Antiques & Garden Show brings annual inspiration to advisory board member Sarah Barholomew

By Hollie Deese
Photography by Caleb McLaughlin

For the last decade, designer Sarah Bartholomew and her husband, Bo, have been putting their stamp on their Green Hills-area home, having outgrown their previous space after having four children. And while that stamp is curated and lovely, it only works because they don’t take style as seriously as they do function.

“This is the house that keeps on giving, and it really does work well for family,” she says. “We have a big room where we can all gather and watch a movie or watch the game or sit by the fire and read. We have a kitchen that fits everybody where we can have dinner.”

Color and pattern take center stage, but not in an overwhelming way.

“I really like an edited look,” she says. “I like things clean and crisp and fresh. So it’s walking that line between a layered, ‘granny chic’ look, and a more clean, fresh aesthetic. And that is the line that I walk, and that’s where I find my style is most defined — in that middle area.”

Her husband has an opinion on how it all looks, too, but he’s happy to leave the bulk of the design decisions to her — as long as they can always have an open-door policy for entertaining family and friends.

“He’s a big extrovert and loves to have people in the house,” she says. “And we live in every ounce of this house. We have dogs, kids, and we want it to be that way. And while I love beautiful things, nothing is precious me. Life is for living.”

Bartholomew has always had a love for prints. When she was in middle school, she was allowed to decorate her own room — and immediately had opinions.

“I remember picking out a Laura Ashley print called Rainbow Berry, and it was blue and green pattern for my bedding and a wicker headboard. And I’ve always loved the same — the color palette, the materials. And I’ve really built off of that love over the years with the things that I’ve collected.”

Those collections include blue-and-white porcelain Tori Shelton English quill boxes, art and anything wicker. “So you’ll find baskets everywhere,” she says.

You can get a feel for her style up close and personal at her Green Hills shop SB — or by shopping her line for Pottery Barn — but it is in her own home where she really puts into practice her love of standout prints. The subtle shades create a calming visual interest among the chaos that naturally comes from having four teenagers at home.

“My kids have been raised to appreciate fine things, and so they take a lot of pride in their personal spaces,” she says. “So while they may not necessarily have fine art collections at this point in time, you’ll come in and they’ll have a candle burning. They’ll have it cleaned up and they’ll have a little flower by their bed. They love to just make things nice. And I think that’s the beauty of living.”

A longtime lover of the Antiques & Garden Show, as well as supporter, former chair and current advisory board member, Bartholomew considers it one of the premier shows in the country, especially considering it is run by volunteers.

“We are right there on par with all the top shows, and many of them have production companies that are running it,” she says. “I’m so impressed with our city. Having a city where volunteers can pull together and do great things that are recognized on a national level is really exciting. And it really brings a ton of visitors. My design friends from all over the country come to town for the show.”

Benefitting Cheekwood and the ECON Club, Bartholomew has found great joy investing in the show over the years, making it a priority despite her limited time.

“As a working mom, I don’t get to volunteer with a lot of things. But this is something I’ve chosen to stay involved with and continue to devote my time to. I love it,” she says.

When she sees the impressive garden features and landscaped designs every year, she can’t help but connect back to her childhood, digging in the garden with her mom.

“It can be just a smell that brings back a memory or even just putting your hands in that dirt,” she says. “She was from California where it was just so easy to have a garden. We had roses and so many beautiful varieties of flowers that are native to that area. She taught me all of them, and now I teach my kids.”

The Antiques & Garden Show is Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, 2020, at Music City Center.