Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve been interested in interior design. I remember I had an older cousin who would bring me design magazines when I was just 7 years old, so I suppose my family was aware of my leanings even when I was that small. I can’t explain where it comes from, this love of design, it is just there and I suppose it always has been and always will be. When I was eight, my parents bought a lot and built a custom home on it. I was actively involved in the process and even got to help design my bedroom: I picked a lilac colored sink for my bathroom and a lilac accent wall for behind the beds. Back then, the most fun I could have was going to a furniture store with my mom. That was nirvana!
At that young age, I thought I wanted to be an architect and I endlessly drew floor plans of my dream home. I had seen a house in a magazine that a DuPont built somewhere in Delaware. It had a long center hall from which all the rooms flowed off of. That home captured my imagination for years and many of my drawings were variations on that scheme. Today, I still love center halls, though I’m not lucky enough to live with one. And today, my dream home is not so easily defined. I like too many different styles of architecture to be pinned down to just one. There’s the perfect French chateau where all the rooms are enfilade. Then there’s the Spanish mission style home with white stucco walls and black iron lighting fixtures. There’s the charming Cape Cod, with its shingled roof and dormer windows. And, the Texas Hill Country home with limestone walls and tin roof is a favorite. Or there’s the rambling English country home, with centuries of additions tacked on. How could one possibly pick a favorite?
Picking a favorite style of furniture is much easier. If it’s French and old, I’m in love. Well, I say that, but then I think of gorgeous antique Swedish furniture, all gray and splintered. And I adore the heavily carved Spanish furniture of old. The odd piece of oriental chinoiserie can turn a bland room into something special. And, there’s nothing cozier than a room filled with English furniture; its upholstered furniture covered in slips. I suppose what I really love is just great design.
I find it uncomfortable to be seated in an ugly room! It makes me nervous, my mind redesigns, remodels, edits. But, put me in a room that is truly beautiful and oh, what pleasure! Nothing surpasses that moment for me. My eye darts from place to place. It’s a rush of a feeling to be in a place that I find beautiful, I feel exhilarated and curious at the same time. Who designed this? Did the owner have help? Where do they shop? When was this purchased? Is this antique or reproduction? Whose fabric is this? Is this from France or Sweden? Gosh, I never knew that they had such great taste! I’m filled with interest and a certain feeling of desire: I want this! I want to live here!
What makes a room beautiful to me? First, there has to be a thought out placement of furniture. The chairs have to speak to the sofa. There has to be a balance to the room, one side shouldn’t be too heavily weighted without something attracting the eye on the other side. The paint should be fresh and clean, fingerprints should be washed off around the light switches and door handles. There shouldn’t be too much overhead lighting, if any at all. Rooms lit with lamps are so much more atmospheric and soothing. Sconces should be on, at all times – they add just that touch of romance. The floor covering should relate to the main seating group – there should be an area rug underneath if the floors are wood or tiled. And a seagrass rug is always a good choice, especially in more formal spaces. Fabrics should be natural, either cotton, linen or silk. The art work should be hung approximately at eye level and shouldn’t float above the sofa, it should relate to the space between the two. Mirrors are a great substitute for art work and the older the reflecting glass, the better. Shelves should be neat and balanced, not overly cluttered with endless picture frames and nick-naks. Drapes add so much beauty to a room, they should always be considered in a design. A simple vase of flowers is always nice, just as is a lit candle. The room should be casual enough to be inviting. Added together, these elements make a room beautiful, regardless of the style.
When I work with a client, sometimes it’s hard to not impose my personal likes on the design. I try to please the customer but many who hire me really don’t have a favorite style. My favorite clients are ones who know good design and just need me to help them facilitate the process. These are the dream jobs, what fun it is to shop together when you share a love of beauty! Recently, I had the pleasure to work with one such client. We both love antiques and we both love French furniture. As the installation was almost completed, the two of us were so happy! The room came together perfectly, exactly like we envisioned. I said, it’s so beautiful, I could cry. And I meant just that – it pleased my eye, the prettiness of the room, the color of the walls, the texture of the linen, the richness of the chintz, the smell of the new seagrass, the glint of the antique mirror, the curve of the chair legs, the glaze of the porcelain – it all worked together and its beauty made me want to cry.
A dining room in Belgium: gorgeous chandelier, marble floors, french chairs.
A bedroom in blue and white checks done by Kathryn Ireland of California.
One of my favorite dining rooms ever: Pam Pierce designs for a family in Houston. The skirt on the table is luscious.
Again, in Belgium. An open powder room in an entry. Strangely beautiful.
A living room by Michael Smith of California: I love the double sided drapes and the banquettes with the silk stripe.
Again by Pam Pierce: a little girl’s room in Houston. Gorgeous bedspreads and beautiful chandelier.
In Europe, a dining room inside the kitchen. The stove looks like a jewelry box in this beautiful room.