The key is to start with the interior architecture — cabinetry, moldings, the physically immovable part of the whole thing. A lot of great old houses were very rich in wall and ceiling paneling, interesting floors. Even the pantries would have great detailing like beautiful tiles. Get the interior architecture right, and then fill in with comfortable furnishings.
That restricted sort of palette is conscious. The initial impression is that it's plain, but it's a house that slowly reveals itself to you — so it stays interesting when you live there. There are a lot of subtle variations in textures and colors — mostly blues, whites, beiges — and lots of different patterns in the fabrics, the rugs, the spongeware. That's what saves it from blandness and makes it come to life. Often when people decorate with the blue-and-white look it fails, because it's just blue and white. It's like dressing all in black. It works if there's black patent with black silk with black wool...the subtle variations that I mentioned
The main thing was that they wanted comfortable, easy, usable rooms. Nothing formal. In the living room, we have elegant wood paneling, but an eclectic mix of furnishings — all slightly mismatched — to take away any stuffiness. You'll see that the master bedroom has a touch of formality to it. We were after a crisper, dressier effect there. It's a little fancier than anything downstairs because it's more private, so things could be more fragile.
All photos Traditional Home
The clients wanted the look of an old-fashioned country kitchen, so we used old-style lights, bead-board on the ceiling, elaborate crown molding. I've done this kind of kitchen 50 times, and one day I asked myself, 'What is it that makes it work?' And I think it's about the underlying quality — the nickel faucets, the Carrara marble, and so forth. Each thing is so carefully considered. And it's also about the simplicity. It's very controlled, not tchotchked-up.Thanks James Radin -what a lovely home!