Southern Lady Magazine

Designer Sally May Uses Classical Elements to Create Timeless Style

For interior designer Sally May of Birmingham, good design is a marathon—not a sprint. “Contrary to today’s reality home-makeover shows, good design does not happen overnight or on a dime,” she says. It was this “long-view” approach that Sally took when transforming the house she shares with her husband and two boys into a warm and inviting home.

“The classic structure of the house was a good starting point when we bought it,” Sally says of the 20-year-old building, “but there wasn’t anything custom or unique about the house itself. My goal was to stamp my personal style on it.” With its lovely mix of collected pieces and heirlooms, the home is decidedly elegant, but it retains an approachable, livable quality for the family. A wash of soft creams and browns color the main living spaces, while hints of cool blues and greens punctuate the rooms with subtle style.

“While I enjoy the opportunity to work in a wide range of aesthetics, my personal style has always been a classic, traditional look,” Sally says of her home’s furnishings. “Mixing in a few edgy elements is important to add interest, but I gravitate toward timeless, understated spaces as a matter of preference.”


Expert Advice from Sally May:

Opting for quality over quantity is an ongoing theme in my work. I encourage clients to stay within their financial means, yet strive for beauty that comes with quality. That often means being willing to wait to get the desired end result. Embracing the belief that good design happens slowly, many of my clients have invited me to partner with them over the years. It’s rewarding to watch their homes and their families evolve. When the next generation of a family calls me, I’m energized to start the next project. An invitation into one’s home or work space is an invitation to share in another’s life—and therein is the reward of my labor.


“Renovating the kitchen has been the most rewarding aspect of our house evolution,” says Sally. “Like most homes, our kitchen is the place where real life unfolds. It’s also been the place where we prop against the island with children and friends to watch relationships to deepen.”


“Appreciation for beautiful spaces has long been a hallmark of life in the South. While we may present a wide range of styles, we share an appreciation for beauty,” says Sally of the defining features of a Southern home.

 Sally’s home was among the beautifully decorated interiors featured in our Southern Home special issue. Find more on her home and what other iconic designers in the region believe defines a Southern home on newsstands or through our online store.