STEPHEN THOMPSON: The trinity of holistic design – land, family and culture



A designer’s spirit thrives on inspiration. When we look at the world, we watch what society and culture preoccupies itself with; it keeps our design work relevant and timely.

Most of us in the Deep South cherish our family and our history. When we meet a stranger, we try hard to find a way to connect with them by asking our three standard questions: Where’re you from? Who are your people? And, what church do you go to? It’s a social thing. We Southerners are not alone in our fascination with place, family and culture. More than ever before, people around the world are searching for their roots. is a global phenomenon.

This is an era where we find ourselves surrounded by so many mass manufactured items. At first glance, it may seem contradictory that such a tech-savvy world would find its validation by looking backward. Yet, millions of us have shied away from mind-numbing, identically made products and we are finding our solace in authentic, natural items that were made locally. Isn’t it strange how we’ve rediscovered that having a bit of the past in our lives actually helps us to be more present?

Last week while I was rearranging furniture in a home in Lafayette County for Fate and Perlie Rogers. Fate brought into the house a marvelous 7-foot-long wooden tree trunk he’d found while riding over his land on his tractor. At one end, 2 feet of its length was twisted around like a corkscrew, and at the other end, 1 foot of its root fragment was flattened and pitted; its form was beautiful in a way only Mother Nature could fashion.

By pairing the spiraling tree trunk with an antique 5-foot wooden, three-tined pitchfork, I was able to combine the two pieces, one shaped by nature, the other fashioned by man, into an artistic arrangement that honored the trinity of holistic design – land, family and culture.

A month ago, I was hanging pictures for Tonya and Chad Barker in their new home outside Columbus. Tonya had a six-pane window sash, a cotton scale, a century old trunk, and what looked to me like a small mule or horse’s yoke; she had no clue as to how best display these inheritances.

Separately they were just farm implements and an old trunk, but when hung over a passageway, the cotton scale “weighed and found pleasing” every family member and guest who walked under it; and when suspended from the yoke and hung on a wall over the trunk, the eye-level window sash became a portal that looked back to the collective past of the family’s farming days, while the trunk on the floor below became a natural depository for those memories.

It is comforting in this rapidly changing world, where a fear of change preoccupies so many of our thoughts, to search our past for comfort and inspiration. By holistically incorporating elements of land, family and culture into our decors, we nourish our individual roots and honor our unique history in a very beautiful way.

Live in beauty!

Stephen Thompson, Allied ASID, has been creating tasteful interiors since 1975. For questions, comments, or consultations contact Designer Connection, P.O. Box 361, Tupelo, MS 38802 or

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