Tribute to Charles Faudree

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Tribute to Charles Faudree
Master of French Country Design

BY M. J. VAN DEVENTER

The world of interior design lost one of its greatest talents, native Oklahoman, Charles Hamlet Faudree, on Thanksgiving Eve, 2013. But his death, at age 75, has not stilled his legend as the premier American trendsetter of French Country interior design.

I met Charles when I was 6 years old; he was 8. We lived two doors apart in a modest neighborhood in Muskogee. Early in our childhood friendship, he announced: “When I grow up, I want to be so famous someone writes a book about me.”

I quickly replied, “Oh, Charles. That will be me. I’m going to be a writer.”

Charles always wished I wouldn’t share this story about us, especially when I was giving talks about his 35-year career as the leading interior designer for this detailed style he adored. But our youthful pact came true, more than half a century later.

Our first of three books written together debuted in 2003 – Charles Faudree’s Signature. We both had book signings all over the country. That first book is now in its ninth printing.

I cherish my autographed copies and thank you notes from Charles. He co-authored six French Country design books; one featured floral design and interiors. Flowers were always his favorite design accessory.

I treasure most our enduring friendship. I’ve known him longer than any of his clients. While I was attending the University of Missouri, I would meet Charles in Kansas City, where he was teaching, and we would ride home together to Muskogee for holidays. We always talked about decorating and interior design.

His mother’s encouragement opened the door to his design career. Ruby Faudree let Charles paint the family front door a different color every year. From age 10, Charles played with a rainbow of vivid colors.

“I got that out of my system early on,” he recalled in one of our many interviews. “Now I much prefer black.”

Throughout his career, he believed, “The first impression of a home begins with the front door.”

I’ve often wondered where Charles’ career path might have led him, had his mother not been so encouraging and gently indulgent about his youthful bold colors on their front door.

As his design career grew, he said, “If the exterior of a house entices, the interior must enthrall.”

One of his clients, Linda James, embellished his front door philosophy.

“When you open your home to others, in a sense you open your heart,” she said.

Our career paths crossed often, especially after he returned from a retail career in Dallas to Muskogee in 1977. He opened his first interior design/antiques studio in his hometown. His sister, Francie Faudree Gillman, was his first client. He moved his antique shop and design studio to Tulsa in 1979.

The late Nancy Ingram, editor of Oklahoma Home & Lifestyle magazine, discovered Charles and sent me to interview him about the new kitchen in one of his first homes. It was the beginning of many interviews with Charles, even after I became OH&G’s editor.
Ann Maine, TH editor, wrote in our first book foreword: “Charles has a wonderful way with a room. He infuses a space with freshness and vitality, making it elegant and inviting – but most of all, personal. Every one of his houses is uniquely his, replete with his prodigious collections, spilling over with comfort and exuding a sense of having lived there forever. We know whenever we feature a house Charles has designed, we will receive many gleeful letters of thanks from our readers. To say that Charles is a favorite of Traditional Home is a huge understatement.”

Always ready for new design adventures, Charles moved to new homes often. He loved design challenges and each new home, whatever the style of the façade, offered a fresh opportunity for experimenting with his basic design philosophy: It’s all in the mix, not the match.”

He expressed that philosophy by mixing the past with the present, blending old and new and, in later years, melding accents from other countries, especially France, London, Spain, Sweden and Asia.

Those travel experiences gave his design style an international flair and, in later years, expanded his design vocabulary to include upscale contemporary themes, blended with his more traditional Country French style.

He also believed in design symmetry. He thought in pairs -“dynamic duos” – and encouraged his clients to do likewise. A fireplace mantel, handsome entry credenza or eye-catching table was usually anchored with a painting or large mirror, flanked on either side with an elegant pair of candelabra, sconces, antique vases or small paintings. In his design lexicon, every room needed one distinctive, pivotal piece of furniture.

Such a piece was often the springboard for the design theme or color palette for that room.

Charles often visited Oklahoma City antiques dealer Jody Kerr, finding delight in her repertoire of heirloom furnishings and accessories to complement his designs.

“He had so much talent and such a knack for design,” she said. “His rooms make you feel so welcome. I’m a devotee of Charles’ philosophy that too much is never enough. He taught us about beauty through his designs. His work is spectacular and enduring.”

“If you find something you love, buy it. Nothing else matters,” Charles often told his clients.

Of all of his design credos, it was his passion for details that set his work apart and above that of many other contemporary designers.

“Details may seem like a small subject,” he noted in his fifth book. “Details are the most important part of decorating. People’s lives are expressed by little details. The details of a room create its identity. Details give a room its soul.”

Learning of Charles’ death in a Thanksgiving Day e-mail from me, Michael Diver, managing editor of Traditional Home magazine, posted this message on Facebook: “In our business, when you encounter elegant yet inviting decorating that’s created by a designer with an infectious, quotable personally, you have truly struck gold.”

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