Designer Linda Engler vividly remembers the moment she got a call from Cindy and Jeff Holker, who’d fallen in love with a neighborhood in Savannah, Georgia. “‘You’re not even going to believe this place, Linda,’” she recalls Jeff saying of the place he and Cindy were considering for a secondary home. “‘It’s surreal. You’ve got to come down and see it.’”
A few days later, Engler and fellow designer Jenn Taft were there, at the Ford Field and River Club about 20 minutes from downtown Savannah, where homes are tucked away amid centuries-old live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. “The setting and architecture were beautiful—it felt kind of like a movie set,” Engler says.
The deal was sealed, both for the home purchase and for Engler and Taft as the interior designers. “They didn’t want it to be straight southern traditional,” Engler says. “They wanted there to be some surprise to it.” Thanks to her work on their current home in Excelsior and a previous home in Edina, she knew exactly what they meant: It had to be colorful. “They’re both into color to a point where I actually have to throttle them back a little bit,” Engler says with a laugh.
It’s a trait the Holkers readily own. “We like color, so you’re never going to see us in a home with gray walls and dark granite,” Jeff says.
But first Engler would need to create a foil for the color—a bright and airy backdrop of shiplap walls painted Benjamin Moore Cloud White and wide-plank white oak floors. The surfaces, which also convey a classic low-country look, extend throughout much of the 2,800-square-foot home, including the main-level living area, where a newly open floor plan maintains a cozy scale.
“I think we ended up walking that line well,” Engler says. “It doesn’t feel like it’s an HGTV ‘Let’s do an open plan,’ where everything is just blown apart and you don’t get any sense of spaces. It definitely has an intimacy.”
From there, it was time to have fun with color. In the main living space, that began with Pierre Frey fabric on the sofa pillows. “We refer to that as our ‘glue fabric,’” Engler says. “It just holds everything together, and it’s what we build off of.” Turquoise blues, emerald greens, and corals from the fabric make appearances—in just the right doses—in the living room’s rug and other furnishings. They also appear in the art, including a pair of colorful botanical works on metal behind the sofa by Minneapolis photographer Natasha D’Schommer. “It’s a modern graphic in an exploded scale,” Engler says.
The results suit the Holkers to a T. “There’s enough color in here to make us happy,” Cindy says. Jeff agrees. “Minnesota isn’t a stressful place, but we’re both very busy and always on the go up there,” he says. “But when you come here and you walk in the door, it’s just … ahh.”
“Benjamin Moore Cloud White has been my go-to white for 30-some years. If it’s walls, it’s ceilings, it’s cabinetry—you name it— if it’s white, it’s probably Cloud White.”
—Interior designer Linda Engler
Interior Design: Linda Engler and Jenn Taft, Engler Studio Interior Design, 7562 Market Place Dr., Eden Prairie, 952-564-6488, englerstudio.com // Architecture: Joye Reno, Reno Architecture, 50 Ford Way, Richmond Hill, Georgia, 912-713-4041, renoarchitecture.net // Builder: Brian Grant, Grant Homes, 50 Ford Way, Richmond Hill, Georgia, 912-507-8657, granthomesinc.com
Sources of Design Inspiration
From daily architectural tours to dozens of home shops, this elegant and eclectic city is a treasure for design hounds. Here are a few standout sources.
- shopSCAD: Some of the home’s art was discovered at this delightful shop (above left) on Madison Square, which is filled with works by artists at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). 340 Bull St., Savannah, 912-525-5180, shopscad.com
- Hamilton-Turner Inn: This meticulously restored 1873 French Empire mansion (above middle) houses 17 lavish guest rooms and gets regular praise from press in the likes of Condé Nast Traveler, Brides, and Lonely Planet. 330 Abercorn St., Savannah, 912-233-1833, hamilton-turnerinn.com
- Circa Lighting: This chic source for every lighting type—with a showroom that opened in 2020 in Minneapolis’s North Loop—got its start in Savannah, where the flagship has long been a beacon for designers. 405 Whitaker St., Savannah, 912-447-1008, circalighting.com
- Forsyth Metal Works: Jeff Holker raves about the metal shop that made his kitchen’s range hood. “I described what I was looking for, and one of them drew up a picture for me. And I said, ‘This is it.’ It’s spectacular.” 111 Lissner Ave., Savannah, 912-438-6183, forsythmetalworks.com
- Savannah Heritage Tours: Historic home and garden tours abound in Savannah. Among them are this company’s guided tours of Mercer House (above right) and Bonaventure Cemetery, sites made famous in the John Berendt novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. 912-224-8365, savannahheritagetours.com
- Peridot Antiques: Designer Linda Engler describes the finds here as “equal parts antique and vintage” and “in a building with super high ceilings and kind of a scary staircase, but definitely with the charm of Savannah.” 10 W. Liberty St., Savannah, 912-596-1117
- The Paris Market: As the name suggests, the treasures in this expansive 1874 Victorian storefront are reminiscent of the famous Paris “fleas,” along with an extensive selection of art and design books and magazines. 36 W. Broughton St., Savannah, 912-232-1500, theparismarket.com
- One Fish Two Fish: Furniture anchors this Savannah design staple, but it’s fun breezing through (and easier to pack in the carry-on) an array of linens, books, candles, and tabletop items. Find casual-chic apparel at sister store The Annex across the street. 401 Whitaker St., Savannah, 912-447-4600, onefishstore.com