Designer Margaret Kirkland on Southern style | Home Front

Margaret Kirkland
Jun 30, 2016

Margaret Kirkland is an interior designer based in Atlanta. She was recently selected as one of the designers for 2016 Southern Living Idea House. Known for her timeless interiors, she has been named a Next Wave designer by House Beautiful and best 15 under 40 by Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles Magazine. Kirkland works on projects throughout the East Coast and abroad to bring a fresh, young approach to traditional design.

Every week, Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than ten years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Margaret Kirkland is an interior designer based in Atlanta and is one of the designers of the 2016 Southern Living Idea House. She is known for her timeless, classic and traditional interiors. She has been named a Next Wave designer by House Beautiful. She started her career in New York and later worked in her native Atlanta with legendary designer Dan Carithers. Kirkland works on projects throughout the East Coast and abroad. Let's chat with Margaret.

I want to get slipcovers for the two absolutely hideous couches in my rented house, but everything I've found costs as much as a new sofa. Where can I look that might not be obvious?

Good morning! When doing slipcovers, I always like to use a local workroom to get a snug custom look. A great way to go this is to ask a local upholsterer, workroom or seamstress to make slipcovers and then try and save money on the fabric. I have been known to make slipcovers for pieces out of cotton drop clothes from Home Depot just to get a fresh clean look. For online sources, Ballard Designs, Ikea, and vendors on Etsy are great resources.

Margaret, what are your favorite types of text tile floor coverings and why?

I think that rugs and carpet offer so much personality to a room with texture, color, pattern, as well as absorbing sound and adding instant coziness to a space. Often we start from the floor up in our designs, especially if we are using a unique rug. I love vintage and reproduction oriental rugs, and Oushaks and Dhurrie rugs are among my favorites. I also love using sisal and jute rugs, and will layer them underneath oriental rugs over sisal rugs. We love wall to wall carpet in textured colors, geometrics, trellis patterns, even animal prints!

Hi Margaret: What Southern cities are your favorite for shopping for home design and antiques and touring old houses?

There are so many great southern towns!  Some of my favorites are Charleston, Savannah, Athens, and Atlanta.  Athens is a great place for shopping and touring old homes.  For shopping there is the Hawthorne House, Athens Interiors Market, and Agora for vintage items.  In Athens, take a drive down Milledge to see all of the historic sorority houses.  Also, take a walk around campus to see all the historic buildings.  We recently have spent a lot of time in Birmingham for the 2016 Southern Living Idea House.  Some of my favorite stores there are Iris & Co., Circa Antiques, Hannah Antiques, and Henhouse Antiques.  In Charleston, three of my favorite historical places to  visit are Calhoun House, Aiken House, and Joseph Manigoult House.

In a master bedroom, where should I use this type of fabric if I have an abundance of it? Is it overkill to do panels, bedskirt, headboard and pillows?

I don't think it is overkill to use one fabric everywhere in a room at all, especially in a bedroom. When you have an abundance of one pattern that is repeated throughout the room, your eye actually starts to treat it as a neutral. I like to employ this technique especially in bedrooms where you want the room to feel restful, but still have personality. I particularly like botanical and floral cotton prints that make a room feel pretty.


Just wanted to let you know that we have a great Facebook page dedicated to home and garden. Please follow us for the latest news on beautiful homes, entertaining, decluttering, collecting, gardening, organizing and more. 

We live in a 1920"s brick four square home. There is one bank of windows across the front of the house which is in the living rooms. The windows are side by side and include a double sized window flanked by 2 single windows. Right now we have white mini blinds with swags and Jabots which are very outdated. We do need privacy but like the windows With the mini blinds pulled up to make the room seem larger. Plantation shutters do no work well with the window arrangement. Out style is English and traditional with a twist of contemporary. Ideas for bringing our living room windows into the 21st century are appreciated.

First, I would take those jabots and swags down to simplify the look. I would do simple functional drapery panels across the entire wall to let light in.  When you need privacy, you can pull the panels closed.   If cannot easily do draperies across the big and small windows I would do bamboo match stick shades.  They have a more updated look than blinds, and let in much more light than plantation shutters.

Do you have a good online source for beautiful pillows?

Recently, I found a great source on Etsy, Accent Marks.  They have great pillows, using exclusive designer fabrics.  As for online sources, I like Ballard for outdoor pillow and Serena and Lily and West Elm.  On the more expensive side, Hable Construction has beautiful one of a kind pillows.  They also design their own fabric, so the pillows have a unique touch!

I need to seriously edit my furnishings in a few months. I have a couple fine quality carpets and some furniture pieces I hope to sell rather than donate since they are valuable. Do you know where I can sell or sell on consignment carpets and furniture? Thank you.

Craig's list is a great place to start.  Also local Facebook groups will help you sell your furniture.  For instance in Atlanta, we have the Buckhead Exchange and Next-door Neighborhood Groups.  There are also consignment stores in Atlanta like Savy Snoot and New Again.

Hi Margaret! What great timing for this chat! I have an antique four-poster in my bedroom, with wood floors and a Persian rug dominated by burgundy. The curtains are ecru but kind of puffy. It just feels so old! I am looking for a touch of the younger kind in my bedroom and although I would like to keep the rug since it contains the remnants of so many good memories can you give me some ideas that won't break the bank? Thanks!!!

If you need to keep the rug, I would paint the bed to lighten things up!  Paint is always a cheap way to make a change.  One of our clients recently transformed her furniture with Chalk Paint.  Also, adding bed linens will help freshen up the room.  One of our favorite sources is Serena & Lily, and they always have great sales!  Also, you can buy pre-made drapery panels to simplify your look.  Ballard had great options!

Is it better to use soft-white lighting or daylight-white lighting when choosing overhead bulbs for recessed lighting? The rooms are the living room, dining room, a media room, and the kitchen. The ceilings are low.

Lighting and lumen warmth is such a personal preference for one's one lighting. I personally prefer to warmth that incandescent bulbs give off, but LED lighting is improving daily, and offers so many environmental and maintenance benefits, as well as saving you money on power bills. I suggest buying different colored LED lights and living with them for a few days to see which you prefer the most. Typically, people want the brightest light in their kitchens for task lighting, while Living spaces, and especially Dining spaces can be softer light. We always like to put all lighting on dimmers to give you flexibility.

What was it like to collaborate with the group of designers on the Southern Living Idea House?

Working on the 2016 Southern Living ideahouse has truly been a dream. Not only is it a huge honor to be asked to participate in the ideahouse to celebrate the magazine's 50th anniversary, but it has also been great fun getting to work with and collaborate with fellow designers across the Country. Southern Living asked five designers with Southern roots to design a room inspired by archive images from the past 50 years. of their magazine. Having that springboard of old photographs was great inspiration for all of us, and I think we all had great fun interpreting vintage Southern trends in a new and fresh way.

Is it better to mix table lamps in a room or have them be the same?

I always like a good mix of lighting in a room.  Don't get me wrong, it is great to have a pair of lamps flanking a sofa, but a mix of lamps makes the room feel more interesting, and allows for different levels of light throughout the room to offer good task lighting, as well as an overall glow to the room. I love using table lamps on tables, floor lamps next to chairs, sconces on the wall, art lights on art and bookcases, as well as interesting overhead lights to keep your eye interested, and make the room feel more alive.

It was really fun having you on the chat. I hope a lot of you can visit the 2016 Southern Living Idea House. Meanwhile, the chat will be on vacation next week. So see you on July 14 when we will be discussing guest rooms and what you love about them and hate about them. Send in your ideas and questions now right here.

What's your go to solution if someone spills coffee, wine or food on your carpet or sofa?

First, don't panic!  Spills can always be fixed, and you never want to make a guest feel uncomfortable by making a big fuss and drawing more attention to an accident.  We like wine away and oxi clean powder. Do make sure to act quickly, and  blot the spill with a dry towel to clean up the spill, and try blotting with the old standby of soda water on the spill. I have also used Wine away to get out red wine spills. To prevent stains ahead of time, I always like to use a stain protectant on clients' rugs and upholstery so that liquids will not be absorbed into fibers if something is spilled. 

We have my grandparents in law's oriental rug (mainly burgundy) in our dining room right now and really need to find a new place to put it. With wood floors throughout the house, you would think it would be easy, but we're struggling to figure out what it can go with without totally replacing stuff like bedding. Any ideas for, say, how to move it to our master bedroom (where it should fit)?

It can be nice to keep a darker rug In a dining room because the red palette will help hide spills.  If you want to move it to your bedroom, make sure the walls are painted a light color.  If you keep everything else light and airy, hopefully you will not have to change your bedding.

Thank you so much for all your wonderful questions, everyone, and thank you so much for hosting me, Jura! This has been great fun for me this morning, and I love a good brainstorming session! Please feel free to check out my website, facebook, and Instagram to keep in touch, and see examples of our work! I also hope everyone has a chance to get to Birmingham to visit the n Living Ideahouse that is open now through December 18th. Thank you so much!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Margaret Kirkland
Margaret Kirkland is an interior designer based in Atlanta.
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