With a sense of humor and freewheeling style, designer Susan Hable Smith proves that anything goes when it comes to decorating her enchanting family home.
By Judy Prouty
The Victorian house in Athens, Georgia, that Susan Hable Smith shares with her husband, Peter, and their two children, Bird, 9, and Lake, 6, may look sedate from the outside, but inside it's an exuberant riot of patterns, colors and unique furnishings. An artist and designer, Susan possesses built-in style radar, gleaning inspiration from whatever catches her eye, whether it's a friend's painting or a fabulous flea market find. "There's no rhyme or reason to my decorating," says Susan, cofounder with her sister Katharine of Hable Construction, a line of hand-painted, hand-screened textiles and home accessories." I just mix things up. Anything goes."
After a top-to-bottom renovation completed four years ago and orchestrated by Peter, a lawyer, the big spacious rooms became a blank slate for Susan's creative flair. The playful spirit starts in the front hall, where a mashup of their artwork collected over the years hangs above the sofa upholstered in one of Hable's signature fabrics called Ball and Chain. "Peter loves black-and-white photography. I prefer colorful pieces that make you laugh," she says. In the dining room, a psychedelic hot-pink wallpaper becomes the dramatic backdrop for a quirky combination of vintage furnishings. "Most people would say it's too busy," Susan says. "But the pattern adds another dimension." Elsewhere, floor-to-ceiling curtains with a splashy brushstroke—another Hable textile design—add pizzazz to an otherwise neutral family room. Susan's no-holds-barred decorating defies explanation. "It's so much fun hunting for stuff," she says. "The house is a menagerie of things, but I love them all."
Photographs, watercolors and framed ephemera create an eye-catching gallery in the entry hall. Susan grounds the display with the biggest picture centered over the sofa, then fills in the blanks with smaller pieces. A vine print wallpaper and Hable Construction pillows deliver even more graphic punch.
Susan painted the family room a gray green to complement the view from the tall windows. "This space is all about the garden and the sky," says Susan, who displays a series of decoupage bird plates in a nod to the outdoor theme. An oversize contemporary floor lamp partners with traditional slipper chairs and sofa. She lays a dhurrie on top of an African palm frond floor mat and dresses up a big ottoman with vintage textiles. "Texture and layering, juxtaposing old with new, can make simple rooms come to life," explains Susan.
"I love pink, which is why I chose the wild wallpaper for the dining room and the ethereal photograph by Rinne Allen," Susan says. Tasseled chairs and a metal chandelier came from a Texas flea market, and the portrait from a local shop. "I'm always on the lookout for old things with patina that can stand on their own."
In the light-filled kitchen, Susan arranged Danish chairs from a thrift shop around a vintage French farm table. "Mismatched is more fun," she says.
The focal point for Bird's room is a gilt and tufted French bed that Susan found at Scott Antique Markets in Atlanta. A rainbow-hued abstract painting by her friend Carol John adds graphic punch. Susan painted the walls soft blue, Bird's favorite color.
Susan converted an extra bedroom into a playroom with the addition of a tepee she found on Amazon.com and a scattering of Moroccan throw rugs. "I wanted to be able to shut the door so toys didn't take over the house," Susan says. A bulletin board holds samples of the kids' artwork.
The family uses the screen-in porch as an alfresco dining area as well as a place to kick back. On the bench, upholstered in Hable's tumbleweed fabric, pillows in medley of stripes and graphic motifs play well together.
Originally published in the May 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.