Like so many once-charming homes that have been divided into apartments over the years, this one in a seaside town in Massachusetts was a bit of a hodgepodge, to put it lightly. Strange built-ins, mysterious niches, eyebrow-raising bathroom fixtures—these were just a few of the challenges awaiting New York-based designer Lilse McKenna when she took on the task of turning the three-bedroom residence into a weekend getaway for a Florida-based couple.
"When I first saw it, I knew there was a lot of superficial contracting work to be done," says McKenna, who worked with locally-based RB Wood Contracting LLC on the project. "There were so many strange things that had been done to chop this up into different apartments inexpensively. We lowered floors that had been raised for no real reason, covered brick walls, got rid of shelves that had been added at odd angles. I got to play architect, in a way!"
Once the groundwork was laid, the fun part began. Since this would be, essentially, a pied-à-terre for the owners, McKenna knew she could push the envelope with color and pattern. "The great thing about these clients was that they were so immersed in the design world that I knew they would be totally into doing things that other clients would say is way too much," she explains. "They wanted something that no one else would have."
Take the living room: Instead of using an off-the-rack wallcovering, McKenna improvised by adding cut-fabric stripes to a solid grasscloth. In the two guest bedrooms, both the walls and ceilings were covered in pattern; a thin stripe of grosgrain ribbon acts as crown molding.
At the same time, she wanted to be budget-savvy wherever possible to allow for splurging on high-end textiles from brands like Bennison and Pierre Frey. She knew she wanted to cover the bathroom in a printed wallcovering, but didn't want to splurge on an expensive pattern that would have to be replaced in a few years. So she headed to Etsy for inexpensive block printed fabric that she could have acrylic-backed.
"It's my shopping addiction!" she laughs. "Some people sit on Shopbop and buy clothes; I sit and buy Indian block prints from Etsy. It's such a great budget-cutter if you know you need a print somewhere and we don’t have a budget for a really fancy fabric."
In the kitchen, McKenna used off-the-rack cabinets from a local shop, but made them look custom with the addition of gathered fabric panels behind the glass uppers. The lower cabinets were painted in Farrow & Ball's Cook's Blue.
Most importantly, the entire apartment is blessedly low-maintenance. "It's the kind of place where you can have friends come stay without worrying ab0ut anything being damaged," says McKenna. "The fabrics are all stain and UV-treated, so if someone leaves the shade open, it won't get faded; the vinyl wallcovering means that if someone scuffs a wall with their suitcase, it's not the end of the world. And all of the rugs on the first two floors can be hosed off outside!"
McKenna created a custom wallcovering by overlaying a vinyl grasscloth from Sonia's Place with stripes cut from a Les Indiennes fabric. Lamp: One Kings Lane. Cocktail table: Mecox. Sofa: custom in a Cowtan & Tout fabric. Chairs: Les Indiennes fabric.
Instead of a formal dining area, McKenna designed a corner banquette for casual meals. Table: Wisteria. Banquette: custom in a Raoul fabric with Schumacher pillows.
A classic Sister Parish Design wallpaper covers the family room. Table: Ballard Designs. Ottoman: custom in a Schumacher fabric. Sofas: clients' own in Thibaut and Carleton V. fabrics.
The stairs were painted in Farrow & Ball's Cook's Blue to match the kitchen cabinets. Sconce: Circa Lighting.
Vinyl grasscloth can be wiped down as easily as a standard backsplash. Cabinets: Grand Banks Building Products. Wallcovering: Sonia's Place. Sink and faucet: Kohler.
McKenna used Pierre Frey fabric to add an old-school skirt to the Whitehaus Collection sink. Wallcovering: Pierre Frey.
Millwork in the hallway was painted in Farrow & Ball's Teresa's Green with a coordinating wallcovering. Mirror: Made Goods.
The master bedroom was covered in a solid Philip Jeffries wallcovering. "We didn't want to do print everywhere—sometimes you need a little relief!" says McKenna. Headboard fabric: Bennison. Sconce: Circa Lighting with a custom shade in Pierre Frey fabric. Bedding: Matouk.
Chair fabric: Brunschwig & Fils. Lamp shade: Fermoie.
"Bathroom wallpaper usually ends up having to be replaced every few years, so I used an Etsy block print fabric—it cost me about $200 for 200 yards!" says McKenna. Mirror: Etsy. Vanity: custom with RH fixtures. Sconces: Circa Lighting with Raoul fabric shades.
The guest room was closet-less and didn't have space to add one, so McKenna installed old-school shaker pegs on the wall, painted in Farrow & Ball's Yeabridge Green. The Ballard Designs hook mirror was painted to match. Wallcovering: Peter Fasano on walls, Pierre Frey on ceiling. Daybed: custom in a Peter Duhham fabric.
Floor-to-ceiling print also helped camouflage the odd angles and low ceilings, says McKenna. Wallcovering: Sister Parish Design on walls, Pierre Frey on ceiling. Chair: CB2. Lamp: The Company Store with shade in a Jasper fabric.
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