Texture and Handmade Touches Define This Moody Memphis Bungalow

Photo credit: Haris Kenjar
Ingenuity and a knack for hospitality are a given for Memphis, Tennessee-based designer Sean Anderson. He's originally from rural Mississippi, a place where (according to the designer and Mississippi-born reporter) you have to create your own fun. That same native spirit enlivens Anderson's approach to design, a career for which he had no formal training but had something equally useful: a mother who nurtured his love of art.
“I got into this industry as an autodidact and always wanted to learn more. That's why I see every day as an apprenticeship, "says Anderson. "And every time I install a project or take a picture, it's my final exam."
When he recently moved into an eight-room, 1930s bungalow in East Memphis, he was determined to create a place with space to entertain and pockets to relax.
Photo credit: Haris Kenjar
This project was particularly close to Anderson's heart. The designer had initially started the project for a friend. But before they could realize their design vision, the friend died of cancer. In 2018, Anderson moved into the house with the support of his friend's family and decided to honor his memory and the space they built together by giving it a second life.
"All in all, it was really my way of grieving and dealing with this loss," said Anderson.
Without changing the layout of the house, Anderson went to work, repainting the living room walls, studying in Monterey White by Benjamin Moore and - surprisingly - the ceiling in Black Magic by Sherwin Williams to create an intimate space in which you can "nestle in and nest in comfortably", he says. He worked with Birmingham, Alabama-based star upholsterer and furniture designer Grant Trick to create the exact sofa he envisioned for the space. Anderson set up a cocktail table (he'd passed it in an antique store for years and finally grabbed it) and set it next to the sofa.
Photo credit: Haris Kenjar
Anderson used his own pieces to fill in the space, objects that reflect an aesthetic that he describes as "capricious, collected and deliberate." Anderson's favorites were a collection of arrowheads from his family's farm in Mississippi that he had individually framed and hung on the study wall, as well as a collection of aspirin boxes from an old pharmacy that he had also framed and placed over the mantelpiece in the foyer (Guess he admits that "some might be labeled garbage"). To visually ground the dining room space and add even more texture, he channeled his childhood in Mississippi and turned to earth by covering a square canvas with pebbles.
The designer placed sentimental photos on the black-painted walls around the cave's door frame. "I don't like framed photography a lot everywhere," he says. "I've just gathered my favorite family portraits, photos with friends, vacation photos, and they keep growing - the more experiences I have, the more they'll be hung on the wall."
One experience Anderson can celebrate is completing his friend's house. “We'd worked on it and talked about it for so many years,” ponders Anderson.
"He would be proud," adds the designer.
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