Designer Highlight: Southern Romance

by Lydia Marie Elizabeth

If Nantucket took a southern vacation, this, friends, is what it would look like. 

I was instantly captivated by the images of Gretchen Black’s southern and coastal-inspired homes.  Each space has such a sense of organization down to the last detail that brings about a great sense of ease.  In Architecture and Design it is so important that both large and small elements are considered.  While some features may not seem important, it is imperative that everything in the space speaks the same language.  The overall vision for a space can fall apart if the details do not compliment the whole. It is just that which makes Gretchen’s work so successful.   

Gretchen’s blog, Nesting in the Bluegrass, features many of her beautiful projects.  But, don’t be fooled by her ability to make a beautiful tablescape, Gretchen’s work is far from simply her fun DIY tutorials.  Gretchen works as a full time Interior Designer with her husband, Jason Black, of Artisan Signature Homes.   Projects with the Black’s begin with customizing architectural plans for each project individually.  The couple work in tandem with their client’s vision to build the most beautiful  space possible.  Gretchen assists with selecting finishes and furniture for an elegant and cohesive final product; from the shower tile and grout, flooring throughout the home, right down to the perfect throw pillow.

 One of the reasons I’m so interested in doing Designer Highlights, is that there are so many companies like Gretchen and Jason Black who have pages and pages of absolutely stunning pinterest-worthy projects, and I want to know: where did all of this start?

For Gretchen, she has  always had a passion for design and fashion but chose to study nursing in school, resigning design to a side hobby.   It was in school that she met her husband, who was studying towards a business degree.   She workedin her field for several years but always loved working on small projects on her own, “I have always had a love for design, and done things like sewing my own draperies,” among many other things.

 About ten years into his field her husband decided to start a home building business, and Gretchen was ready with her timeless sense of style to help him in the design work.  Their companies evolved and grew organically into the current well-edited southern feel.  Now, the company Artisan Signature Homes is one of Southern Living’s featured builder’s!
The couple is currently based out of Kentucky, and very much look to old southern charm to influence their daily projects.   The Black’s inspiration comes from countless hours of research which includes visiting other southern towns, including Seaside, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina to see the historic southern influence in architecture and interiors.  The influence of the high ceilings and large plantation windows are apparent in their beautiful homes.   

In addition to her Design work, Gretchen recently opened a new brick and mortar shop, LuluBelles with her cousin, Natalie Gerlack, in Norton Commons.  The shop is a fashion and home accessories boutique with a mix of modern and vintage finds for Southern ladies and gents alike.   It’s a spot with plenty of inspiration for your home or your next outfit to the Derby.  Gretchen and Natalie have always loved antiquing and currently bring back pieces to their shop to revitalize.  The boutique also doubles as Gretchen’s studio for meeting with her design clients. 

The Black’s most recent project is their own home!  They just sold the pinterest-worthy, Greystone Manor to downsize to a smaller home close to LuluBelles.  They’ve begun building and I can’t wait to see the progress on Gretchen and Jason’s Instagram accounts.  Ever since my own training in design, it has always been evident to me that success in design of any kind is all in the details and that is exactly what Gretchen and Jason do so well.

Since we are rolling up on St. Valentine’s Day this weekend,  I asked Gretchen to tell me about one of the most romantic spots she would want to spend the day on Valentine’s.  She told me about Greystone Manor’s sleeping porch that she and her husband designed.  “It’s one of my favorite places to be during the spring and summer.  And the perfect place to cuddle up with your sweetie for an afternoon nap” on the hanging beds.  The porch looks out to a serene wooded forest, and “ there are no houses around to be disturbed by. You feel far away from everyone” else in the world.

Since Philadelphia will be in the frozen digits this weekend, I would love to teleport myself into this painting with a mint julep. 

Cheers and Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxo