Text by Lydia Somerville
Sometimes, a designer’s personal style can prove to be a surprise. Kelley Proxmire of Bethesda, Maryland, is known for impactful show house displays and gracefully composed houses for clients. So it comes as something of a shock to visit her own home of 21 years and find charming flea market finds alongside her important antiques. In addition, the designer sees her interior spaces as always evolving.
Kelley and her husband, Theodore, previously lived two doors down from the stately property, which was built in 1934. They had long admired its handsome slate roof and large yard defined by stone walls and romantic statuary. “It was an easy decision to buy it when it came on the market,” Kelley says. The Proxmires added boxwoods to the garden scheme but otherwise left the plantings in place. Mature cherry trees now form a green oasis of shade accented by statuary.
Inside, collections of Kelley’s favorite things—chinoiserie, jasperware, black lacquer, and wooden boxes—lend the sense of being amassed over time, which indeed they have. When she travels, the designer keeps an eye out for additions to her collections, whether she’s in a market stall or a fine antiques store. In her entry hall, a display of framed prints, procured from flea markets, are souvenirs of cities she’s visited. “I collect things I love,” she says, “some valuable, some not.” The result is, of course, effortless elegance.
The same easy discernment applies to Kelley’s furniture. Some pieces were bought for show house rooms but later found their way into her home. In fact, a pair of ceramic dogs in the entry hall has appeared in 24 show house rooms. Kelley purchased the dining table, designed by Mark Hampton in the 1960s, thinking she would find a place for it in a client’s house. It now rests on the leopard-print carpet in her own dining room, adding the sharp angles of the go-go era to an otherwise traditional plan.
When the hunger for change flares, Kelley simply swaps out accent colors for an instant refresher. In the dining room, a painting with a splash of coral inspired her to add coral accents to the table and a coral cushion to the settee, enlivening the black, white, and yellow scheme. On the screened porch, lime-green garden seats and cushions bring an unexpected twist to the classic blue-and-white scheme. “There’s a universality to the pairing of blue and white. I’m always drawn to it in fabrics and in the things I collect,” the designer says.
Kelley’s lessons on display in the home are numerous, from the impact of symmetry to the enduring appeal of classic color schemes. But her most important takeaway is harder to follow and requires focus—discern what brings you joy and pursue those things with passion.