Susan Sully
Book Speaker
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Susan Sully

Fee Range1: $ 2500 - $5000

Leading Authority on Southern Architecture


Arts/Culture/MusicLifestyleSpouse Programs


North Carolina


Susan Sully

Susan SullyLeading Authority on Southern Architecture

A leading authority on Southern architecture and design, Susan Sully is the author and photographer of many books published by Rizzoli International Publications, including Houses with Charm: Simple Southern Style; The Southern Cosmopolitan: Sophisticated Southern Style; The Southern Cottage: From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Florida Keys; New Orleans Style: Past and Present; Charleston Style: Past and Present; Savannah Style: Mystery and Manners; and Casa Florida: Spanish Style Houses from Winter Park to Coral Gables. Sully has also co-authored a series of monographs about leading Southern architects and interior designers including Bobby McAlpine, Ken Tate, Jim Strickland of Historical Concepts, Norman Askins, and Phoebe Howard. 

A graduate of Yale University with a degree in art history, Sully has contributed articles to The New York Times, Town & Country Travel, Veranda, Southern Accents, Martha Stewart Living, and other publications. Her books have been reviewed and excerpted in magazines including Veranda, Southern Accents, Architectural Digest, Town & Country, House Beautiful, and World of Interiors. Sully lectures frequently on the subject of Southern architecture and design at organizations including Sotheby’s Institute, the Smithsonian’s National Building Museum, garden clubs, antiques shows, and design centers. 

Sully also writes a blog on Southern architecture and design called She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, artist Thomas Sully.


Lecture Topics from Susan Sully


Houses with Charm: Simple Southern Style 

In Houses with Charm: Simple Southern Style, Sully takes her audience on a virtual tour through the properties featured in her newest book of the same title, inviting them to sit back and relax on porches and in the rooms of houses dating from the 18th– to the 21st century. The lecture explores two themes—the South’s Pure and Simple vernacular architecture and the Simple Elegance with which homeowners combine fine antiques with relaxed surroundings. Ranging from a Creole plantation house in Louisiana, a Greek Revival row house in Savannah, a neo-vernacular country house in Mississippi, and a “cottage Gothic” residence in Atlanta, the featured residences offer insights into the architectural history of the region. Integrating time-honored lessons of the past, a number of homes also incorporate contemporary design sensibilities. Many designed by the South’s leading architects and interior decorators, these houses reveal the inspired approach to tradition and gracious simplicity that define Southern charm.


The Southern Cosmopolitan: Sophisticated Southern Style (Past and Present) 

Drawn from the author’s book of the same title, this lecture offers an inspiring and educational look at the sophisticated tastes of Southerners from colonial times to the present. With houses chosen from the region’s most historic cities, including Charleston, Georgetown, and Natchez, as well as capitals of the New South such as Atlanta, it traces architectural styles and decorative trends spanning four centuries. While many of the featured houses are decorated in traditional styles with American and European antiques, others demonstrate the tastes of today’s top architects and interior designers. With examples of historic architecture, decoration, furnishings, and art combined with 20th– and 21st century approaches to design, the lecture offers a fascinating look at the enduring themes and surprising diversity of Southern style.



The Southern Cottage: From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Florida Keys 

Inspired by the author’s book of the same title, this lecture offers a charming and informative tour of country, coastal, and mountain houses throughout the South. Like the region’s major cities, these more remote locations—often historic summering destinations—have richly varied histories and architecture. From log cabins in the Virginia mountains to white clapboard coastal homes in South Carolina and cigar-maker’s cottages in Key West, each region’s houses reveal the diversity of Southern vernacular architecture. Mostly second homes, featured dwellings range from a Victorian mountain house filled with family antiques to a rustic pine beach cottage with a picnic table in the kitchen. Although they may look quite different, these cottages have in common an easy hospitality that welcomes family and friends to relax together in beautiful natural surroundings. Like a little vacation, this lecture offers an hour-long respite from the hectic demands of modern life.



Southern Style: Town and Country 

This popular lecture combines the images and themes of The Southern Cosmopolitan with The Southern Cottage to offer a lively and comprehensive look at Southern architecture and design. Juxtaposing city homes with weekend and seasonal retreats on nearby beaches and mountainsides, the lecture features delightfully varied approaches to architecture, decoration, and manners of living. In Savannah, a decadent Italianate townhouse contrasts with a tiny raised cottage on nearby Tybee Island, and in Charleston, the fine cypress paneling of a Georgian mansion offers elegant counterpoint to the pine plank walls of a barrier-island farmhouse. A virtual tour of the South’s most refined and relaxed houses, the lecture offers an engaging overview of the region’s social and architectural history.



Charleston Style: Architecture, Interiors, and Gardens 

This lecture brings together a collection of houses, rooms, and gardens documented during the author’s research for her first book, Charleston Style: Past and Present, and for her more recent publication, Charleston: Architecture and Interiors. An insider’s tour of many of the city’s most beautiful houses, rooms, and gardens, it provides an overview of Charleston’s architectural and decorative tastes from the 17th century to the present. The lectures includes the restored 1802 Federal style Nathaniel Russell House, the famous garden of Mrs. Emily Whaley, author of the best-selling Mrs. Whaley and her Charleston Garden, a quintessential Greek Revival single house South of Broad, and a modernist addition to a cotton warehouse-turned-residence.



Savannah Style: Architecture and Interiors (Past and Present) 

Arrayed amid Savannah’s romantic streetscape of oak-shaded boulevards and beautiful squares, the houses featured in this lecture represent styles dating from the 18th- to the 21st century. Stately Regency houses including the famed Owens-Thomas House, riverside dwellings with walls of cobblestone and handmade brick, and Italianate and Greek Revival townhouses with bold details and gracious rooms show the many facets of Savannah style. Including architecture and interiors characterized by Old World elegance, romantic decadence, and Southern eccentricity, this lecture is both entertaining and informative.



New Orleans Style: Architecture and Interiors (Past and Present) 

The best way to travel to an exotic destination without leaving the United States is to go to New Orleans. Several cultural strands interweave to form the city’s unique architecture and design ethos, primarily Spanish, French, West Indian or Creole, and American styles including the Federal, Italianate, Greek and Romanesque Revivals. Featuring one of the oldest townhouses in the French Quarter, several Creole cottages, and elegant Garden District homes, this lecture celebrates the city’s rich architectural history. The homes of many of the city’s top interior designers are also featured, offering a glimpse into the continuing evolution of New Orleans style.



Casa Florida: Mediterranean-Style Architecture and Interiors 

With examples of houses in Winter Park, Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Palm Beach, and St. Petersburg, this lecture celebrates the whimsy and romance of Florida’s Mediterranean-style architecture. With linen-fold paneling, antique tile floors, and coffered ceilings, the Palm Beach house of Addison Mizner, widely credited with the style’s invention, provides a glimpse into its imaginative origins. Constructed entirely (but not obviously) of concrete, the Coconut Grove home of Victor de Garma, one of Miami’s most influential Spanish-style architects, demonstrates an inventive early-20th century approach to the style. Restored and richly furnished with antiques, Cielito Lindo, originally the winter home of Jessie Woolworth Donahue, is a quintessential example of the Mediterranean Revival’s Moorish influence. Throughout the lecture, images of mosaic floors, majestic arches, antique tapestries, and bougainvillea-filled courtyards celebrate the beauty and mystery of these houses.



Charleston and Savannah: So Close and Yet So Far Away 

Although located little more than 100 miles apart, these Southern cities are surprisingly different, not only in style, but also personality. For example, Savannah is arranged in an orderly grid of streets and squares based on Oglethorpe’s 1733 design while Charleston’s older cityscape is filled with meandering streets and alleys “South of Broad.” In this original part of the city, many of the dwellings predate 1700 while most of Savannah’s houses date from the late 18th– and 19th centuries. In Charleston, the single house is a popular form—a one-room deep house that turns its short end to the street and faces a side garden with a long, two-story porch. In Savannah, closely spaced or attached townhouses with small back gardens line many of the streets. Inside these dwellings, Savannah’s more opulent and even decadent and eccentric tastes contrast with Charleston often more restrained approach to décor. With glimpses into a dozen houses, this lecture offers fascinating insights into these sister cities.



Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans: Elegance, Eclecticism, and Eccentricity 

This lecture examines the similarities and differences among the architecture and design of three of the South’s most historic cities. While Charleston is the most English in style and character, New Orleans reveals the influence of France, Spain, and the Caribbean, and Savannah can best be described as American, with its mix of Southern and Northeastern styles. From Charleston’s Georgian mansions, New Orleans’ Creole townhouses and cottages, and Savannah’s Boston-inspired Romanesque Revival houses, the featured dwellings offer lessons not only in style, but also in history. Revealing different design preferences from wall-coverings and color schemes to furniture and household accoutrements, the interiors of each city’s houses also reflect their distinct cultural histories. With behind-closed-doors tours of many of the South’s finest and most intriguing houses, this lecture celebrates the rich diversity of Southern style.





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