The stately Southern Federal-style estate designed by Ann Shipp of R. Higgins Interiors for a Christian music songwriter and an English Literature major at nearby Vanderbilt University, appears on the book’s cover — that’s the entryway’s beautiful yellow Chinoiserie wallpaper behind Witherspoon — and pops up throughout her new memoir-meets-guidebook.
PEOPLE checked in with the interior designer of the circa-1850 brick home to learn more about the decor that drew in the actress, producer and lifestyle guru.
“We were thrilled as we know what a jewel this house is,” Shipp says of the moment she learned that Witherspoon’s team had reached out to her clients about doing a photo shoot in the house. But, she says, they didn’t realize just how front-and-center the home would be. “We were stunned when we saw the cover and realized the house was featured so prominently.”
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The entryway’s standout wallpaper is by Gracie Studio, a 120-year-old American company that specializes in hand-painted floral wall coverings. “It was installed by the previous owner in the 1970s during a renovation,” Shipp says. “We really loved it, however, it was a very vibrant yellow, so we had the paper glazed to tone down the color a bit. The result was transformative.”
The house’s style is a blend of formal (there are lots of English antiques and family heirlooms) and approachable. “No finishes [are] too precious or fine for children, dogs, family and friends,” says the designer.
Those guidelines align with what Witherspoon says her grandmother Dorothea told her about Southern women: “We may be delicate and ornamental on the outside . . . but inside we’re strong and fiery,” she writes in the book.
In addition to the bright entry, a kids’ bedroom with built-in bed nooks and a rustic sitting room filled with instruments are also featured in the book, in a chapter on decorating titled “Wicker & Wallpaper,” and another called “Bluegrass Forever,” respectively.
The property, which also includes a cabin the owners use as a writing and music studio, is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s far from stuffy.
“They have turned it into a lively family home instead of a museum,” says Shipp. “The mix of finishes, the ease of style, the immediate embrace that happens when you come in the door — it’s the hospitality that the South is known for.”