Put It in Neutral: Up Close & Personal with Sean Anderson

In February 2016, Memphis-based designer Sean Anderson casually mentioned that he had some exciting projects on the horizon. We expected whatever he was working on would bear some of what we consider hallmarks of Anderson’s style—carefully layered neutrals, sophisticated dark walls, a mix of modern and traditional styles, some masculine touches—and in many ways we were correct. However, one of the projects that had kept Anderson busy for much of the past year also came with a particular challenge: The Scout Guide Memphis Editor Muffy Turley had enlisted his help in incorporating nearly half of her New Orleans-based mother’s antiques into her East Memphis home.

The result, which was covered in two Architectural Digest articles that you can find here and here, is a beautiful melding of styles and visions that showcases Turley’s mother’s lifelong collection of pieces in a setting that accommodates a busy family of six. The project pushed him out of his comfort zone, Anderson told us recently, but he thoroughly enjoyed the collaboration. “[Turley] had so many vintage and antique pieces and family heirlooms it was necessary to incorporate into the interior, and I’m normally drawn to a more rustic and masculine-type aesthetic,” the designer said from Rosemary Beach, Florida, where he was on vacation with his family. “I enjoyed the process completely.”

It’s the day-to-day challenge of transforming interiors that invigorates Anderson, who decided to pursue a career in design four years ago despite never having studied it professionally. Though he has always been interested in art and design, it wasn’t until he moved to Memphis from Tupelo, Mississippi—the town where he grew up, and where his family, with whom he is incredibly close, still resides—that it became clear design would be his professional focus. “In the first house that I lived in here, my partner and I did a lot of projects. We would entertain and host holiday parties, and friends slowly started to ask me to do an office space or a room in their home. After doing that for about two years I thought it might be worthwhile to give this a shot, and here we are four years later.”

Though he’s not opposed to color or pattern, Anderson has a deep appreciation for textures and an affinity for mixing different elements in a neutral palette to create an interesting environment. When asked if any particular designers inspire him, Anderson cites Darryl Carter as a profound influence. “I love what he does with neutrals and the way he mixes textures and materials and objects from different eras,” Anderson says.

Anderson’s preferred palette is one of the things that led Turley to tap him for her project. “He’s very much in the white, beige, grey, black color family, and I’m not a big pattern person, but I had all of this art and colorful pieces. I thought, how do we make this work with a clean palette?” Turley says.

Another major factor was Anderson’s personality. “He’s very personable, nothing is too much trouble, he’s kind, he’s laid-back. He gets things done efficiently, but he’s also just a great person to be around. I think because an interior designer is dealing with your most personal pieces, you need to find someone who gets you and understands what fits your lifestyle and what’s going on inside your house,” she says. “I feel like he got me, and I get him, and we were thinking in a very like-minded way.”

The meeting of the minds brought together Anderson’s love of dark rooms and Turley’s preference for white walls, her mother’s antiques and his fresh perspective. The house is both an elegant traditional environment filled with heirloom pieces and a place where a teenager can relax on a piece of furniture done in attractive yet appropriately durable fabric. “I’ve always said I’ve felt fortunate that in the houses we’ve lived in we’ve used every room, and I think that has a lot to do with what Sean has done,” Turley says.

Before letting Anderson get back to his vacation, we had to know what was next on his list. “When I get back from the beach I’ll be tackling a big renovation of an East Memphis home where they’re basically redoing everything but the kitchen,” he says. “We’re very much on the same page, and I’m really looking forward to it.” We are, too.

Sean Anderson’s Go-to Design Resources in Memphis

  1. Garden District. “They’re fantastic. They’re a go-to resource for flowers, but they also have great home accessories and their buyers and staff are really good at displaying it so when you walk in you want one of everything you see.”
  2. Garner Picture Framing. “Chris Garner is my go-to for all framing. He is an absolute pleasure to work with, and whether the project is easy or extremely difficult he’ll find a way to do it, even if it’s something that’s completely out of the box. Having someone work that hard to make your vision come to life is really important.”
  3. Greg Baudioun. “It’s a fantastic store. They always have a lot of wonderful furniture and accessories. It’s definitely a go-to for me when I have a new project.”

Sean Anderson is featured in The Scout Guide Memphis. See more of Anderson’s work at seanandersondesign.com, and follow him on Instagram at @seanandersondesign.