Tuesday, April 26, 2016

From Dante's Inferno to a Pacific Paradise, Beth Webb Thrives on Baptism by Fire

One of Beth Webb’s earliest memories is of lying on the floor of her grandfather’s library tracing over images in Dante’s Inferno. You might think that a youngster being drawn to Dante’s Inferno might bode darkly for the future… but not in Beth’s case!

Actually it was just the beginning of a lifetime connection with art and beauty that has culminated in her successful career as an interior design entrepreneur. While it wasn’t a direct path from Dante to interior design… it was literally passion that led the way.

Her art education started early, learning French and art history in kindergarten in Lookout Mountain, Tenn. From there, with a few steps in between she found herself earning an undergraduate degree in Art History at the University of Tennessee. After that she crossed the pond and worked on her Masters at the University of Kent and Sotheby’s Works of Art Course in London.

Post school she came back home and took a job at the Hirschl & Adler Galleries in New York. From there she spent years as an art dealer in Atlanta and Chattanooga. It was there, when she was minding her own business… that the interior decorating gods intervened.

As you can imagine, an art professional with a passion for beauty and style would probably have a stylishly decorated home. And indeed Beth did… well, certainly a childhood friend thought so. As a matter of fact, he was so in love with what she had done with her home that one evening at a party he asked if she would design the new headquarters for Lyndhurst, a charitable foundation. And so she was off with a commission that came out of left field but was inspired by her passion for beauty. Thus her first interior design job was doing the top to bottom transition of an 1892 Chattanooga house into an office… with the caveat that it should not look like an office!

As fate would have it, at the party dedicating the newly designed headquarters, another potential client cornered her and said that he loved what she had done with the Lyndhurst Foundation and wanted her to do the design for his 30,000 ft. 1920 Tudor home.

Two enormous and challenging jobs right out of the gate! That’s what you might call baptism by fire… or as Beth would say, learning the trade in the school of hard knocks. Since then she has designed homes – and the occasional commercial space – across the country and around the world. One of the most fascinating opportunities she has encountered was the chance to literally help design a whole town! When a friend decided to build a town on 1,400 acres on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica he called Beth. Having been involved since the project was nothing but slab, Las Catalinas today consists of dozens of unique homes and buildings and is a new urbanist paradise with lots of walking, few cars and plenty of trails and hiking and, of course, swimming, paddle boarding and ocean kayaking. At the end of the day – not to be confused with the end of the project, which is ongoing – she says it’s been one of the most satisfying jobs of her career. Like her first two jobs, Las Catalinas provided a steep learning curve but it’s been well worth it… and not just because that’s where she found her rescue dog, Catalina.

Although Beth didn’t grow up focusing on interior design, she has embraced it with both arms. She of course does design work with her team, but she’s also heavily involved in the industry as well as a member of the Leaders of Design Council and the Design Leadership Network. Not only do these organizations bring together great designers, architects and landscape architects from around the world to share ideas and learn from and teach one another, their meetings are often in wonderful locales so that designers can take in elegant and exotic design first hand in places like Marrakesh, Lisbon, Cairo etc. Such travel dovetails with her mantra which is “learn by looking”. It was one such meeting that occasioned Beth to visit Cuba last year as she traveled with a group from the Soane Museum in London. For her it was the epitome of the Stendhal syndrome, where one is overcome with emotions at seeing something indescribably powerful or beautiful. Driving home how powerful that trip was, on her blog, which almost exclusively used photographs from professional photographers in magazines and online, almost all of the pictures on her Cuba blogpost are hers… taken with her iPhone 6.

While exotic locales, beautiful homes and five star hotels can be captivating and alluring, Beth never forgets something she learned attending the school of hard knocks… success in interior design is 5% creative and 95% business. Like a 2 hour play that takes months of rehearsal, being successful in this business is far more than just an appreciation for beauty and elegance, it takes an ability to execute on the mundane as well as the exciting, the payroll and the accounts receivable as well as the choosing sconces and finding just the right tremolo. And the iPhone has helped. It’s probably been the single most important development in interior design in decades because it gives you the ability to capture and share vivid images instantly, which moves the entire process along faster and puts clients and designers on the same page more quickly and easily…

And so it is that a little girl from a small town in Tennessee grew into a woman who has harnessed her passion for beauty and taken life by the horns… doing so while traveling across the planet to places that she would never have dreamed of back when she started tracing Dante…

And... if you're interested in more, Beth designed the Al Freco Dining Room in the Atlanta Home and Lifestyles'  Southeastern Designer Showhouse which can be seen through May 15th.

Designer Showhouse

Designer Showhouse




Las Catalinas

Las Catalinas

Catalina, Beth's rescue from Las Catalinas

A Buckhead living room designed by Beth

A Lake Chatuge bedroom designed by Beth

The Beth Webb Interiors team, from left to right: Beth Webb, Whitney Ray, Courtney Godwin and Mary Clare Holm.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Ultimate Dream... A Pied-à-terre in Paris

Anyone familiar with this blog will most certainly recognize that we here at A Tyner Antiques are big fans of Paris. The art, the architecture and… pretty much everything else. We’re quite sure the “City of Lights” is the most beautiful city in the world. Of course we’re in good company on that score, which is why the city is the backdrop for countless movies – including everything from Audrey Hepburn’s romp in “How to Steal a Million” to Woody Allen’s wonderful “Midnight in Paris” – books such as Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and of course the art of Renoir's Le Moulin de la Galette and Seurat’s “Eiffel Tower”.

But that beauty is not just reserved for Parisians or tourists. Paris is one of the 10 most popular cities in the world for buying a second home… because so many people want to return… so often… and spend more than just a week at time. And who wants to live out of a suitcase when you can have a furnished apartment just waiting for your return? Well this month’s Architectural Digest has a feature on just one such pied-à-terre belonging to designer Timothy Corrigan. In the 8th arrondissement not far from the French president’s residence and the American embassy, the residence is spectacularly appointed and extraordinarily bright and colorful.

And then there’s the Ace of Space blog which just last month had a feature on another apartment in Paris, this one owned by Atlanta’s own Ann Huff of Huff Harrington. She worked with a team to completely redesign the quaint space that has a spectacular view of the nearby Eiffel Tower. And the beauty of Ann’s place is that when it’s not being used… it’s available for rent!


Photographs in Architectural Digest by Richard Powers