The Traditionalist

Blake Scarbrough’s ministry of design

Photography by Penny & Finn

Blake Scarbrough is a man of many pursuits: professional decorator, floral designer, Christmas-decor installations expert, and rescuer of unfortunate felines, to name a few. In fact, he’s so busy that it took about two months just to squeeze in some time for this interview. That Blake has accomplished great success over the years is both a testament to his skill as a designer, and his commitment to Lakeland and the relationships he has built here.

Blake considers most of his clients like family. When I asked about the client/designer relationship, he said that one day a very dear client looked him square in the eye after a consultation and said, “This is your ministry, isn’t it?” And it really is.

With his gift for making people feel at home right away, Blake’s love for his calling shines through every word of conversation. Humble, approachable, but with a keen eye for texture, pattern, and color, he has woven his own little cottage into a tapestry of aesthetic delight.

I knew we would be great friends the moment I walked through his front door. Our living-room walls are the exact same color. The fez-wearing Swiss mountain goat on the far wall sealed the deal. His place feels like steppinginto the home of a very elegant English granny who expatriated to the South. The high-low mix is carried throughout. There are family pets all around. Octavia, his darling black kitty, meanders across surfaces filled with Staffordshire porcelain and artifacts from Blake’s travels. Two Boston terriers, Mr. French and Mr. Pickles, and a beagle, Tate, curl up on sofas and chairs — masters of their domain. The Ikea kitchen is full of old-fashioned charm (no upper cabinets) with a couple of stools gleaned from the remodel of the old Polk science buildings at Florida Southern College. The back entry is a nod to the home’s past, with original woodwork peeking through as a reminder of what once was. Blake’s little bungalow is elegant, cozy, quirky, and approachable — a delightful place to be.

Q&A: BLAKE SCARBROUGH’S THOUGHTS ON ALL THINGS DESIGN

How did you end up in Lakeland?

My family moved from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Lakeland when I was thirteen. My father was a geologist, and his business was here. I loved Florida instantly.

Why did you choose to stay here?

I’ve always loved Lakeland. I have so many good friends here, and it has been a nice place to call home. I think Lakeland is a pretty town with so much to offer, and it’s so easy to live here. Sunshine does a lot!Whose work has influenced you most?I’ve loved design as long as I can remember. The designers I most admire are Sister Parish, Albert Hadley, and Billy Baldwin. I grew up with their styles and they’ve been a huge influence in my taste level. I love anything that’s old and has a story to tell. My personal style is organized clutter — I love
beautiful things and I love them to be around me. I hate decorated rooms. Rooms must be lived in! We read newspapers and magazines. We have animals and children. Yes, things need to be pretty, but they also need to be functional.

What’s your favorite part of the creative process?

Working with clients and figuring out what they want. I put my heart and soul into a project, but at the end of the day the client has to live in the room. I’ve always felt that the home should be a reflection of the owner, not the decorator.

How have your clients influenced you along the way?

I often say that my clients have trained me. I started out in my twenties, decorating homes for Christmas, and I still do it. It has been an important part of my business and remains a special part of my business to this day. I’m still with the same families I started out with.

Was there an “A ha!” moment for you when you realized this was something you wanted to do for a living?

I’ve always known! My favorite Childcraft book was the one about the house. I never wanted to build the house. I wanted to make it pretty.

Describe the way you work best.

I like a collaborative effort. The client’s ideas are the most important and key to the outcome of the project being a success.

You mentioned that you decorate homes for Christmas. We also heard that you do flowers for special events. How does that work? How can we get you to come to our homes?

Yes, I still decorate homes for Christmas. That portion of my business has really exploded. I now have a crew of six, and we begin decorating in November. I will never say no, but if you call me in November it’s too late! I usually start booking in late summer and by October 1 everything is scheduled. I love doing the flowers and have done a few weddings for clients. I’m always available to do flowers — just call me.

What would be your dream project?

The White House!

BLAKE SCARBROUGH
WBS Interiors
2112 S. Florida Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33803
(863) 205-6738