Thomson & Thomson: Old-Fashioned Technique Meets Modern Method

On a blazing summer day, a trio of Thomsons stand in a cluster, intently mulling the precise proposed placement of four family-heirloom framed sketches on a wall between the kitchen and living areas of a massive Nichols Hills project. Father, along with daughter and son squint, stand back, lean in, studying with the focus of a surgeon as they chat back and forth. “Dad, what do you think?” daughter Cody asks. “It’s looking good,” Cam replies, head thoughtfully cocked to the side, as son Ashford nods.

The placement of the sketches is a crucial detail because, in true Thomson & Thomson style, the sketches are a surprise for the homeowner. They were drawn by her father, and Ashford, Cody and Cam were given the man’s entire sketchbook, along with carte blanche as to sketch choice and placement. Spoiler alert: the client loved both.

Sure, every designer will tell you that details are important, but in the Thomsons’ world, attention to detail is literally in their DNA. “My father founded Interiors by Ron Thomson in 1955,” Cam says. When Cam went to work in the family business, the name changed to Thomson & Thomson, then he and his dad each worked independently of one another, and now it’s Cam, Cody and Ashford.

One could even say that Cody and Ashford are products of the family business. Cam met his wife Dencie in 1977, when she joined the firm as an intern. The pair married three years later, and as Cam half-jokingly says, “Dad was mad because I stole his intern.”  Soon, the couple added four more Thomsons to their brood, two of which attended Savannah College of Art & Design and entered the family business.

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“Together, we bring the old school and the new generation together,” Cam says. Ashford agrees, as does sister Cody. “We don’t even try to change him. He draws everything by hand and we scan it in,” she says. 

Cam works, like his father before him, at a drafting table, with pencils, drafting equipment and markers. Lots of markers, hundreds of colors, from bastions of artistic illustration like Prismacolor and Chartpak fill an entire wall in Cam’s studio space. “If there is a floorplan, I’ll start by laying out the scale of the floorplan. Scale is everything. You’ve got to get the space around the tables, the size of the furniture and all of that right. So I start there,” Cam says.

“Cam’s drawings will be accurate to the inch. It’s incredible,” Ashford says. “Once he’s got it drawn, he’ll hand it off to us and say ‘fill it with furniture.’”  The rendering is crucial to the process because it enables both client and designer to see the finished product, making it a tangible goal to work toward.  

The ability to present a client with a hand-drawn, beautiful rendering is a skill Cam inherited from Thomson & Thomson patriarch and founder, his father Ron. “Presentation is everything,” Cam says.

As the younger Thomsons identify furnishings and fixtures that will fit the vision of the space, Cam draws those into the room. In the case of the Nichols Hills home they’re working on, the client requested a monochromatic palette. She wanted a cozy, contemporary home, but also a setting that would allow her to showcase her top-notch art collection. Her kids are grown, so light colors were not something she was afraid of.

“We created a beautiful, white, airy setting that would allow her art to pop,” Cody said. “We used durable, dog-friendly fabrics on furnishings, added some built-ins in the study and changed a lot of the fixtures in the home.”

The three Thomsons, whose personal design styles are as different as they are, find it to be a natural fit to come together as a team. “We each sort of rebelled against going into the design business,” Cody says. She and Ashford each studied photography, not interior design. Their father majored in advertising design. But destiny called each of them and, one by one they joined the family trade. 

“My very first project was finishing up my grandfather’s very last project,” Cody says. Consider the circle complete.