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Photography by Alise O'Brien
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Web exclusive: Scroll down for a video tour of the space.
From the outside, the house was perfectly cosmopolitan. Designed by Dick Busch, the founder of Dick Busch Architects, the brick exterior’s simple symmetry and minimalist landscaping looked like it could blend in on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The same could not be said of the interior, which was empty…and beige.
“In new construction, you have to pick a paint color to finish, and we went with the neutral beige,” the wife remembers. “I stood in the house and I said, ‘Wow, I really don’t like beige.’”
She also didn’t like her family’s old furniture, which didn’t match the new house, so she decided to start fresh. “It was like taking an onion and trying to put the layers back on,” she recalls. The family quickly realized they would need an interior designer’s help, so they brought in Maria DeGange, now with Dau Home Furnishings (15424 Manchester, 636-394-3005, daufurniture.com).
DeGange toured the house to see what architectural elements she wanted to highlight and talked to the homeowners to figure out their tastes. The family wanted the house to be gray like their beloved Weimaraner, Emma.
Armed with a sophisticated but neutral gray base color, DeGange spent nine months transforming the house, adding sparkling finishes, complex textures, and unexpected accents. Now the home’s interior matches its elegantly urban exterior. “It’s transitional,” says DeGange, “with a twist of contemporary."
How to get a classic yet contemporary look of your own
To give the house a traditional feel with a modern sensibility, designer Maria DeGange focused on classic pieces, unexpected textures, and bright accents. Here are some of her tips for achieving this look in your own home.
Don’t ignore the accents. “Use a color as a foundation and then marry it with complementary accent colors,” says DeGange. “Accent colors need to highlight, outline, and stand out. Use them in moderation.” DeGange used citron, chartreuse, and blue accents in varying shades throughout the house, in details like trim, pillows, and artwork. “I felt that if, down the road, the owners wanted to change the decor, they could still keep the same core, but easily transform the look by changing the accents.”
Even in more casual rooms, keep the decor elegant. “People can confuse casual and sloppy,” says DeGange. “Quality and elegance doesn’t mean uncomfortable, and casual doesn’t need to be messy and cluttered.” In the hearth room, for instance, the homeowner’s dog is welcome to hop on the furniture. DeGange chose easy-to-care-for materials and simple shapes to make the room seem laid-back. “I used a good punch of citron to give the room a spark of happy,” she says.
Don’t rule out wallpaper. The husband had one rule: No wallpaper. “Wallpaper is very misunderstood, because people mostly know the old, dated look that everybody wants to get rid of,” DeGange says. “It takes skill to choose the right one.” Try neutrals with subtle patterns or textures. She showed the husband a few examples, and now almost the entire first floor is wallpapered.
Seek shine. DeGange added silver accents and art objects. “Silver adds a jewelry effect to the room that I find very elegant,” she says. “It contains a feel of luxe and light reflection. In the old days, when the only lighting was candle chandeliers, people used silver leafing as a way to reflect the candlelight and brighten the room.”
Make a space you love. The client’s tastes and the home’s style are key, DeGange says. The homeowners agree. “We just recently traveled, and I was very stressed,” says the wife. “I came home, and within 5 minutes of sitting on my sofa, I just had a very calm feeling and real serenity from being in my own environment.”