Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gordon Stringer, Friend, Designer, R.I.P.

He said, "It needs something yellow down there." Then he proved it.

Earl Gordon Stringer, Jr., 1938 - 2013, died a couple of weeks ago. Do you mind a few random memories? After 25 years we have so many. If you have memories, I hope you'll share them in the comments.

Gordon didn't like his picture taken but we have a few. We even have Gordon in time-lapse action at the bottom of this blog post.

Gordon hung every picture in our house, picked every color, every fabric, nearly every piece of furniture. He arranged. And when he thought we needed it, he re-arranged. As much as anyone he was and still is in our house. We had some greats times in the process.

If Gordon wasn't sitting down, he was probably moving things around.

Over time we thought of Gordon as the designer in the family, our colorful uncle.  He saw our children grow up. He knew us. He knew when to push and when to back off. And he really knew how to return a favor.

He was my favorite architecture tourist companion. He knew great potential, great houses, great landscapes, and great details all over Atlanta. Here's how it often went: He'd say, "You need to do this to your sidewalk." We'd think, "That's crazy." Then he'd take us to see what he was talking about. We'd say, "Why did we doubt you?"

Gordon's talent and experience demonstrated the value of designers: For the same money you can have a space that sucks or a space that delights you every day. Gordon could "see" potential, "see" outcomes, and he knew how to make it happen.

Gordon worked by the hour, handshake deals, no contracts, word of mouth marketing, many long-term clients. Wise realtors gave him a bonus when a house sold. No days off, no vacations. He loved to do it.

But even Gordon tired out once in a while. He certainly enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation, a meal, a movie after the work was done.

All Gordon's friends knew "Gordon Time." Gordon was perfectly predictable if not perfectly punctual. He liked to finish with you before the next appointment.

Another "Gordon Time" meant unexpected visits; but after a while you expected unexpected visits. We'd spot him from the window and announce, "Gordon's here."

The third "Gordon Time" involved extended evenings. He enjoyed winding down his evenings with folks he knew. Sometimes it dragged on but he was good company. Finally he'd say, We'll I'd better get our of your way."

Everybody has Gordon stories. One of  my favorites and I don't know where it came from was something like: "If Gordon had a good agent/manager, he'd have been a millionaire." I believe that's true.

But measured in terms of doing what he enjoyed and in the delightful places he designed for clients and friends, he was a rich man.


Gordon took great delight in using what you had. Moving stuff, composing on the fly was one of Gordon's fortes. It was a sight to behold and it got instant results.

He wouldn't stop until he'd done the very best with the material at hand. He'd raid other rooms looking for "material at hand." On the next visit he might have a lamp, a pillow, or a throw that pulled it together.

This was June 3, 2012 our last project with him. Gordon had already perfected our green "jungle" office. In June he was determined to make it better.

All who knew Gordon learned what "epic" means. Gordon could - and did - work ordinary folks into physical, mental, and exasperation-al exhaustion. 

For example: We put our house on the Morningside Tour in 1990. JoAnn and I had no idea, no idea at all. Gordon got our house ready, keeping us all going until 4am. He went over every inch of the house, adjusting things by inches.


We met Gordon in 1988. We asked Crythis Bristow (a leading real estate agent in our neighborhood) if she knew anyone who'd advise us on remodeling or moving so we'd have room for our child #3. Gordon was Crythis's not so secret weapon: Gordon staged houses long before there were TV shows about it.

Gordon's advice about his staging: "Get Ready to Move."


We'd need a trilogy to tell it, but that started our 25 year friendship / relationship.

Gordon was 50 then. However talented he was, he already had 30+ years of experience.

Design is so personal that you end up inviting the designer for holiday meals.

On that thanksgiving dinner Gordon ate at a table he'd picked out for us 20 years before. It's our laundry room table. We move it to the big room, unfold it and have a table for 8. We had no idea, but Gordon had been at it for decades.

We even put him in the family picture.


Your designer is more intimate than your doctor. A doctor see's you naked, but he doesn't look in your messy closets.

It's not getting into an argument WITH the designer, it's getting into an argument IN FRONT of the designer.

Once you develop a relationship with a designer, you stick with him. That was certainly true with Gordon. When clients transferred to other cities, they'd fly Gordon out to pick their house.


See these bookcases with ovals? Gordon always had his eye out for you. He spotting these while shopping for other clients. They were cheap, beautiful, and met a practical need. He called, we bought. Why would we doubt him? This was a great day.

I'm wearing you out with Gordon so just one more.

Color was Gordon's thing. He was an Olympic level athlete with paint chips. On this day Gordon was picking out exterior colors with JoAnn. After all we WERE going to repaint one day. And this was pure pleasure for Gordon, and even more fun with the stone to consider and the trim, shutters and mullions.

Cabin Fever 4B 1540

Jackson Tan HC-46

River Gorge Gray 2B 15

Sharkskin 2139-30
Durango 2137-30

Norwich Brown HC-19

Amazon Green 2136-30

Warm Tan 2162-30

Dark Olive 2140-30

Glocester Sage HC-100

Cromwell Gray HC-103

Crownville Gray HC-106

Charleston Brown ext rm

The next step will be to narrow down and test.

But Gordon won't be here to see how beautiful.

Gordon in time-lapse action.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about Gordon. You were lucky to have him in your life to give you such good design and style. He showed you a better way - how to live right!

  2. What a wonderful tribute and thanks for the peek into a designer's life. So sorry for your loss.

  3. So very sorry to read about his passing. I'm sure he'll be missed by many whose life he touched.

  4. Gordon Stringer, what a wonderful man. I meet him nearly 25 years ago as well, yet by accident while shopping. I have such fond memories of eating pizza at Camille's in Virginia Highlands, and talking about basically everything. Thank you for sharing!!


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