“I really wanted to debunk that myth that Southern homes are all frilly and fussy with roses and floral wallpaper,” says photographer Alyssa Rosenheck. That was the driving concept behind The New Southern Style, her debut book out today, in which the photographer visits a slew of designers and tastemakers who she sees as redefining traditional notions of Southern style.
Of course this redefinition goes deeper than interior design, too: The South has a troubled relationship with its cultural history, one that is being reexamined now like never before. Part of Rosenheck’s mission was to reshape Southern style as more diverse and inclusive.
“I have my roots,” says Rosenheck, who grew up Jewish in Oklahoma and can recall the local KKK breaking into her family’s yard and leaving a swastika etched on the fence. “I want to see more substance and culture in a niche that really celebrates style, but that’s also very homogenous. So, that’s really the genesis of this project.”
It’s also the result of a very personal journey for Rosenheck, who found photography after leaving a corporate career following a cancer diagnosis in her early 30s. “Looking back, I understand that my 20s and early 30s were, from a place of fear, trying to do things a certain way, and that’s why my life lacked so much color—I had success but it didn’t mean anything to me,” she muses. “It was almost like I was living life not for myself, and then when I had the diagnosis, it woke me up, and it literally caused me to go within myself for the first time, and ask myself the question of what do I want.”
In turning to photography, Rosenheck found more than just a career change. “I was building a business that started out truly as a passion and I started getting clients organically. They were taking a chance on me, and I would intuitively go into their homes, which is so personal.”
It’s the creative connections she forged through these shoots that served as the basis for the book. “There’s a big synergy to that because I do believe we’re stronger together. I feel like there’s this creative mentality that we’re all on our own island, but there’s room enough for everybody to be successful,” Rosenheck says. “And we really are stronger together when we lift one another up. The new Southern style is founded on cultural change; it’s about humanizing and honoring our differences through the lens of creativity.”
In the book, readers will see the homes of familiar creatives—such as Bobby Berk and Leanne Ford—as well as new faces, including poets, chefs, store owners, photographers, and more. They’ll also get a peek at Rosenheck’s own space, which acts as a physical manifestation of many of her ideas about new Southern style. In time for the book launch, she has opened her home to House Beautiful. Take the tour below.
“I spend a lot of time in our living room; that’s really where people come when they’re here,” says Rosenheck. As such, she wanted the space to be warm and inviting—while still staying true to her more clean-lined sensibilities. “I have layers within the same tone,” she explains. “So my walls are color matched to my cabinets and they’re this creamy kind of white. I chose the linen fabric to match the wall and then I have another layer on top of the panels.”
With this more neutral backdrop, the art in Rosenheck’s home takes center stage—and that’s how she likes it. “And as a photographer, somebody who’s so visually sensitive, I need negative space in my home. I love bringing character and personality and pops of color through my art choices,” she explains. “The art is my personal collection and from so many friends of mine, which has been really beautiful. So, each piece of art I have in my house is like a timestamped memory.” In the living room, an abstract Kayce Hughes piece hides the television.
“I love greenery in the kitchen,” says Rosenheck. “It just brings so much life and personality to the space and freshness.” Here, too, you’ll notice an attention to texture—and to art. “One of the easiest ways to elevate any kitchen—I’m so over seeing cutting boards on a backsplash—is art,
” she says. “Leaning art in your kitchen is the quickest way to elevate it.”
A six-foot-tall Chambers Austelle work is the centerpiece of the dining room beside the pedestal table, which Rosenheck painted white. The bowl on the table was also a vintage find she painted—an example of her careful selection of just the right items. The brass candlesticks are her favorite accessories for styling shoots and her own home.
A black desk adds weight to the airy, neutral backdrop here. The art leaned against the wall and the pedestal with a plant are both favorite looks of hers. “I have tons of pedestals around the house with planters of greenery and ferns,” she says. “I am not a sophisticated green thumb, but this makes the simplest plants look so pretty.”
“I live and breathe by clean lines, but I also love a moment of something either undone, or a little asymmetrical,” Rosenheck says of the painting hung off-center above the bed (a vintage piece she had reupholstered in simple white linen). Hanging artwork over drapery gives it a softer backdrop and an unexpected sense of layering. A vintage Marcel Breuer chair gets a warm touch from a faux fur throw. “I always want to add that warmth and carry everything back to my wall color,” Rosenheck says.
The vintage touch is also important to Rosenheck, especially in her more minimal home: “I think to bring a space to life and to continue to have that have that depth, it all can’t be new,” she says. “You have to have those storied elements—especially with the new Southern style. This is about reclaiming the best of the past, and then bringing it to life with fresh, new ideas.”
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