My grandmother was, and remains, one of my most profound influences in both my personal style and in my life. She was an exceptionally talented interior designer and her houses–and the houses she designed for her friends–were impeccable. From her I learned to love chintz, antique furniture, the little enamel boxes with sweet sayings–things that boil down to three essential lessons. These are: to decorate deliberately, to embrace maximalism, and to pay careful attention to all the little details that make a house a home.
She loved deep tomato reds, using them in rooms without a lot of architectural detail to capture the eye, and she always used one small piece in black (an end table, a wastepaper basket) to tie the room together. She had the remarkable gift to create a complete room, down to the smallest detail, in weeks or months instead of years. She spent time getting to know her clients well and decorated their houses to be beautiful and functional, but above all their home.
When my father was young, his parents–an interior designer and a civil engineer–bought an old Pratt family house in Lattingtown, Long Island, making the move from their Stanford White-designed house in Garden City. The house they purchased, originally built for Frederic Pratt between 1924–1926, had been abandoned for twenty years. My grandfather said, “The night we moved in, the pantry ceiling fell down because the gutters had backlogged. My wife cried like a baby, and I got out a bottle of champagne, and we had a party.”
That quote pretty much sums my grandparents up! Despite that setback, they managed to fix up the house and decorate it in a remarkably short amount of time. While the house, like all great old houses, required routine maintenance, it was truly a labor of love for my family. My grandmother loved a challenge, and all of her talent in interior design was beautifully showcased in that house.
Eventually, they sold the house, moving onto other projects, but the house is still lived in and loved. The house I remembered the most was absolutely enchanting. They called it Thimble Hall (I mentioned this house in one of my Week in Review posts!). It was completely charming and almost magical, with a big croquet lawn and even a wishing well! While I don’t have many pictures of their houses on my computer, I do have a large collection of Kodachrome slides my grandmother had made of their houses. I keep meaning to digitize them, but haven’t yet. Perhaps that is a project for this year!
Below are a few pictures of some of her professional projects. I hope you enjoy!