Located on the Main Line outside Philadelphia, this historic house was built in 1889 and remodeled in the Georgian Colonial style in 1920, and then successfully decorated in the country house taste by decorator Joanne De Palma in the 1980s for its current owner. Our decorative chapter began a decade ago when we were asked to create a serene setting for the museum-caliber postwar art collection that the owner had been building over the years. Using some of the De Palma-era additions that worked with the new ethos, we pared down and visually opened up the spaces to allow the Abstract Expressionist, Pop, and Minimalist works to shine.
At our first design meeting, the clients mentioned that they wanted to simplify the decoration to display their art. In particular, they asked for “no color.” Of course what our clients meant by no color was low-key color with an emphasis on the subtle play of tone and texture, and careful consideration of how it would interact with the architecture and fine art.
Under those parameters, we came up with a surprising solution in the form of russet-toned wool for the living room walls. At first our clients paused at what they saw as too much color, but they were soon convinced of its appeal. The intent was to create a distinctly domestic backdrop for the art instead of showing it against more expected white walls. The furnishings would provide the neutral soft notes and mixture of textures.
Hence, the russet-upholstered walls are balanced with Jean-Michel Frank upholstery models selected for their clean, simple lines and covered in cream silk. The curtains are straightforward, made in a soft white fabric on simple rods and rings, with the only surprising color accent a small yellow cuff. We added furniture from the clients’ collection of English and other European antiques to round out the room.
Starry Night, a painting by Vija Celmins, overlooks sculptures by Henry Moore and Roy Lichtenstein. The armchairs and gueridon are all Empire, and the floor lamp is by Jacques Adnet.
The bold graphics of a Roy Lichtenstein painting and sculpture complement the rich architectural detail of the stair.
In the sun room, the original dark forest green walls were kept, and we added a suite of rattan furniture with modern lines and soft upholstery covered in chartreuse. Jeff Koons’s Yorkshire Terrier sits atop a Regency table at the center of the room.
The master bedroom is subtly decorated in grays and cream. The textures of the handwoven silk carpet and fabrics add nuance to the soft colors used in the room. Two paintings by Gerhart Richter are displayed and the armchairs are 19th-century French.
In the guest room, Meter Box, a sculpture by Donald Judd, is juxtaposed with an English Regency bench.
The den is wrapped in jute wallcovering and features a large Cy Twombly painting over a Regency side cabinet.