The garden gate stands open in an inviting gesture that hints at the hospitality of the family who dwells here. Perfectly symbolized by the tangle of daisies that greets guests at the front door, the home is welcoming, unpretentious, and cheerful as a summer day.
Margot Shaw’s aesthetic appreciation began early and runs deep. Her family lived in Switzerland when she was a child, and she has fond memories of her father taking them for jaunts through Europe in his sporty convertible— touring châteaux, cathedrals, and gardens along the way.
“My father was very Hemingway-esque, very much a bon vivant,” Margot adds. “He was always saying, ‘Look at this!’ He was informing my eye, training me to appreciate beauty and good design.” As a result of these excursions, the young girl’s creative side blossomed, and her father’s enthusiasm took root in her soul. Margot’s interest in design took a different form years later, when she worked with noted Birmingham, Alabama, floral designer Sybil Sylvester. Under her masterful tutelage, Margot says she “learned to think outside the framework of normal, expected arrangements.
”When she married, twenty-two years ago, she and her husband, Gates, moved into her house while searching for a residence for their newly blended family. Fortunately, the couple didn’t have to look far; they found a charming farmhouse on a 3-acre lot just a stone’s throw away. Among several structural changes they made was converting one bedroom into two baths—a necessity with three daughters between them.
“When we first bought the place, it was all one color—a pinky cream,” Margot recalls. “It was pretty, but I wanted to get out my fan deck of paint colors and have my way with it.” Drawing ideas from her travels, books, and artwork, she chose a palette that better suited her love of color and offered the perfect backdrop for the furnishings and accessories the couple had accumulated separately and together. With few exceptions, Margot painted the trimwork the same shade as the walls, believing it makes rooms appear larger.
“When people come into my house, I want them to feel welcome, comfortable— and maybe a little amused,” she explains. Some years ago, a party guest illustrated Margot’s point: The guest spent the evening wandering through the rooms, examining the Shaws’ paintings and curios as one might pore over a puzzle. Eclectic collections draw interest and delight the eye at every turn.
Although Margot’s botanical skills lie in fl oral arranging, Gates finds his passion in growing. Blessed with an ability to “make anything work,” he has brought his gifts to the garden, where myriad flowers bloom among the lawn’s sweeps and curves. Much like their marriage, this horticultural partnership is a perfect melding of talents. The result is a haven not only for the family but for everyone who is invited into their enchanting home.
Text Karen Callaway
For more of Shaw’s home, see “A Legacy of Loveliness” in our July/August 2015 issue of Victoria.