Earlier this summer, Steve and Jill attended The Southern Summit, an amazing event hosted by The Southern Coterie, which founded by two extremely talented women, Cheri Leavy and Whitney Long.
Cheri and Whitney were sensational hostesses of The Southern Summit and after attending such a lovely, well- thought-out and fun event, we knew they’d be a wonderful team to feature as Tastemakers! To our delight, they agreed to participate and we couldn’t be more thrilled to highlight them as our newest Tastemakers for the blog for steve mckenzie’s…
For Cheri, born with a knack for instantly connecting with people, The Southern C seemed like a natural progression. From novice beginnings, writing a “cousin newsletter” to operating a successful online and print publishing business with her husband, it’s Cheri’s enthusiasm and inspiration that has made The Southern Coterie and its live events – The Southern C Summits – a must visit for Southern entrepreneurs looking to make valuable connections. Constantly on the lookout for the newest talent in the South, Cheri has an authentic passion for meeting, greeting and giving entrepreneurs a platform to speak about their brands. An eighth generation coastal Georgia native, Cheri splits her time between Athens and St. Simons Island.
After a successful career as a scout, stylist and contributing editor for some of the biggest names in print media like Coastal Living, Southern Accents, Southern Living and Better Homes & Gardens plus various special interest titles, Whitney took time off to focus on her favorite job – being a mom to four – but the scouting didn’t end there. Whitney draws on her years of curating unique places and people for the lifestyle magazine industry to create connections, find strategic partners and cultivate a talented team of writers and presenters. Born in the quintessential southern town of Elba, Alabama, Whitney now calls the quaint seaside village of St.Simons Island, Georgia home.
1. Three words that describe your aesthetic?
C: Colorful, Eclectic, Keeper – I am a keeper of family treasures – china, silver, linens, books, old print press blocks and tools (my husband is fourth generation newspaper business).
W: Relaxed, Cozy, Lived-in
2. Would you please share a little about your favorite space/project to date?
C: Our cottage on East Beach, St. Simons Island was on the Christ Church Tour of Homes years ago and I loved getting ready for that tour. I worked with several talented interior designers to pull it all together – Mary-Bryan Peyer, Andrew Downs, Lisa Ellis Design and my mother-in-law Sudy. I have been collecting original art since post college and have joked that I drove my mom’s hand-me-down cars but always had an art payment versus a car payment monthly. This was thanks to my mentor Millie Wilcox of Left Bank Art Gallery who let me pay in installments. Millie created a sheet for tour attendees that turned it into an art exhibit detailing the artists and history of many of the pieces. She even researched pieces from my ancestors so it turned into an archive of my art I will treasure forever.
W: Our living room – giant sectional sofa where all six of us can squeeze in for family tv time watching some of our favorite shows like Shark Tank, America’s Got Talent and The Goldberg’s. That is when and where I am my happiest which makes it my favorite space.
3. What’s the source(s) of your inspiration?
C: Travel, antiquing, magazines, blogs, instagram and family treasures.
W: So many friend and creatives that I have met through The Southern C and Southern C Summit! I follow their blogs, check out their websites and social channels and am continually inspired!
4. Name three people (alive or dead) you’d invite to your dream dinner party…
C: Southern journalist, author and entertainer Julia Reed, newspaper icon Kathryn Graham and author Ernest Hemingway – don’t you wish you were invited too?
W: My Daddy who passed far too young, Bear Bryant (this would be a pick for my Dad – would LOVE to hear that conversation) and Dolly Parton – who wouldn’t want the fabulous Dolly at their dining room table? Can you tell I’m a Southern girl with these icons?
5. A piece of/type of furniture you couldn’t live without?
C: I love a good parsons table – so versatile. I have created a few with Andrew Downs. We did one for the cottage with Hermes orange Edelman leather he had left over from a project in the 80s – ahhh so fab. So then in Athens, we did Tiffany blue suede on one with a short nesting table beneath in blue skin for all of my coffee table books.
W: My great aunt Kate’s vintage flame mahogany breakfront – in addition to holding dishes, it holds lots of memories of Sunday post-church lunches and holiday family meals.
6. Do you follow a particular set of rules when mixing textures, finishes, etc. – how do they work for you?
C: I am a rule breaker for sure. I do what feels right so my style is very layered and nuanced with odd objects on brackets on the wall and I collect majolica so it is everywhere. I love old rugs and have orientals and some incredible Turkish kilims from a neat local on St. Simons, Vickie Myers, who sells them from her extensive travels. Her warehouse is a blast to dig in. That was another payment plan in my thirties. I can’t say enough that if you love beautiful things and you are on a budget then work with vendors. You would be surprised what people will do to help a young collector. I am a firm believer in textured layers but there is no rhyme or reason to my process. I buy what I like and I am not matchy matchy so I blend a lot of different pieces.
W: No, I think it’s all about a balanced mix and what is visually appealing to your eye but also taking into consideration what elements work well in each particular space.
7. Trending… What is something you are currently “into” and something you are “over?”
C: I am into coupe glasses right now because of my friend, Brian Hart Hoffman’s new book, The Coupe: Celebrating Craft Cocktails and Vintage Collections I am over my dated kitchens and bathrooms. The struggle is real if you love 1930s homes.
W: I’m over the staged, too-many pillows look with the karate chops in the tops. I am into relaxed and streamlined. A few pillows with a colorful bold pattern pack more punch! When I want to sit, I want to sit without removing 10 pillows to do so. Same goes for my bed!
8. How does artwork fit into your designs?
C: Clearly for me as I have expressed above – art is everything to me. My friend who is an interior designer, Cullen Osteen collaborates with me on my Athens home and teases me that most of her clients buy art to fill a space and I buy art and look for the space. Needless to say, I am a proponent of the gallery hang.
W: Art can serve to anchor a room and also serve as the jumping off point for the design scheme. I love sizable statement pieces – kind of like a great statement necklace.
9. What would be the one thing you would have if you were stranded on a deserted island?
C: My husband Vance of course. A healthy supply of wine and hopefully some fabulous stemware. My two golden retrievers. I don’t think I would do well on a deserted island.
W: My iPhone so I could book a plane ticket back home!
Thank you so much Cheri and Whitney!! Not only did we have a fabulous time at The Southern Summit this past May, we’re so happy to have had to opportunity to get to know you both better and share a bit about you here on the blog for steve mckenzie’s!
Now, who’s already planning their visit to Sea Island for The Southern Summit 2017?!?
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