Rattling off past design fails at her Peachtree Park cottage, Sherry Hart cites a faux-finished fireplace, silk ficus trees, and harlequin-patterned walls. But like Goldilocks, who has to test too hard and too soft before appreciating what’s just right, Sherry has landed on a sophisticated end result.
It all started with the location. “When I moved to Atlanta in 1989, I would drive through this neighborhood and think how much I’d love to live here, with these older, traditional little ranches,” she says. The former Eastern Air Lines flight attendant and her husband, David Higgins (a pilot at the time), finally bought this house 23 years ago, paying more than full price. While some of the neighboring homes now sport two or three floors, the Hart-Higgins house remains one story. “I always say that if a long-lost relative leaves me a pot of gold, I might rip the roof off and add more, but we do truly love living in a ranch,” she says. “The three-bedroom, three-bath plan works great for the two of us.”
Along the journey, Sherry started teaching exercise classes (she still does), turned her decorating hobby into a career, and launched a blog in 2010. The biweekly posts are part personal diary—where not much is off limits, from a dog’s flatulence to the occasional fashion faux pas—and part professional designer’s daily agenda: which bathroom tile looks best, how to sort through a gazillion pillows. “I started it on a whim, like most things I do, and I try to keep it real,” Sherry says.
Design Indulgence readers eat up stories of her own home’s transformations. A few years ago, Sherry redid the dining room, embracing its eight-foot ceilings with a large-scale Circa Lighting fixture and “jumping on the shiplap train,” as she puts it, by adding horizontal planks to the walls. At various times, her open family room/kitchen/sitting area has been painted cream, apple green, gold, chocolate brown, and tan. “Then there just weren’t any colors left to try, so I painted my whole house Benjamin Moore ‘White Dove’ years ago, before it was trendy,” Sherry says. “I thought I would stick with white until I could find another color that moved me, and I never did.”
In the living room, the blank slate serves as a backdrop for a gallery wall. There she has artfully arranged neutral pieces, including her most cherished painting, a swan by Dawne Raulet. “I think I’ll be in this phase for a while,” she says of the black-and-white scheme. “My white-and-turquoise phase was pretty strong for about 15 years, and it’s still my favorite color, but I’m gradually swapping out for a more neutral palette and then throwing in some black to keep things from being boring.” From a practical standpoint, she adds, the flexible color scheme makes it easy to find inexpensive accessories.
Sherry is a Scott Antique Market junkie (she starred as tour guide for a Better Homes and Gardens video and knows many dealers by name), but this bargain hunter also produces high-end projects. In addition to serving as interior designer for the 2016 House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year and for builder Michael Ladisic’s high-profile home renovation—both of which were in her neighborhood—she’s now working with clients in other states. “My interest in design started with this house, 20-some years ago, so this is where it all began,” she recalls. “I went through the learning experience and then started helping others. I sometimes wonder if my design obsession will ever end.”
This article originally appeared in our Winter 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.