“It’s always fun working with someone who likes to mix things up a bit,” says interior designer Carole Weaks. Tasked with creating a fresh perspective for a client downsizing from a spacious abode into a multistory European-influenced townhouse, the project was all about embracing change—and taking a few design risks in the process.
And, says Weaks, ushering in a new beginning in a new house called for all-new rules. Their initial goal: to let the home’s strong architectural bones take the lead, by complementing soaring ceilings with oversized light fixtures, allowing Palladian-style doors in a rich mahogany to pop against a neutral palette and using cast-iron fireplaces as anchoring focal points. Next up: the editing process. “People often downsize without really downsizing—they take their stuff with them and jam it into a smaller space,” Weaks says. “My client didn’t mind letting go of anything that didn’t work.” Divesting her client of the excess, then, proved painless. Items that did make the transition included a set of ladder-back dining chairs put to good use in the dining room, given the homeowner’s penchant for French Country, and pieces with flattering finishes, from a collection of patina pottery that dot the media room to a gilded mirror presiding over the dining room.
Winding up the staircase from the split-level, second-story entry, Weaks was careful to establish a design cue for the rest of the home on the stairwell landing: an eclectic welcome thanks to an 18th-century leather bench, an abstract painting, a modern wooden sculpture and an antique chandelier. “They all speak to her and the variety of things she likes,” says Weaks of her art-loving client. “The interiors of this house are very personal.” This mood is carried over into the adjoining formal living room, awash in tonal shades of white, where antiques mingle with new finds. “When you walk into this room, it has a very layered, good feeling to it,” says Weaks, who designed the room from the floor rug and coffee table up. “That Lucite coffee table is one of my all-time favorites. It’s heavy enough to be substantial, but it doesn’t visually take up much space.”
Weaks introduced color to the space in deliberate doses. “Her former home was saturated in red and more red, so we were getting away from that, yet I knew she would miss some color,” she says. Because the home is four stories, she employed off-whites, grasscloth wallpaper and French-blue accents to ground the main floors, making up the difference with rich chocolate walls in the master bedroom. Tempered with cream accents and blush-pink bedding, the color adds high drama to the space. In the guest bedroom, bright silk wallpaper matched to a botanical Travers fabric dressing the chaise lounge creates a serene moment, punctuated by an architectural salvage headboard. “It’s a really delightful room, and it’s a treat to guests who want something that feels a little different from home,” says Weaks.
One major change the homeowner had to contend with in the the decidedly laid-back space, was a new way to entertain. Closed-off quarters for caterers to prep for large-seated affairs from her former home have been exchanged for a more casual, open floor plan. “We had to rethink how she would use her new space,” says Weaks. “The first time she hosted a party in her new home, she had pots on the stove and dishes set out for guests to serve themselves; it was a different mindset for her, but she had a ball doing it.” This fresh perspective seems to have paid off beautifully, indeed.