Southern Living

By Lauren Smith Ford
Work Style

Although this post is a part of our Office Style series, it could just as easily have been featured as one of our Dream Job posts because who doesn’t fantasize about working in a place next door to a test kitchen cooking up the most delectable Southern-inspired dishes, or an office stocked with a prop closet full of more tabletop than you could ever imagine? And, what better way to end your week than with the latest bourbon concoction from the test kitchen wheeled around the office on a bar cart? We found all of this and more at the stylish Birmingham, Alabama headquarters of Southern Living, as their style team and the dapper editor-in-chief himself take us on a tour around the office.

photos by Spindle Photography

Southern Living’s editor-in-chief Sid Evans, style editor Stephanie Granada and assistant fashion editor Ashley Riddle Williams at their headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama.

How do you describe your signature style?
It might not seem apparent, but I value comfort above all else. There’s too much to do on any given day to fuss with ill-fitting clothes, uncomfortable fabrics, or impossible-to-walk-in shoes. I’m usually in any combination of skinny jeans and a top or jacket with an interesting cut, or a drapey dress and boots.

What are your wardrobe staples for work?     Tory Burch wide-leg jeans, Theory fitted blazer, and a Claridge & King button-down.


What is your typical workday like?
Check email and skim favorite sites. Then it’s any combination of doing market work for an upcoming fashion or beauty shoot, working with writers, meeting with Southern designers and tastemakers, or hitting the road to attend an event or report on some great Southern town. We recently started doing video, and that’s been a really fun addition to the daily lineup of to-dos.


Who/what inspires your style?
Traveling. I find myself coming back to work in more bohemian clothes after a trip to New Orleans; returning from D.C. in crisp, tailored pieces; and wanting to wear nothing but cute little dresses and jackets in Charleston.

Three items you can’t live without for this fall?
Slouchy sweater, over-the-knee boots, thick tights for layering—I’m from Florida, anything below 60 is torture.

What have been your  best moments in your time working for Southern Living?
There have been so many. Taking the style section monthly and seeing the success of our March and September flip books and Most Stylish Southerners list were definitely big moments. Getting to know the people and places in towns like New Orleans, Charleston, and Lewisburg, West Virginia. Interviewing Billy Reid, Lela Rose, and Amy Smilovic of Tibi during New York Fashion Week.

Clippings of Southern Living fashion editorials from the 1960s in Style Editor, Stephanie Granada’s office. “We have been digging into the SL archives for upcoming projects. It’s amazing to see the glam photo shoots and old sewing patterns we used to feature in the 1960s. Not many people know Southern Living’s history covering fashion.”

A few of Stephanie’s favorite things? Traveling through the South, Birmingham music and her hometown of Miami.

A peak inside SL’s extensive prop closet.

What are your favorite community spaces in the office?
A central spot in our building we call the atrium. It’s a space where the indoors and outdoors meet with lush greenery and giant glass doors that give a great view to an outdoor courtyard. It even has a little creek that runs right through the middle. 


What are your favorite office traditions at the SL headquarters?
The Friday afternoon cocktail cart. It’s a tradition that comes and goes in direct correlation with the crazy schedules of our food team. But it is one of my favorites. I’m always so eager to try our test kitchen’s latest bourbon concoction. 


How do you describe your signature style?
Fashion-forward, but not trendy. I like to wear classic silhouettes that have edgy, unexpected details.


What are your wardrobe staples for work?
I can’t live without my ankle cropped black Zara jeans, or Joie ivory silk T-shirt. They go with everything.

Who/what inspires your style?
I’m constantly looking to Olivia Palermo for fashion inspiration. If I could have her wardrobe, my life would be complete.

Where are your favorite places to shop?
I’m definitely an online shopper and I love to get high-quality clothing at a discounted price. Every day at 12 p.m. on the dot, I have to stop what I’m doing and take 10 minutes to check out the day’s sales on Gilt Group. Since they came along, I don’t think I’ve paid full-price for any of my favorite designers.

Three items you can’t live without for this fall?  My Paige denim wide-leg jeans, a pair of blue suede peep-toe shooties, and my favorite gold cuff. 

From vintage photographs to fabric swatches to items on her wardrobe wish list, Ashley always keeps an abundance of inspiration in sight.

“Being surrounded by beautiful images inspires so much creativity in me. They can be anything from photos of organic-feeling flower arrangements to colorful and eclectic rooms,” she says. “My affinity for illustrated book covers makes an appearance on my inspiration board with my favorite versions of The Great Gatsby, and Emma. The fun-loving portrait Vate Blanchett is just a page I ripped from a Vogue calendar a few years ago, but I love it so much that I refuse to part ways with it.”

What is your typical work day like?
Check emails and digital traffic reports at 6 or 6:30 a.m. Get to work early to catch up on reading, reviewing pages and photos, and responding to more emails. Spend most of the day in meetings with edit staff and on conference calls. Sneak down to the test kitchen for a bowl of chili, a piece of pie, or whatever I can scavenge. Try to talk to at least one great writer. 

What are your favorite office traditions at the SL headquarters?                                               The annual white cake tasting for our December issue cover (out on November 14). We start in June and go through a lot of different versions—the winner has to look as good as it tastes. This year, you can even order the cake by mail. 


How do you describe your signature style?
I like clothes that are practical and classic. Sid Mashburn and Billy Reid do a great job at making men’s pieces that feel good and look good without trying too hard. When shopping I look for quality materials, tailored cuts, and items that I can wear time and again.

What are your favorite places to shop? 
Sid Mashburn in Atlanta. Billy Reid in Charleston and Nashville. Shaia’s in Birmingham.

What are your wardrobe staples for work?  Khakis, button down shirt, the occasional tie. 

Who/what inspires your style? 
Southern writers. 

Three items you can’t live without for this fall? 
A great pair of denim, a comfortable flannel shirt that fits well, and some corduroy pants in a color like olive green.