Design newcomer Ruthie Lindsey finds her style in a Nashville home flush with personal treasures
When Ruthie Lindsey gets really excited about something—a styling gig, a vintage find, a four-legged houseguest—her slight Louisiana twang becomes even more pronounced. And given her charmingly contagious optimism, it’s easy to be swept along as she explains how she wants her East Nashville home “to just feel like a big ol’ hug.” (Spoiler: It actually does.)
Her free-spirited, folksy sophistication has made Lindsey a valued creative collaborator for everyone from Free People to Kinfolk magazine and Warby Parker. “I think it’s more instinct than knowledge,” says the self-trained design consultant, who has amassed an impressive roster of clients in under two years. “People started asking me to help them, and I thought, ‘No way, I don’t know what I’m doing.’” Except, she soon realized, she did. An obsession with storytelling and creating hyperpersonal spaces meant that her insights were more about editing than putting any hard-and-fast design rules into practice. Rather than getting bogged down by inexperience, she explains, “I feel fortunate that I can say, ‘Let’s try it, and if it doesn’t work we’ll change it.’”
A belief in the healing power of one’s surroundings has always been in Lindsey’s nature. After she learned that a neck injury she incurred during a childhood car accident would require a “gnarly” surgery and keep her holed up at home, she took to prettifying the rooms as a preemptive measure against cabin fever. “When I do a space, I want it to feel good,” she says with her trademark enthusiasm. That same philosophy guides the aesthetic of her modest bungalow, which required a similarly sunny leap of faith. Lindsey found out about the property through a friend who lived a few houses away; when the pair sneaked over and peeked in the windows, what they saw was a sea of mauve walls, popcorn ceilings, a porch surfaced in bright-green AstroTurf—and plenty of potential. “I took a five-minute tour with a real estate agent and bought it the next day,” she says.
While her strict budget didn’t allow for massive renovations, Lindsey did take advantage of the skills of a few DIY-savvy friends. Together they covered the ceilings in faux-pressed-tin panels and beadboard (a more cost-effective solution than resurfacing them), replaced plastic kitchen countertops with salvaged wood, and created a built-in headboard and shelving. But when it came to decorating, she let her own history guide her. “I don’t buy things just to buy things,” she says. “In every corner of my house there are stories involved.” Her father had the coffee table in the living room made for her out of reclaimed wood from a shack in Louisiana not long before he passed away. The milk-glass collection housed in a hutch belonged to her grandmother. The refinished dining table is from her family’s farm. But the house is much more than a collection of sentimental heirlooms. Lindsey’s favorite room is also its biggest departure from the personal: the office, which with its black walls and gold ceiling exudes a sense of drama that’s heightened by a petite red roller desk and a plaster hippo trophy. A collection of gold-tone accessories—“I went through a phase where I really loved brass,” she says of her design evolution—is echoed in the adjacent dining room’s bar cart and even in a set of butterflies ascending the wall.
The warm, layered rooms are well suited for gathering friends, and that’s what Lindsey enjoys most. “I feel like my home is a gift to be shared with others,” she says. “I’m lucky enough to own [it], and people can come here and feel cared for and welcome.” Between the laid-back vibe and the enthusiastic company, you can just about feel the house wrapping you up in that “big ol’ hug.”