Text: Alice Welsh Doyle
Photography: Emily Jenkins Followill
A home should reflect the personality of its owner, and when it does, the interior designer should be celebrated for a job well done. When stepping into Michele Gratch’s client’s historic home, visitors instantly get an inclination of who lives there—someone who loves color with an upbeat personality who is not afraid to take risks.
The foyer, wrapped in a bold multi-hued, flame stitch wallpaper, sets a cheerful note hinting at what’s to come. The happy atmosphere continues in the family room with its symphony in green, orange, and pink, and that’s just the beginning. “My client is not afraid of color, but we didn’t want it to feel juvenile, so we chose a lot of sophisticated wallpapers, fabrics, and antiques, and unified the rooms with blue and green hues.”
Those colors were a natural fit for the home, nestled in the trees with views of the park in many of the spacious rooms. “I really do feel like I live in a tree house,” says the homeowner, who found Gratch after listening to a Ballard Designs podcast How to Decorate. “I loved what she said, and her approach seemed to be aligned with mine. I tried decorating my previous home, but it looked too youthful and cookie cutter. I made so many mistakes, and working with Michele saved my sanity.”
For Gratch, it was an opportunity to take a dated design in shades of beige and shake it up, injecting some fun and quirkiness alongside her color-loving client. “We both wanted the house to feel casual and comfortable with nothing too precious,” says Gratch. “My client has three French bulldogs who rule the nest, so we used a lot of performance fabrics and mixed high and low pieces throughout. We also included items from her former home when appropriate, and she already had an extensive art collection that we incorporated as well.”
Since no color was off limits, Gratch went for a blush pink in the living room that’s feminine but not saccharine. Joining the pink sofa are modern, shapely armchairs by Arne Jacobsen in a bright green and a blue-striped armchair that adds a more masculine note.
A geometric rug and blue accent pillows and window treatments complete the room. “I used blue as a common thread throughout the house and employed colors that play nicely with different shades of blue,” says Gratch. The renovated kitchen is the quietest space in the home, but it’s punctuated with black accents in the custom vent hood, oven, and a graphic linear chandelier. The more neutral scheme allows the beautiful original windows to have a starring role and highlights the lush green from the park views.
Gratch also employed lively wallpapers to bring in additional color and pattern from the dramatic flame stitch chosen for the foyer, the bright blue-and-green overscaled botanical in the powder bath, and the whimsical French bulldog paper in the laundry room, which her client found. For the dining room, the designer’s goal was a glamorous, moody space, which she certainly delivered with a brilliant blue lacquer paint that extends to the celling and a custom bar with thick brass detailing and an antiqued mirrored wall. The striking glass chandelier and a contemporary buffet add doses of modern style.
One alteration in the floor plan occurred upstairs, where a spare bedroom was transformed into a dynamite custom closet and dressing room. The rich blue cabinetry and window seat bring bold style, while a bird motif wallpaper on the ceiling adds a whimsical note along with a George Nelson bubble chandelier.
The closet is an accessory lover’s dream with room for everything, and the custom mirrored cabinet is a beautiful design element in and of itself. Every inch of the home feels curated and reflects the individuality of its owner in a pulled-together presentation making for one happy client. “I feel like I’ve left my personal mark on everything in this old home,” says the homeowner. “It’s everything I could have dreamed of and more.”