Southern Lady Magazine

Meet Designer Anita Rankin

With a philosophy of practicality and an eye for mixing pieces, longtime designer Anita Rankin fashions spaces for clients to love—and live in.

Well-designed interiors start with visions of delicious fabrics, exquisite antiques, original art, fine furniture, and if you’re Anita Rankin, homeowners kicking off their shoes and fully enjoying every inch of their redesigned home. “It’s my responsibility to help clients create the house or the room that they want to live in,” says Anita. And by “live,” she truly means live.

The idea is no more evident than in Anita’s own home in Fairhope, Alabama, where she thinks nothing of walking over the antique rugs on her bathroom floor, stacking dishes in a grand armoire, and serving meals in her “formal” dining room for ordinary occasions. “I live all over it,” says the 30-year veteran designer, who simply doesn’t believe in rooms or furnishings that aren’t enjoyed everyday and by everyone. “My grandchildren, my dog, and my granddog live on every piece of furniture in this house,” she promises.

Anita says the key to giving her clients a well-loved—and well-lived-in—house is understanding their personalities and lifestyles. Take the dining room, for example. “If you’re not going to use it because it’s formal, don’t do it formal,” she says, recalling a client who said she couldn’t wait to have Christmas dinner in her “incredible” new dining room. Anita gasped, “Christmas dinner?! What about tonight?”

Because of her philosophy and her passion for entertaining, Anita designed her own dining room to be versatile; the elegant but laid-back setting suits both quiet evening meals and grand dinner parties. She chose a table that expands to seat from six to 16 and surrounded it in chic mix-and-match chairs that not only help keep the mood relaxed, but also add visual richness. “One of the hardest things with a dining room is to get enough color, texture, and interest because it’s mostly wood,” she says. Her three coordinating chair sets—wood, fabric, and wood-and-fabric—solve the problem by bringing a measure of each to the table.

While Anita strives to make beautiful rooms functional, she places equal importance on making mostly functional rooms, such as the bathroom and kitchen, beautiful.

“I really love to do powder rooms up big,” she says, describing her mother’s antique chairs that sit near the tub and the large painting displayed above them. She also treats the kitchen as if it were any other room. A chandelier hangs above the island, curtains line the cabinet doors, and an armoire, not a cupboard, holds Anita’s fine china. “You spend a lot of time in your kitchen and your bathroom,” she points out. “Why not put beautiful things in there?” Such practical thinking and a relentless pursuit of both function and beauty are what define Anita’s signature style, allowing her to deliver striking houses that her clients can, indeed, call home.