Wraparound porch at the Southern Living 2016 Idea House in Mt. Laurel outside Birmingham, Alabama

This year’s 2016 Southern Living Idea House is a celebration of the magazine’s 50th anniversary. Set in Southern Living’s hometown of Birmingham, AL, and built from the ground up by a team of designers with roots in the south, this year’s house celebrates traditional southern design with modern detail.

We chatted with Southern Living’s Homes Editor, Zoe Gowen, about decorating the home’s classic southern porch.

Wraparound porch at the Southern Living 2016 Idea House in Mt. Laurel outside Birmingham, Alabama

Ballard Designs: Tell us about that beautiful wraparound porch. There are quite a few pieces from Ballard.

Zoe Gowen: Since it was a wraparound porch, we knew we wanted to create a really comfortable seating area where you could hang out right outside the living room, so we added the big Sunday Porch Swing and a mix of seating with the Directoire Furniture. We added a rug, which is key and something not a lot of people think about. To be barefoot on a porch with a rug underneath your feet is so luxe! We scattered small tables and a few garden seats as well. And with those huge obelisks behind the swing, you feel like you’re sitting in the garden, even though you’re up on the porch.

The front door of the 2016 Southern Living Idea House in Mt. Laurel

BD: You kept it pretty simple by the front door.

ZG: We really didn’t want to take away from the great architecture of the house. We added the Ceylon Garden Benches, which are so chic. They’re great to have if you need to set your bags down to unlock the front door or if you’re having a bigger party and you need extra seating for overflow. But, generally, you don’t really want to lounge on the front porch when you have that great side porch that’s more shaded.

The front door of the 2016 Southern Living Idea House in Mt. Laurel

BD: The interior designers were given archival photos from past issues for inspiration. How did you reflect the history of the magazine in the outdoor spaces?

ZG: We just wanted it to be a really classic space, so we didn’t want to do many tricks or inventions, because I don’t think the southern porch has really changed all that much. The only real departure was going against the typical blue and white trend of today. We thought this beautiful apricot and green palette was a nice complement to what was going on inside. We had the porch swing painted green, which was really fun, and we had the white cushions piped in a bright green and loaded it up with a ton of pillows in that fresh palette. Other than that, for color we planted hydrangeas by the front door and in the back by the sitting area, the obelisks were an explosion of color with the begonias, zinnias and other blooms.

Ballard Designs' Sunday Porch Swing at the 2016 Southern Living Idea House

BD: What are the hallmarks of every southern house that you felt compelled to include?

ZG: The porch of every southern home should absolutely include a ceiling fan and a swing. All porch swings are great, but one with thick cushions hung near a fan is heavenly.  

BD: Was there a particular Ballard item that surprised you in some way or that you fell in love with?

ZG: I really loved the the Ceylon Garden Benches with the whitewash finish. They were so simple, but they had just a little bit of detail on them. They’re pretty low profile, but they make your head turn with that great filigree on the back.

Take the full tour of the 2016 Southern Living Idea House, see more interviews with the designers, or shop all of the products featured in the house.

Learn more about visiting the Southern Living Idea House, and find the full resource guide.

See the last two Southern Living Idea Houses: the 2014 Idea House at Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina designed by Suzanne Kasler or 2015 Idea House designed by Bunny Williams in Charlottesville, Virginia.