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After a decade of designing residential interiors throughout Atlanta and the Southeastern United States, James Wheeler founded J. Wheeler Designs, in 2012. With a methodology led by a philosophy that the home should be a haven and the primary centerpiece of life’s moments, Wheeler’s sophisticated Southern style of classic-meets-contemporary inspired a unique aesthetic. Here, the Georgia native who takes pride in designing timeless and livable spaces, walks us through a stunning makeover evoked by a love of nature and tradition. Take a look!

WHAT INSPIRED THIS PROJECT? Both spaces were inspired by my clients’ love of nature and tradition. I drew color inspiration for the media room and office from the neutral elements in nature, which gave the room an overtly masculine feel. The dining room and sitting area have a slightly more feminine feel, with a color palette inspired by the vibrant hues of spring and the rich, terracotta earth. It was important to merge both masculine and feminine elements into each space.

DID YOUR CLIENTS HAVE A VISION FOR WHAT THEY WANTED OR DID THEY LEAVE EVERYTHING TO YOU? In this instance, my clients left the design and selections up to us. Their only request was to incorporate the oversized horse paintings into one of the spaces.

WHAT WAS YOUR CLIENTS’ MOST IMPORTANT GOAL WITH THIS REDESIGN? My clients really wanted warm and inviting spaces that were elevated, yet still evoked an approachable and livable feeling.

WHAT WAS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE? Our greatest challenge was posed in the media room and office space. We wanted to create a sense of warmth and lightness, while also concealing some unsightly architectural elements (like the attic access doors). Because this space is on the upper level of the home, the only natural light comes from two skylights. We removed the hanging light fixtures and replaced them with mini can lighting in a grid pattern to add soft lighting and help elevate the ceiling. We also opted to keep the upholstered pieces and rugs light to brighten the space. To conceal the small attic access door we designed a custom storage piece for the office area. This custom cabinetry hid the access panel behind one set of the cabinet doors, leaving it still accessible if needed while also adding storage for the homeowners with hidden shelving and drawers.

WHICH COMPONENT OF THIS PROJECT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF? I’m most proud of the overall design in the dining room and sitting area. I think we achieved a beautiful balance by utilizing rich texture and color, and a mix of traditional and transitional furnishings. The color palette creates a strong visual impact that you feel the instant you walk into the room. The layers of texture—leather, linen, velvet, and natural elements like sisal and jute—really help evoke a feeling of warmth and approachability. I believe it’s these elements that make the space so unique and special. Even the linen trim and nail heads on the velvet settee are special! The mix of furnishings works to tie it all together, taking cues from both traditional and transitional styles, while keeping the the design fresh and current. The result is a space perfect for the young, professional homeowners who share an appreciation for both the old and new. The design is timeless and one I believe will fit their needs now and well into the future!

ANY ELEMENTS IN PLACE HERE THAT OUR READERS SHOULD TRY FOR THEMSELVES AT HOME? Instead of relying on paint, consider adding texture to walls with wallpaper like grasscloth or linen. Next, ground your space with a rug. I love using durable, cost effective options like sisal, as they add warmth and additional texture, and can withstand high traffic. If you have a long room, similar to this dining room and sitting area, opt for one continuous rug instead of two smaller ones. This ensures the spaces flow together more cohesively. Similarly, if you have a room that is large and deep, consider breaking it up into different functional areas (like we did to the office and media room), so that it adds variety and depth.

WHAT IS YOUR CLIENT’S FAVORITE COMPONENT OF THIS REDESIGN? Our clients appreciate the personal elements that we included in each space. They have a deep love for nature and horses, so we utilized both small and large touches to showcase this. From the antler chandelier to the equestrian inspired desk accessories, these make the spaces personal to them.

ANY FAVORITE MEMORIES OF THE PROJECT YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE? The bookcases for the media room were too tall to carry up the stairs, so the movers had to place them on top of the home’s elevator to send them up to the top floor. I was so nervous during installation that I hid in another room so I didn’t have to watch! Thankfully it went off without a hitch and the bookcases were beautifully installed in their ultimate home.

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