Love at First Site
March 24, 2014
Text by Susan Kleinman Photography by Michael J. Lee Produced by Stacy Kunstel
A casual Internet click leads to a made-in-heaven match between a homeowner and the perfect designer for her suburban Boston house.
Amy Lipton found love on the Internet. The chef and her family were preparing to relocate from coastal New Jersey to Wellesley, Massachusetts, when a routine email-blast from the design website Houzz.com landed in Lipton’s in-box. She clicked on a featured room by interior designer Katie Rosenfeld, and felt the unmistakable zing that lets you know you’ve found “the one.”
Another click—to Rosenfeld’s own website—deepened Lipton’s feeling that she had found the perfect decorator for her new home, a 100-year-old colonial perched high on a hill surrounded by greenery. “I loved every picture in Katie’s portfolio—her sense of color, the way she mixes traditional furnishings with bright colors, the mix of patterns, and the way everything seems to click through,” says Lipton.
So she couldn’t believe her good luck when it turned out that although Houzz features designers from all over the world, Rosenfeld lives in neighboring Weston. Lipton contacted Rosenfeld immediately and scheduled a meeting for her next pre-moving trip north, and from the first moments of their lunch, the duo’s happy fate as client and decorator was sealed. “Katie exudes creativity and warmth,” says Lipton, “and that was the feeling I wanted for our new home.”
The two soon put their heads together, collaborating on exactly the sort of surprising yet entirely comfortable mix of colors and patterns that had initially drawn Lipton to Rosenfeld’s work. The hues of blue and green that Lipton favored are common choices, Rosenfeld says. But to the designer’s delight, her client was game for snazzing things up with the bright colors in the fabric Rosenfeld suggested for the family-room drapery. “That fabric was mind-blowing to me,” says Lipton. “As soon as Katie showed it to me, I knew I had to use it.”
With the color scheme and signature fabric selected, Rosenfeld moved on to choose a mix of coordinating materials to complete the look. Some colors carry from room to room—what Rosenfeld calls “threading the color needle.” Other shades appear just in one space or another, but can be relocated as needed. “The way Katie designed the color scheme,” says Lipton, “I can move furniture from room to room when we entertain, and everything is complementary.”
Complementary, yes—but not what Rosenfeld calls “matchy-patchy.” Variations in patterns and textures, along with a high-low mix of formal and more-casual pieces, new objects and old, ensure that the interiors look fresh and original. And the one-of-a-kind feeling is heightened by a melange of vintage and antique pieces—some, like the kitchen table, brought from Lipton’s previous residence, and others purchased expressly for this space.
“Very few clients actually let me use as many vintage pieces as I like,” says Rosenfeld. “Most people are skittish about things that have patina or wobbly doors, but I believe there should be that crust so that your home feels bespoke. So when someone gives me the freedom to do that, it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up in excitement. With Amy, I’d see something on 1stdibs.com or OneKingsLane.com, and she’d let me buy it without any hesitation. She was at a Red Sox game when I emailed her a picture of the buffet I saw on OneKingsLane and wanted for her dining room. It was the most shocking shade of teal, and she told me to just go for it.”
Besides its arresting hue, the buffet was a winner because of its Eastern influence, a favorite look of designer and client alike, for aesthetic reasons and for the fond memories Asian design evokes for both of them. Rosenfeld’s father lived in Japan for a while, and the home in which she grew up featured chinoiserie and a collection of Japanese woodblock prints. Lipton was an exchange student in Thailand during high school and in Japan during college. She returned to Japan from 1996 to 2000 with her husband, an investments professional, and their two children.
Other Asian touches in Lipton’s new home, including a vintage chinoiserie console with a black lacquered finish in the entry hall and a pair of antique Japanese Foo dogs on the living room coffee table, lend the exotic influence she wanted without looking out of place amid the classic New England architecture. “Chinese-spirited pieces go with anything,” says Rosenfeld. “Modern, antiques, contemporary art…. That encaustic piece above the buffet is something Amy had in the house in New Jersey, and after we bought the buffet we tried the painting here and it worked perfectly.”
Indeed, about half of the art in Lipton’s new home came from her previous residence, and Rosenfeld worked hard to incorporate other favorite pieces, like the dining room chairs, which she reupholstered in teal velvet and supplemented with two trellis chairs at the host and hostess ends of the table.
While Rosenfeld worked to create exactly the interior Lipton dreamed of, architect Lisa Abeles reconfigured the master bedroom, bath, and dressing room, continuing renovation work she had done for the home’s previous owners a few years earlier, when she updated the kitchen and family room. Now, thanks to the master-suite overhaul, a series of Palladian windows that had been broken up by a wall installed in the 1970s are reunited, enhancing the gracious feeling of the space and taking better advantage of the views out to the home’s beautiful property.
That landscape is easily enjoyed from several outdoor venues, including two patios. And because the family does spend so much time outdoors, Rosenfeld made sure that the interiors look beautiful not just from within, but also when glimpsed through the windows from outside.
Start to finish, the redecoration project took less than a year, an unusually swift timetable for a house this size, and a testament, Lipton and Rosenfeld both say, to their shared vision and to the friendship that started during their first conversation and deepened as they worked together.
“I was really just struck by lightning,” Lipton says about her reaction to those first pictures of Rosenfeld’s work she saw online. “And this project proved what I have always believed: you really have to follow your gut instinct.” •
Interior Design: Katie Rosenfeld
Architecture: Lisa Abeles