An ELLE DECOR Editor Takes Us Inside Her Joyful (and Pattern-Filled!) Family Home
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Buying a house is like dating: When you find the right one, things will fall into place, and it usually happens when you least expect it. For my husband, Scott, and me, that house took the form of a 1950s-era brick ranch house. We envisioned it as a place of weekend escape from our busy work lives in New York City. We were newly married with no kids (yet), and we were full of excitement and possibilities. Of course—having worked at interior design magazines my entire career and having a firsthand look at the most exquisite living spaces in the world—I was eager to finally try out interior decorating for myself.
Needless to say, we were in the dark—at times literally. We spent our first night without light because we didn’t consider the fixtures the home had. Then there was the time the heat didn’t turn on and we slept through the night in 40 degrees thinking that the burner must be broken, only to learn from the heating company that we were out of oil and why didn’t we call them immediately? As my husband and I talked about our budget, it became clear that we would need to do the house in stages and live happily with folding tailgating chairs as an excuse for living room furniture longer than we thought. Thankfully, the previous owners had left some beautiful blue-and-white curtains by Kravet, so we had some semblance of ambience.
Mishaps aside, the first challenge was to figure out how to use the living spaces. Our house had three and followed an odd railroaded floor plan where one space flowed directly into another. The first one had a sloped wooden ceiling, which felt befitting of a cozy TV room. I ditched the tailgating chairs in favor of a David Easton sofa from Kravet, a small antique desk and chair for writing letters, and a lounge chair and ottoman upholstered in a Hill Brown fabric.
The larger of the three rooms, complete with a beautiful working fireplace, felt perfect for a more formal living room. Luckily, thanks to those blue-and-white Kravet curtains, I was able to stick to my favorite color scheme and reupholstered two antique bergères in a Manuel Canovas Bagatelle fabric with a coordinated houndstooth pattern for the back. To break up the combined spaces, I went with a circular table and Indian bone inlay chairs by Made Goods for the dining area. But my favorite pieces arrived via truck from my alma mater state, North Carolina: antiques from grandmother. I have always been very close to my grandparents and having their furniture surround us felt particularly comforting. My grandmother’s accompanying handwritten note listing where every piece was from made it even more special.
For years, we lived with only half of our house done, but once we found out we were expecting our first daughter, it was time to decorate the rest. Even though I was having a girl, I painted her room my favorite color, Carolina blue, using hot pink fabrics for the window shades and upholstery paired with a painted white floor. For the second bedroom upstairs, which we made a guest bedroom, I went with a hot pink paint color called Peony from Benjamin Moore, contrasting it by using an indigo blue Indian floral pattern from Les Indiennes for the bedding and curtains. This was the first floor that felt truly “done” to me, thanks to our elbow grease, and I was so proud to bring my daughter home from the hospital and see her wonder at the colors and patterns (although her favorite thing was looking at the trees through the window by her changing table).
During the pandemic, we felt lucky enough to move out to our house full time. With daughter number two on the way, we quickly realized we needed a space for toys and for our little ones to play, so the next and final project was finishing our basement. I collaborated with Denise Davies and Karri Bowen-Poole from Project Playroom, whom I had recently worked with on a kids’ room story, to create the playroom of my girls’ dreams. Smart play is critical to Davies and Bowen-Poole’s ethos, so we installed a rock climbing wall, monkey bars, and swings, which allowed my daughters to work on their motor skills and saved us on many a cold and rainy day. California Closets designed and installed shelving to store and organize their games, toys, and crafts, and I used a fun macaron wallpaper from Wallshoppe to complete the whimsical look.
With the kids’ spaces complete, I had to surmount perhaps my biggest challenge: convincing my husband of the merits of bold wallpaper. We redid our own primary bedroom using the Oiseaux & Feuillage pattern from Antoinette Poisson for the walls and a simple blue check by Chelsea Textiles for the window coverings, adding in molding for extra architectural detail. For the entryway, I decided to go with a beautiful floral from Raoul Textiles and complemented it with one of their blue moiré patterns in an adjoining hallway. Strategically, I installed everything while my husband was away. When he arrived home, he commented, “It looks like a bunch of girls live here.” It was an apt statement as I reminded him we had a third daughter on the way.
After eight years feathering our nest, we put our home on the market to find a new place that would accommodate our growing family. It was bittersweet. But despite my husband’s opinions, all the painting, wallpapering, and decorating paid off: We were in contract within a week of putting it up for sale. Even the rock climbing wall and swings were a huge hit (one real estate broker told us it was the best playroom he had ever seen), and we were so happy when we learned that the new homeowners wanted us to leave them.
Your first love always sticks with you, and so does your first house. Our home started out as our escape and became our haven during the pandemic. It will always be part of our family as we remember how it welcomed each of our three girls home. As we settle into our new place, I’ve taken the lessons from our first one with me, first and foremost the idea that it’s OK to take your time. The second, and most important, is that your home is an expression of who you are, and you should never be afraid of choosing the patterns and objects you love. But, perhaps, I will leave those tailgating chairs behind.
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