I spent most of my 20s as a magazine editor, photographing stylish spaces in New York City and around the world for Domino and Lonny.com. And go figure: My personal style was all over the map. I was inspired daily by the people I met, the homes we shot, and, of course, every trend that hit the market. I moved often in those years and greeted every new apartment as an opportunity to redecorate.
When I entered my 30s, my priorities began to shift. I longed for someplace more permanent, where I could hammer a nail into the wall to hang a painting at 3 a.m. and sing loudly at any hour of the day (without my neighbors banging a broomstick). I switched careers to consult for creative businesses, and I decided to leave New York — to move closer to my family in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and to return to a Midwestern pace.
The house I chose, a 1920s Colonial, needed work to restore it to its original charm. Knowing I wouldn't change houses as frequently as I had changed apartments, I vowed to make design decisions that would last. Keeping up with trends as a young editor was easy, but as a homeowner, it felt expensive and wasteful.
And so the gut reno began. Good-bye drop ceilings; welcome back beadboard. My contractor framed walls and windows with proper moldings to make the rooms feel stately, and we added even more gravitas with a Carrara marble mantel that reminds me of my favorite European homes.
On the back wall of the living area, I replaced a pair of windows with French doors to let the floor plan flow out to the new bluestone patio, and we sanded the floors to reveal the natural wood underneath. For the exterior, deep charcoal paint disguised an awkward overdoor pediment and proved to be a bold backdrop for the native greenery — and local photography. Nearly every mom from the neighborhood took photos of her trick-or-treaters in front of my house!
Some historic details were discarded: 1920s closets simply don't work for a modern wardrobe. Instead, I stole space from an adjacent room to create a custom- built master bedroom wardrobe — an indulgence I had always dreamed about in the city.
Any confidence I had tackling the envelope of the house disappeared by the time I started decorating. I was forced to reconcile a decade of design crushes, from globe-trotter eclecticism to California cool-girl style, with its earthy, minimalistic roots, to Brooklyn's edgy juxtapositions (think a hypermodern lamp on an antique French console). The only way I could satisfy my creative eye was to represent them all. The challenge was making it all feel cohesive and timeless.
With that in mind, I started in the living room with a riff on the work of Florentine architect Michele Bönan, designer of the J.K. Place Capri hotel, one of the first spaces that actually made me teary-eyed, as silly as that sounds. His sense of symmetry and use of wingback chairs (typically white), marble mantels, and a pared-down palette are, for me, the very definition of easy elegance, and they provided an enduring foundation.
I painted most of the rooms in Ralph Lauren Paint's Tibetan Jasmine — the color of practically every Ralph Lauren showroom worldwide (because how can you go wrong with that?). Layering in art and vibrant textiles indulged my bohemian spirit, and my ever-rotating collection of lighting and objets still fuels my ongoing experimentation — a wink to Brooklyn.
As my tastes change, so will the pillows, blankets, and rugs. But I won't need to start fresh with a new design — unless, of course, I move again.
This story originally appeared in the 2016 February issue of Natipernavigare.