A Decorator’s Home

Having lived in the same 1920’s Dutch Colonial home for 15 years, my husband, son Jack and I have decided to make a bold step and move to a new home. While I’ve been advising clients for decades on decorating their homes, I’ve never approached the design of my own home in the same way that I do our clients. In fact, we’ve often referred to my house as the “test lab” and, as a result, it’s always been a bit of a hodge podge of ideas. The house we’re moving to is rather a blank slate; it’s a new house, with a water view, and lots of windows. So many windows, in fact, that many of the case pieces and antiques that I have bought over the years will no longer have a wall to live on. I’ve collected some great old pieces, some fine antiques, and other vintage pieces that I found on the sidewalks of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn thirty years ago. They all have a great story to tell, and in an effort to organize ourselves for the new house, we’ve teamed up with Chairish to sell some of my favorite pieces (click here to shop the sale–new items being added through Thursday).  One of the most rewarding aspects of the interior design process is creating the design for a home all at once. It’s critical to the design intent and the overall cohesiveness of a home to design all of the rooms at the same time. In this way you have the benefit of considering how each piece, color, texture, and finish will relate to one another to create a seamless transition from one room to the next. This is how we approach all of our projects, and is one that I have never taken for myself (hence the hodge podge effect)! With all of this being said, when we found our new home, I wanted to start from scratch (re-upholstering and re-purposing where possible), treating my own home just as we do all of our clients’. Below, Mica Ertegun’s house on the Bosporus lets the water views take center stage while still incorporating color, pattern, and texture. I’ve always admired the work of Italian designer Renzo Mongiardino. One of the premier interior and set designers of some of the most elaborate homes in the world, Mongiardino was born in Genoa, Italy, where my paternal relatives are from. How his work will translate into the rooms of our home remains to be seen (!!), but at the very least, we hope to emulate his use of bold Indian textiles and playful proportion.  But back to real life..first things first: we begin with the furniture plans. This is such a personal process, and as with our clients, it’s most successful when we take the time to think about how we plan to live in each room. Will we be watching TV in the library? And if so, we should design an extra deep sofa that accommodates lots of lounging. Do we need a formal dining room? Or should we convert this space into a room that functions better for our daily needs?Next up: The design palette. Here’s where Lauren takes over and does her magic. She often finds one fantastic textile or rug that she falls in love with and then everything flows from there. The family/dining /kitchen area scheme in progress..I’ve always wanted a pink living room. A more subtle version of Nancy Lancaster’s Kelmarsh Hall will set the scene for the formal living area in my new house. Fabric for the formal living room and adjacent library.
Then: The pieces. The basis for all of our projects is well made, luxurious, sink-in-and never-get-up upholstered furniture. Designing the most comfortable, interestingly detailed upholstered pieces first, and then surrounding them with a collection of furniture pieces from different countries and periods that tell a story. This is the part I particularly love.  We love remembering how and where we found the treasures we surround ourselves with. It adds history to the home, even if it’s not an old house! And on an unrelated, but very important note, this photo of a ruffled skirt club chair in the home Renzo Mongiardino designed for Contess Brandolini is an image that is steeped in my mind…And the very talented Jeffrey Billhuber tried his version of it in this beautiful interior…Stay tuned for our own take on the ruffled skirt slipcovered chair (and lots more in the coming weeks)!

  • Erika L.

    Very happy to be reading your posts again! I’ve long been a fan of Renzo’s work, and T Magazine did a wonderfully informative piece on him last year. I do believe there is a small typo in your post as well as on instagram however – his name is Renzo Mongiardino, not Mongiardo! Thought I should point it out. Welcome back! 🙂

  • Jeannie

    I have a Colonial and love it. I would think it would be difficult trying to decide which favorite pieces of furniture to sell! But I can’t wait to see pics of the new home.