Georgian Revival: Susan Hubble Smith at Home

Growing up in Corsicana, an old gun-slinging town about an hour south of Dallas, Susan Hable Smith fantasized about pursuing a career in art and design in New York City. Her parents were concerned. “They wondered how I would support myself,” she says.

Hable Smith eventually moved to Alabama for college and then to California, where she worked as a fashion and accessories designer, but she never lost sight of New York. At last, in 1999, the timing felt right. But then, shortly before her move, she met her future husband, the attorney Peter W. Smith, who was based in New York. Coincidentally, he was ready to leave the city and offered to join her in California. “If you want to be with me,” she recalls telling him, “then you need to stay in New York.”

In the parlor, an antique Indonesian daybed is upholstered with antique Moroccan wedding blankets, a vintage shipping pallet serves as a cocktail table, the custom-made floor lamp is by Robert Ogden, and the painting is by Jeannie Weissglass; the curtains are of washed linen by Libeco, and the custom-made rug is by Elson & Company.
Today, from the front, the house looks like a cleaned-up version of its former self, with painted blue shingles, a white porch, and pristine landscaping. “It’s very unassuming,” says Hable Smith. “But inside, it’s like Alice in Wonderland.”

The fun starts in the expansive front hallway, a showcase for the couple’s wide-ranging art collection—from fashion photography to work by artists such as Louise Belcourt and Hugo Guinness—which is displayed on vine-patterned wallpaper from the Neue Galerie in New York.

The hallway’s wallpaper features a Dagobert Peche design, and a John Derian sofa is upholstered in Hable Construction’s Ball & Chain linen-cotton; among the artworks is a gouache by Louise Belcourt above a Hugo Guinness drawing.
What’s more, the Victorian cottage that stole his heart turned out to be in serious ramshackle condition. The renovation ended up taking almost three years, during which time the house had to be lifted and the foundation repoured—all under the skeptical and watchful eye of the local preservation committee. “It was more than a renovation,” Hable Smith says. “It was a save.”

In the dining room, the chairs, table, and walnut chest are all antique, as is the portrait, which came from Greensboro, Georgia; the photograph is by Rinne Allen, and the rug is Scandinavian
Around the same time, Hable Smith began traveling to Athens, Georgia, to work with a local photographer, Rinne Allen, on photo shoots for her products. She fell in love with the charms of the Southern college town. “I told Peter: ‘This place is so wonderful. You’ve got to see it some time,'” she says. So the last thing Hable Smith was expecting was a phone call from her husband, who was on a business trip to Atlanta, announcing that he had made a detour to Athens and fallen in love with a house—which he immediately bought. “I said, ‘Really?'” recalls Hable Smith, who was stunned. “He’s not usually that spontaneous.”

On the screened porch, which overlooks the studio, a custom-made banquette is covered in a Hable Construction outdoor fabric, the table is Indonesian, and the antique chairs were found at the Brimfield flea market; the floors are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Studio Green.
The exterior also belies the home’s spacious new layout. A two-story extension on the rear of the house made way for a new kitchen, a rear porch, and the blue-and-green family room, which the couple quaintly terms “the keeping room.”

Peter made the mahogany platform bed in the guest cottage; the candlewicked coverlet is from the 1800s.
Nearby, the front parlor is painted in Hable Smith’s favorite color, Benjamin Moore’s Paisley Pink, while the dining room is covered in hot-pink wallpaper in a psychedelic print, which she brought back from London. Every room is filled with unique furniture and quirky objects—from the dining room’s tasseled chairs, which Hable Smith found hanging from the ceiling of a henhouse in Texas, to the tufted antique French bed in her daughter’s room, which she discovered at an antique mart in Atlanta. “For Susan, a home is not a museum,” her husband says. “It’s performance art.”

Silk screens and drawings for textiles in the studio; the industrial pendant is antique, and the heart pine floors are original.
The couple added three bedrooms and two baths upstairs, as well as two new outbuildings: a guest cottage, and an art studio for Hable Smith. For the latter, they had a century-old dilapidated house trucked over in pieces from nearby Eatonton, Georgia. “We didn’t do anything the easy way, let’s put it that way,” she says.

A Duravit sink with Dornbracht fittings in the guest cottage bath, which is papered with old AAA maps; the wainscoting is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Cornforth White.
To their surprise, the move has proved to be a professional boon. Smith commutes to a law firm in Atlanta, while his wife and her sister have been deluged with projects for Hable Construction—from fabrics for the North Carolina–based Hickory Chair Furniture Co. to rugs, cushions, doormats, and holiday stockings for the New Hampshire catalogue company Garnet Hill.

In the daughter’s room, the antique French bed is dressed with John Robshaw linens topped with an antique Bolivian rug, the painting is by Carol John, and the shade is Hable Construction’s Flower fabric
Corsicana, she says, is a “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of place.” That work ethic paid off in the big city. With her sister, Katharine Hable, she founded Hable Construction, a successful line of textiles and home accessories based on her own hand-drawn designs (they borrowed the company’s name from their family’s defunct Texas road-construction business). They opened two boutiques, in Greenwich Village and NoLIta. “We hit the pavement running,” she says. “New York was fabulous for us.”

Susan Hable Smith with her husband, Peter, and their children, Lake and Bird, at their home in Athens, Georgia

By 2007, she and her husband were living in a two-bedroom rental apartment in Battery Park City with two children: their daughter, Bird, and son, Lake. Meanwhile, the boutiques’ retail leases were coming up for renewal. “We were looking at kindergarten and the prices of private schools, and wondering how we were going to manage,” she says.

Hable Smith designed the cotton-silk fabric covering a George Smith sofa in the den (also known as the keeping room), the Belgian armchairs are from John Derian, and the cocktail table came from a flea market in Provincetown; the curtains are Hable Construction’s Rope fabric, a Moroccan rug is layered over an African palm-frond mat, and the walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Castle Gray.

Initially, they planned to restore the house and use it as a second home for their family. But the more sweat and equity the couple plunged into the project, the more invested they began to feel. When the renovation was almost finished, the couple pulled up roots in New York City and relocated permanently to Athens. “I won’t be lying when I say I was afraid,” Hable Smith says.

Danish chairs found at a Housing Works thrift shop and an antique French farm table in the kitchen; the painted cabinet is Swedish, and the walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Light Blue.

In Athens, they have discovered a community of like-minded souls, from artists to musicians. “I do miss my sister and being able to go down the street for good sushi,” Hable Smith says. “But our life here has allowed me to really focus on what I’m good at, without distractions. It’s ‘Get out your paintbrush and go, girl.'”

In the guest cottage’s sitting room, an antique sofa upholstered in Hable Construction’s Pom Pom fabric, a pair of chairs by Hickory Chair, and a floor lamp by BDDW.

You may also like


Your email address will not be published.