Decorating a Colorful Cottage
What was it about them that so captivated you?
They enlivened the rooms. Mostly, I think it was — oh, I hate this overused word! — their whimsy. They had a fanciful quality that spoke to me. I just sort of assumed that the people living in those spaces had fun, interesting lives, almost like storybook characters. I’ve been obsessed with wallpaper ever since, and I used a lot in this house. It’s in the dining room, in the master bedroom, in the powder room, and — most dramatically — in the guest room, which I absolutely love. We call it the Royal Tenenbaums room.
Was the movie your inspiration?
No, and I can’t take credit for the reference either. One of their sons came up with it, because it has the wacky essence of some of the rooms in the film. If there was an inspiration, it was more like what some deliciously daft English person would do in one of those eccentric country houses. I wanted to make it really cozy in a quirky sort of way by mixing a bunch of disparate patterns. We just went for it, no holding back.
The ladylike dining room strikes me as a full-on throwback.
It’s a little bit granny — but granny-chic! The room is small, so we wanted to make it a pretty jewel box of pattern and color, with the wallpaper as the focal point.
But in the living room, you appear to have distilled the best aspects of traditional and blended them with the youthful, relaxed West Coast flair you’re known for.
Thank you for saying that. It was already furnished with the rug, the sofas, the chest, the bar and side tables, and the lamps. The intention was to create a colorful backdrop for all her wonderful pieces. Basically, the room — the entire house — was a sea of neutrals. It needed the kind of punch and warmth that make you really want to be in a space. We painted the walls pale blue, hung chartreuse curtains, re-covered the sofas, added pillows in a variety of vintage textiles, and modernized the lamps with colored shades. The combination of colors is somewhat offbeat, but it was such fun to put a more daring spin on traditional.
The family room absolutely vibrates with color.
That’s what brought it roaring to life. We chose colors in bold tones that tied it together with the dining room. And I covered their ottoman with a sturdy striped frazada — a Bolivian blanket — because that’s where the two teenage boys like to sit and play video games and the two dogs like to nap. The family room is very much the heart of the house, and it gets a lot of use. Behind the seating area, there’s a dining area that opens to the garden and is just outside the kitchen, a room Leslie uses as a home office.
You don’t see many intimate kitchens like this anymore.
Almost never. Most of them are like a professional chef’s kitchen with giant marble slabs on the countertops and enormous islands that you can do surgery on. To me, this one is kind of sweet in the best way — that granny-chic element again!
Did they ever entertain the idea of remodeling it, other than putting in the Viking stove?
No, since it functions quite well as it is, and it’s in keeping with the style of the house. We did add color with the Roman shades and the tribal rug. It’s an incredibly snug, inviting space where you want to sit and have a cup of tea at the little chipped-paint farm table that has such a homey, rustic charm.
This whole house has a homey, family-friendly atmosphere.
That was one of our main objectives, to make it lively and embracing and to have it work with the way they really live. There’s nothing that says don’t touch. The house honors the past, but it’s not a fussy old time capsule. It’s a fresh West Coast interpretation of East Coast tradition. Every room tells a story — of their passions, their memories, and the rich heritage of family life.