birmingham delivered to your inbox

Stunning local homes, inspiring before & after projects, southern-style recipes, entertaining ideas and more!