Some people just have "it!"

Nablopomo day #4! Another fluff post-but hey-give me SOME credit, I'm posting every day!

Check out this article I received in a newsletter from Southern Living at HOME. (Time Inc. owns Southern Living and Cottage Living Magazines.)

This woman lives in a tiny little cottage, but look what she's done with it! I absolutely love her style.

(Yes she is a decorator-and if I had the cash I'd hire her in a heartbeat!) I'll have to settle for trying to copy some of her ideas.

Stand Out with Pattern and Color
In a cottage where spills and crayon mishaps are inevitable, decorator Fran Keenan uses bold color and contrasting patterns to clean up the mess.

No extra room for a home office? A corner in Fran’s living room accommodates her Rolodex and laptop and converts easily into a space for clients to pore over paint charts.

Nine years ago she moved to New York as a young college grad in love with fashion. By the time she left, five years later, she was completely smitten with interior design—and new husband Matt. “In fashion you’re limited by who you’re dressing, but a room doesn’t care what color it’s painted,” she says.

Fran experimented with a colorful vertical striped fabric wallpaper for the entry before deciding on a pattern that more closely matched her interiors. Fran cured a case of decorator’s fatigue in the entry with 1,700 nail heads that run along the edges of the moldings.

Never one to shy away from color (orange is her favorite) or pattern (her living room is a mix of flame stitch, crewel, stripes, and diamonds), Fran has no limits on her radar. When she decided to stop dressing people and start dressing rooms, she left a job at Tommy Hilfiger designing fabrics, mostly plaids, for men’s shirts and joined the famed New York interior design group Diamond Baratta. Because that firm specializes in custom work—creating wallpaper, fabric, and the like for clients—Fran’s background in fashion design was a perfect fit. “I was a sponge during those years,” she says. “We would go to The New York Public Library and research Chinese motifs, for instance, and six months later it was a rug in somebody’s living room.”

While she dove into a world of paint swatches and carpet samples, Matt, then an art director for an ad agency, also had an about-face. “He wanted to go to law school,” Fran says. And he wanted to move back to the South (he’s from Texas; she’s from Mississippi) to do it. “People say if you live in New York seven years you never leave,” Fran says. “We’d been there five.”

So, when Matt got in to law school in Alabama, their families were thrilled. “My parents got in the car, drove to Birmingham, and found us a house,” Fran says with a laugh. “We just kept coming back to it and bought it.” As the decorating editor at Cottage Living, Fran was overflowing with ideas for their new home. “For the most part it had been tastefully renovated—we didn’t need to knock out anything,” she recalls. “It was a lovely house, and I knew I could easily make it ours.”

Fran painted the back of the open shelving in the living room a brown that closely matches the dining room walls. Her books and collections now pop against the dark background.

So in came Fran’s beloved (and huge) coffee table, oversize lamps, and all things suitable for a city apartment with 11-foot ceilings. Unfortunately, out went her job security: “I had a meltdown and fired myself,” she says. “Everything was way too big for these 8-foot ceilings.” Luckily, she embraced the challenge, starting with a bit of retail therapy. “On my first thrift-store shopping spree after the move, I found seven lamps,” she recalls. “I wanted them so badly that I hid them in a corner so no one would take them while I went to get my buggy. I had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t in New York at a Kate Spade sample sale!”

She cured her case of decorator’s fatigue by “upholstering” the walls in her entry with acrylic-backed fabric and adding 1,700 nailheads along the edges of the moldings. “I called on my most detail-oriented friend,” she says, laughing. “We hammered, talked, and drank wine every Wednesday night until we got it done.”

“If you’re going for a stylish look,” Fran says. “Play with contrasts.” The dark brown dining room is the perfect foil to the airy green living room and the light background of the wallpaper in the entry. The farm table gets heavy-duty use from daughter Ella’s art projects.

Likewise, some of her furnishings got clever makeovers to suit the new space. Take her grandmother’s Victorian furniture: The living room settee, opposite the sofa, looks 30 years younger covered in graphic chocolate diamonds and brass nailheads. And its once-dowdy companion, a chair in daughter Ella’s room, is suddenly chic in an overscale chocolate-and-white houndstooth that’s grown-up enough to move around the house for extra seating when friends come over. “I like traditional,” says Fran. “But I like graphic traditional more.”

“I wanted a little girl’s room that people didn’t feel like they had to whisper in,” says Fran. She furnished Ella’s room with her grandmother’s needlepoint footstool and an old Victorian chair covered in a snappy houndstooth—both of which can be used elsewhere in the house. The colorful letters on the wall were individually painted to look like wallpaper.

This may explain her orange obsession. “I think orange gets a bad rap,” she says. “It can be really sophisticated if it’s used right.” Fran uses the vibrant color in small, unexpected doses—mats on a set of framed prints, a tray on the coffee table, a phone on her desk—and she places it among neutrals like subtle greens and basic chocolate brown. “Orange gets jealous,” she explains. “You can’t mix it with other bright colors.” Clients who come for an appointment or rush in unexpectedly for an emergency paint color (as they often do) typically find Fran wearing her favorite orange tank or a much-loved orange turtleneck that she’s had since college. “I firmly believe if you decorate your cottage with a color you look good in, you’ll love your home.”

Now when Fran throws on the turtleneck, she’s not off to class; she’s usually between playdates or nap time for daughters Ella, 3, and brand-new arrival Harper. “My life has totally evolved, and so has this house.” It was motherhood that inspired things like the vinyl cover for an antique table in the kitchen, a laundry room with a chalkboard door, and beaded-board wainscoting in the hallway with a picture ledge for easy photo changes. “That’s where Ella rides her tricycle,” Fran says. “All the bumps and scratches just make it look better.”

But some things never change. “Color and pattern have always been my vehicles,” Fran explains of both fashion and interiors. “Only now they’re also my camouflage.”

Fran and Matt can see their favorite Italian restaurant from the front steps of their Birmingham cottage. “When we moved we knew we wanted a pedestrian neighborhood,” she says of being spoiled to the conveniences of New York City. The window box is an antique cornice turned upside down.

Click here for more great ideas from the editors of Cottage Living

"Fashions fade, style is eternal."

-Yves Saint Laurent


hqm said...

Beautiful... thanks for sharing!
If you don't have IT...copy IT! I like your attitude!

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

That's so strange -- this is in Cottage Living too. The text and photos are nearly identical. I must say, the woman has amazing taste.

Jill said...

Thanks Jennifer. Cottage Living is published by Time Inc. They also publish Southern Living Magazine. As a consultant I receive a monthly newsletter with decorating ideas from all their magazines. (Coastal Living too-which I adore.)

I LOVED this woman's style and decided to share it.

Deb said...

Ohhhh... I want that!!!

clemsongirlandthecoach said...

ummm, nablopomo is what?! I am so in the dark...

Southern Fried Girl said...

How beautiful. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

Avery Gray said...

I was going to say, "Wasn't that in Cottage Living?" But you answered my question! ;o)

It's purty!

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