Gracious Living, Perfected, Interior Designers William R. Eubanks and Mitch Brown

MidSouth Jan/Feb 2007

Written by Christian T. Owen

Photographed by John Hall

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Gracious living and hospitality are synonymous with the South, but few are capable of bringing this regional expectation to fruition with the grace and natural ability of Ann Herrod. Her home, with artistic direction by designers William R. Eubanks and Mitch Brown, is a mid-South expression of fresh traditionalism. Employing timeless design principles that have evolved from preeminent designers such as Albert Hadley and Billy Baldwin, the William R. Eubanks firm is known for distinctive, sophisticated elegance.

Like Baldwin, who spoke of the concept “we” in the design world - i.e., the designer’s plan follows every detail of the client’s needs - Eubanks and Brown’s primary inspiration for creating a perfect interior is “the homeowner.” For example, in defining the interior of this East Memphis Italian villa for Dr. and Mrs. Hank Herrod, the designers took note of Ann’s individualism and her husband’s need for a respite from the professional world.

Dr. Henry G. Herrod, “Hank,” recently retired from the position of dean at The University of Tennessee Memphis College of Medicine and has returned to Le Bonheur where he is a pediatric immunologist. “Hank and Ann are dynamic individuals. Hank is a highly active member in the medical community,” says Eubanks, “and as everyone knows, behind a truly great man, there must be a great woman.” Ann is a prolific gardener and floral designer. Throughout the home, a palette of rich, natural colors unites the outdoor and interior spaces. Preceding every design decision, Eubanks and Brown took into consideration the couple’s personal interests, their genuine love of entertaining and most of all, their devotion to family.

Ann contacted the Eubanks firm because their design work was not trendy. “They encourage forward-thinking ideas, but never stray from timeless elegance - no dramatic trends or the season’s temporary color choices,” says Ann.

Eubanks and Brown introduced character with textured walls, softened the atmosphere with lush fabrics, aged a once-stark interior with classical elements in each room and kept Old World charm alive with antique furniture selections and treasured collections. “We live in every room of the house,” says Hank. He points out that throughout this design project, “comfort was of utmost importance.”

Entering the house from any direction reveals a soft transition from outdoors into the interior with continental combinations of 17th- and 18th-century European antiques, classic and contemporary artwork, touches of chinoiserie and heirloom pieces. “You do not sense an influence from one European country,” explains Brown. “Instead, the home offers a glimpse of Italy, England, France. Overall, it has a ‘collector’s feel.’”

Beginning in the most casual space, a highly functional, masterfully disguised corner kitchen with cabinets painted to echo fine furniture and countertops in highly textured tile and understated granite keeps overly modern objects at bay. Covert storage of appliances and utensils maintains color and form of the room. While this open area provides fireside seating; a custom painted, casual dining table; and all amenities necessary for preparing the grandest of meals - it never sinks into a state of disarray with uninviting clutter, due to the careful planning of this creative team.

In the formal dining room, corner display shelves with dimmed spotlighting, a French, antique chandelier and recessed lighting with small apertures demonstrate Eubanks’ use of lighting as a multilevel feature. “We sometimes spotlight special pieces subtly. A guest will remember, for example, a piece of porcelain, but not know why. Lighting should be versatile, with different options from day to night.”

The living room arrangement has jewel tones from the Surapi rug woven throughout textural fabrics and collections atop rich wood furniture. “Ann is a great Southern hostess,” says Brown. “Unlike many collectors of silver, she knows how to make fine silver and porcelain a part of everyday living in an unpretentious way.” Also, in the living room, a glass cocktail table supported by European-style ironwork, while large, appears to take up less space and fulfills a 20th-century convenience with Old World style.

Included with classical portraits of family members and English landscapes, the Herrods support young and local artists whose styles tend to be more modern than their home. Classical frames provide a unifying element to blend abstract, contemporary works seamlessly into more tailored surroundings.

Amidst numerous furnishings, textiles and arrangements selected for Ann by Eubanks and Brown, mirrors make a grand statement in several of the rooms. “Adding a mirror is like adding another window,” explains Eubanks. “They also bring interesting visual angles into play, giving greater interest to architectural elements.”

Recently, Eubanks was selected by a panel of renowned professionals and members of the national, regional and south Florida media to be the recipient of the “Stars of Design” award on Jan. 24, for the category of Interior Design. He is also a keynote speaker for the Design Center of the Americas (DCOTA) Winter Market.

Another fun fact - one of Eubanks’ first clients was “the King,” Elvis Presley. Contrary to his resume, Eubanks is readily approachable. He and Brown, vice president of Interiors and Showrooms for William R. Eubanks, Inc., define perfection and success one client at a time from their offices in Memphis, Palm Beach and New York City. With a foundational “We” philosophy, they are capable of bringing romantic notions to reality in the form of a home that is not only a beautiful showplace, but also an ideal background for pursuing personal interests and building memories with family.