Tastemaker Tuesday – Eric & Ruthann Ross

We were lucky enough to have been introduced to the memorable duo of Eric and Ruthann Ross through our friend Suzanne Cooper, from Traditional Home, at the Design Bloggers Conference back in early 2015. As soon as we heard they were also a southern minded husband/wife team in the interior design business, we knew our introduction was kismet – we were destined to meet!

Eric and Ruthann Ross

Much like Steve and Jill’s partnership, Eric is the designer, while Ruthann is his undying supporter and team member in both work and life. Eric’s immense talent for design is put to work through Eric Ross Interiors, based out of Franklin, Tennessee, but their clients span the Southeast and beyond. Ross’ interiors are luxurious, while still being livable and portraying their client’s unique personalities. Eric Ross Interiors’ traditional aesthetic is anything but stuffy, and the spaces created are as warm and welcoming as this sweet couple… We think you’ll enjoy getting to know them as this month’s Tastemaker team:

1. Three words that describe your aesthetic?

Ruthann: Welcoming, Classic and Cheerful – I am always s so thankful when people tell us our home is warm and comfortable.  We want people to have that special, cherished feeling when they enter.

Eric: Lush, layered, relaxed…Can you use those words together?  People always tell me how beautiful my rooms are, but that they are so comfortable to be in.  That’s what I try to achieve with each project.


2. Would you please share a little about your favorite space/project to date?

R: Since Eric is the designer, I always say that I’m just lucky I get to live in his showroom. Not may girls get that luxury. My favorite room in our home is the front porch – it’s where all our best times with friends take place! 

E: It’s funny you ask that, because we are about to launch our new website, ericrossinteriors.com, and I’ve been reviewing all the photos and videos, so I’m attuned to my current body of work.  I would say the stairwell I did for the 2014 Traditional Home O’More Show House is my favorite project to date.  If you’ve followed my work at all, you’ll know I’m obsessed with blue and white and I was able to incorporate it into this space.  I used a lot of my go-to decorating “tricks,” if you will.  Upholstered doors, colored trim, chinoiserie, brass fixtures and accessories… All of these elements are so on trend AND they are my personal favorites, so to get to employ all of them into one space was fun and visually stimulating.


3. What’s the source(s) of your inspiration?

R: I’m inspired by flowers, and the beauty of God’s creation.  We love to spend time in the North Carolina mountains. I always feel like the waterfalls, mountain creeks, mossy green rocks, and the lush rhododendron just feed my soul.

E: I’m always inspired by color.  You know, a few years ago EVERYTHING was beige and brown.  Today, color is having a moment.  But, I have always gravitated toward colorful interiors.  So today, with all of the fabric houses coming out with color filled collections, it’s just fun to decorate.

4. Name three people (alive or dead) you’d invite to your dream dinner party…

E: These questions make me crazy… I don’t want any dead person at my parties! Seriously, I would only have close friends, no one you would know, I’m sure. I’m really not a stalker of celebrities of any kind. My wife and I have a close group of friends we have cocktails with about every other week who I love to laugh with. We always know we’ve had a good time when the next morning we have the strangest google searches on our phones.

R: I agree with Eric… My dream guests are my dearest friends


5. A piece of/type of furniture you couldn’t live without?

E: Without a doubt, I wouldn’t live without my sofa. It’s unbelievably comfortable. It’s from Wesley Hall out of Hickory, North Carolina. They make the most comfortable pieces and they are all bench made. Every piece has several signatures on it of the craftspeople who made it. I place them in all my projects because I know I won’t have a comfort issue with the client. And, they are beautiful, so it’s a win-win.

R: Well, since Eric always hogs the sofa, I’d have to say… my porch swing. I love to take naps on a Sunday afternoon.


6. Do you follow a particular set of rules when mixing textures, finishes, etc. – how do they work for you?

E: Of course there are no hard and fast rules. Interesting rooms come from breaking rules. But, for me, I do have a formula. Drapes are almost always a print and that’s where I start. Why spend the money on drapery that doesn’t say something beautiful? So, after the print is a chenille or velvet. I like chenille sofas with a velvet welt or pillow, usually the texture of mohair – this is lovely to lay your head on. I always think of comfort and how the upholstery will be lived in, not just looked at. Geometrics of some sort are in the mix, as well as a beautiful Persian rug, if the budget allows.

R: I mix textures by mixing dishes and serving pieces with pretty linens, candles and flowers. Setting a beautiful table or bountiful buffet is my palette and I think an abundance is best! It entertains your guests and allows you to see the special elements. They know you’ve worked hard to make it special just for them.

7. Trending… What is something you are currently “into” and something you are “over?”

E: I’m into “pretty” rooms and have been my whole career.  The trend now is toward these “pretty” rooms which are currently defined as traditional decor of florals as a lead and color on the walls.  I was never into industrial or re-purposed.  I’m glad it is waning.  I heard one of my design heroes, Mario Buatta, say in a talk once that he saw a lot of schizophrenic decorating.  I think he was talking about this “eclectic” wave we saw a couple of years ago with a lot of collage walls and dragging everything you ever found at a road side flea market into rooms and calling them collected.  It isn’t collected, it’s desperate.

R: I am over mason jars, burlap and chalkboard… It was fun for a while, but I’m done!

Darby highlights-1

8. How does artwork fit into your designs?

E: Ok, I get this question a lot from my clients. Artwork is so personal and expensive, the client really had to select pieces they love. When I create spaces, I always select and install affordable art, either giclees, prints or canvas transfers. This way, the client gets a completed room. If they really want a special piece to to be able to collect art over time, they don’t have a terrible amount of money invested in what I call “decorator” pieces and they can replace them as they find the perfect pieces for them.

R: My favorite piece of art is the painting that hangs in our bedroom. It’s a nature scene with the sweetest little birds tucked in the branches and grass. I just love it and requested it hang facing our bed so I could see it from my pillow.

9. What would be the one thing you would have if you were stranded on a deserted island?

E: Air-conditioning… it’s a must!

R:  Ice cream…Nothing better to drown your sorrows and chase away the blues.

10. Please share a piece of advice you’d offer to someone looking to break into the interior design industry.

E: I really think you learn a lot from working in retail. The public will throw every terrible trait of a difficult client at you in a short amount of time. You learn how to read people quickly and come up with a solution to their problem, which is really what this job is about – listening and resolving dilemmas.

R: Be prepared for HARD work. My husband has to sweat, haul trash and lug loads of stuff.   It is NOT all glamorous – if you are a diva, you’ll never make it!  You can’t be too good to do the grunt work.

Those are two excellent bits of advice – especially the bit about grunt work from Ruthann. That’s for sure! And we’d love to see Jill and Ruthann pair up to create a tablescape or buffet spread – can you imagine?! It’d be out of this world!

A BIG thank you to both Eric and Ruthann for taking time out of their busy schedules for this interview. We’re always especially excited to share the inner workings of other husband/wife design teams out there!

Tastemaker Tuesday – Tori Mellott

This month we’re shaking things up a bit here on the blog for steve mckenzie’s by featuring a design editor as our Tastemaker, and it’s not just any editor we’re lucky enough to share with you… It’s Design Editor for Traditional Home magazine, Tori Mellott!

Not only does Tori have class and style to spare (hence her profession), she’s also one of the nicest people we’ve had the opportunity to work with! Steve first met Tori during his time with Larson-Juhl, where art and framing were the hot topic. Since then, we’ve been fortunate enough to expand our discussions to design as a whole, among other things…

Tori has darling twin girls, Franny and Lucy, and it’s been so fun seeing her tackle motherhood just as enthusiastically as she’s conquered the world of home shelter pubs! We think you’ll love Tori just as much as we do, especially after learning more about her in this Tastemaker Tuesday feature:

Tori Mellott
Tori Mellott

1. What are three words that describe your style?

I would describe my style as preppy, tailored, and girlie.


2. Would you please share a little about a favorite space of yours?

Really, my favorite space in the entire world is the house I grew up in located in a sub-suburban neighborhood 20 miles north of Pittsburgh. I was raised by my grandparents and my grandmother really loved pastels.  One bathroom was entirely salmon pink and I mean ENTIRELY.  The sink, the tub, the toilet, the floor tiles. And the bathroom I shared with my sister was entirely mint green and again, I mean ENTIRELY.  The sink, the tub, the toilet, the floor tiles.  I just loved those bathrooms!


And my grandmother was a huge wallpaper lover.  We must have changed the wallpaper in our hallway every 3 to 5 years.  When I was very young it was this wild, white, green, and silver foil paper that had bamboo trees printed on the ground.  Then it changed to this adorable navy blue floral – it was very elegant.  Then one year it was a red “Tree of Life” pattern. It was always changing – my poor Grandfather!  He was the one who had to paper the walls!


One year my grandmother allowed my sister and I to decorate the entire upstairs portion of the house.  A play area, two bedrooms, and a bathroom.  It was so much fun.  I choose a pink and white stripe for my bedroom (which still remains there today) and a small, dense, floral pattern that is reminiscent of a Liberty print for the bathroom.


3. What’s the source(s) of your inspiration?

So many things inspire me.  Especially the past.  I’m such a romantic – I love decaying, rotten, nearly-forgotten ideas, structures, and gardens.


There is such a powerful sense of mystery and loss when you see a crumbling ruin or a path in the forest that is nearly grown over.


I’m especially inspired by classic architecture and I’m a sucker for any Victorian building as well and recently I’ve been on an Art Deco kick.


As for my sense of color, I’m inspired by flowers – the blooms, the variegated patterns, and the intense hues.


4. Name three people (alive or dead) you’d invite to your dream dinner party…

–       Chris Rock (because he is the funniest human alive or dead)

–       Idina Menzel (because I am hoping she will burst out into song)

–       Julia Child (because I don’t cook and I would want the food to be good)

5. What’s a piece of/type of furniture you couldn’t live without?

I could not live without a comfortable sofa.  Uncomfortable sofas, even if they are the most beautiful-looking sofa in the world, are useless and pointless.  If design isn’t comfortable, then it’s really not design, it’s art and I don’t want to get cozy on a piece of art.


6. Do you recommend people follow a particular set of rules when mixing textures, finishes, etc.?

I wouldn’t say there are hard and fast “rules” but I definitely think a mix of textures is necessary in designing a cozy space.  If everything has the same texture, it might look boring, or too fancy, or too casual.  I think a good mix of textures lends charm to a room.

7. Trending… What is something you are currently “into” and something you are “over?”

I’m really into floral chintz and animal prints!  I cannot get enough.  I want to swath every surface of my apartment in head-to-toe chintz.



I want every room tented, and every wall upholstered. It would be incredibly impractical, considering I have 2 year old twins, but I daydream about it all the time.


I’m so, so, so over gallery walls.  I think they look messy and cluttered.  One large piece of art will do.

8. How does artwork typically work within your favorite spaces/any advice on incorporating art into a room?

Artwork is critically important. It adds personality to a room and visual interest.


9. What would be the one thing you would have if you were stranded on a deserted island?

That is so easy. Pizza.

10. Please share a piece of advice you’d offer to someone looking to break into the interior design industry.

Be nice to everyone and try not to copy other people’s work.  While other’s designs can serve as an inspiration, and even a jumping off point, try to maintain an original point-of-view.

A huge THANK YOU to Tori for allowing us to feature her as a steve mckenzie’s Tastemaker – you’re always a joy and charm to be with, and we know our readers will experience that same sense of warmth as they enjoy this segment.

Happy Tastemaker Tuesday everyone!