Interior designer Jason Arnold is distinctly Southern, born and raised in rural Mississippi, the son of an Army sergeant and a wallpaper hanger. For as long as he can remember, design has been a part of his life, and now, grown and practicing his craft on a professional level, there are nods to his Deep South upbringing all over his portfolio: sophisticated interplays of prints and patterns, formal and timeless furnishings, and family heirlooms with multi-generational stories to tell.
But it’s that sweet spot, what he calls his “minimalist phase,” that’s helping the new crop of up-and-coming designers redefine what it means to practice Southern style. “It’s historically traditional, and I’ll always love the classics, but what I enjoy is accentuating that tradition by incorporating modern elements into the space,” Arnold explains. Take, for instance, his client’s heirloom tapestries, which he floated in a white cotemporary frame. “I am seeing Southern style take a deep breath and relax a bit, while still maintaining that one-of-a-kind Southern sophistication,” he adds.
Here, get to know the man behind the designs that are redefining Southern style.
Alyssa Rosenheck: You use a lot of black and white in your portfolio. What’s your go-to paint chips?
Jason Arnold: I keep going back to Farrow & Ball’s Strong White and Pitch Black. They’re just the right shades for a hearty juxtaposition without being too stark and demanding.
AR: Words of wisdom?
JA: More than anything, I try to remember to be myself. I hate the word normal, because normal doesn't exist.
AR: Where’s your happy place?
JA: My home is the place I go to for inspiration. It's my sanctuary where I can decompress and recharge. I know they say not to mix business with pleasure, but my home is also my laboratory where I can test out ideas and stretch my limits of designing.
AR: Speaking of home, what does it mean to you?
JA: I love that the word “home” has different meaning to different people…again, “normal” doesn’t exist. For me, home is a place filled with the things that I love and a safe space that I can offer up to the people in my life that I love. My work is becoming more and more minimalist, and that encompasses my life and my designs. I’m an advocate of the notion of less is more. Sometimes home needs more editing and less square footage.
AR: What’s something that someone told you and it made all the difference?
JA: Don't get bogged down in the small things, keep your eyes straight ahead and on the big picture. When deciding to start my own firm five years ago, this piece of advice helped me to stay focused. And don't think you can do it all. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and concentrate on what you can do well then find someone to help you with areas you’re limited in.
AR: What about with design?
JA: The best advice I’ve gotten in accordance with my design is to always go with your instinct, it will never fail you. I’ve found that to ring true. Also, I like to refer to the cliché statement that opposites attract, and how this applies to design. An antique French chest may be paired with a contemporary piece of art so as to highlight the uniqueness of each piece. The key to mixing styles is a well edited eye.
AR: Fill in the blank, “My momma always said…”
JA: Just tell the truth.
AR: Best housewarming gift?
JA: I always take a coffee table book. They’re beautiful and usable, and a person can never have too many. Anything by Darryl Carter is a good pick for industry folks. He’s the epitome of "The New Southern” for me. And the store Color is also a go-to for fun and interesting gifts, and if you need something from the South, White's Mercantile in Nashville is a good place to start.
AR: Speaking of color, what’s the greatest combination that’s ever existed?
JA: Without question, it would be black, white, and camel.
AR: Tell us something a stranger wouldn’t know.
JA: I only baby talk to one person, my dog, Ace.
AR: What’s on the horizon for you?
JA: I’m currently taking my love of antiques, and just beautiful things in general, and expanding my business into a Nashville gallery to showcase all the things I love.