BARBARA KING: You've really got a knack for living large in a small space.
JANET GREGG: I so do! That wasn't my intention, although it has evolved that way. It's decorated in a big, bold, maximalist way, and why not? This is a tiny house, but I didn't feel I had to simplify or tone it down. I never want to think there's nothing more I can do. That would be a hard place for me to be, with all the energy and ideas I have. I love to decorate and collect, and I've just kept happily adding and layering.
But you do have to know when to stop, right? Where do you draw the line?
I also subtract, of course — I mean, you have to. Otherwise it looks like you're an eccentric hoarder. I grow out of certain things after a while, so I'm forever taking stuff to Good will. And I try to only display objects of interest, often with a sculptural aspect, and not just a hodgepodge of dust collectors.
Objects of interest could just as well describe your jewelry collection.
True. Most of my designs are on the larger side — I don't do small-scale or sweet. My jewelry makes a statement. Like my decorating, it's about putting together random parts — textures, colors, shapes — in a compelling manner. I'm not constrained by rules. I just do what I want and combine elements that I enjoy looking at. I'll put anything with anything if it tells a good story. My house is more than 250 years old, and it never occurred to me that I had to pay homage to historic colors, Colonial antiques, that kind of thing. It's a highly personalized expression of me and my passions.
What was first and foremost on your mind when you decorated?
Honestly, almost everything, from the furniture placement to the general ambience, was inspired by my love of entertaining, which I do constantly. It was like staging a set. I wanted it to be warm and welcoming, a place to be d and enjoyed. All the chairs are portable — there's no hulking armchair and ottoman because I wouldn't be able to move them around. Flow is hugely important. I often have seated dinners for 24 people, and I've crammed in 50 for cocktails.
How do you manage all that in only 1,200 square feet?
I just make it happen. One of the best things I came up with is putting a full bar, complete with a bartender, in my bedroom to accommodate a crowd. For large dinner parties, I have three tables set up — the dining table two folding tables from Target. It's amazing what's possible in a small space if you go outside the box and think in inventive ways. I even went to a lumberyard once for a piece of plywood that I plopped down on a table to extend the length. I covered it with a tablecloth, and voilà! It worked perfectly.
I'm particularly struck by how clever you are with paint. Can you explain how you achieved those striking effects on your walls?
I adore doing walls—I always want them looking luscious. For the living room, I got two shades of beige, one light, one a bit darker. I mixed one-third paint, one-third water, and one-third glaze, then took two rags that I tore from an old T-shirt and rubbed on first one color, then the other, in circular motions. That produced a wonderful leathery finish. I painted the dining room deep brown a few inches at a time, then I dragged the raw edges of card- board that I ripped from shipping boxes up and down to impart a textured look, like thick grass cloth. The trees in the bedroom were a spontaneous gesture. I was giving a big party, so I said to my assistant, "OK, we only have one day — we're going to do it freehand, and we'll just have to do our best." And we did. I think it looks fantastic.
What effect were you going for when you painted the bedroom bureau?
It was inspired by a fabulous coffee table I had seen with a tortoiseshell finish, but I wasn't clever enough to pull that off. So I devised my own loose version by dipping brushes in cans of black, brown, and yellow paint and dripping them down. After it dried, I shellacked it. I'm crazy about painted furniture. It's a great way to give new life to old pieces, but you have to be careful not to make it look too homespun.
I envy your can-do attitude.
There are so many interior designers who are insanely talented, but I revel in the do-it-yourself approach. It makes creating a home that much more personal and interesting. And you don't have to spend a fortune to be stylish — I'm an avid fan of thrift shops and flea markets.
Do you ever fantasize about living in a bigger space?
I don't want to sound like I'm flattering myself, but I live with my glass half full. I don't ever say, Oh, I wish I had more square footage. I have what I want and what I need, and it's lovely and gratifying to be where I am. My divine little house is a blessing.
This story originally appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Natipernavigare.