Interior designer Patricia Wood used yards of elegant fabrics, pretty buttons and bows, and sophisticated tassels and pompons to transform a ho-hum summer cottage into the belle of a northern Michigan town.
It wasn’t that the four-bedroom cottage, built in the 1980s, lacked potential. It boasts large bay windows overlooking Lake Michigan’s rocky shore, built-in bookcases, pale wood floors, and plantation shutters that add architectural interest. But its assets needed a bit of a boost, which came in the form of fabric used in creative ways throughout the house.
“When I was really young, I used to make my own clothes,” says Wood, who set about re-dressing the cottage in colorful chintzes and soft linens. “I understand what fabric will and won’t do.”
Two things drove the redo: First was the homeowners’ extensive collection of majolica, with its elaborate shapes and colorful glazes in blues, greens, and yellows. Second was the home’s proximity to the water. “One thing I always like to do in rooms that look out on the water,” Wood says, “is use a lot of blue to make the view blend into the room.”
The large combination dining room and family room on the main level had a pretty start. The previous homeowners had painted the woodwork a creamy white and the walls a vivid, high-gloss lemon yellow, which the new owners loved.
To keep this room lively, the designer liberally mixed and matched patterns in a summery blend of aqua, yellow, and coral fabrics. A blue floral covers comfortable overstuffed couches, side chairs, and ottomans and shows up again on new valances. A coral and white windowpane plaid lounges on a re-covered French side chairs and numerous pillow ruffles. And a yellow-and-blue check appears on a pair of chair cushions at the game table.
Her secret to mixing so many fabrics is simple: “Repeating the same fabrics on different elements in the room, so that you don’t have spots of floral and spots of plaid, is important,” Wood says. “It all comes down to balance.”
Wood’s trick to selecting the right combinations of fabrics is equally logical. “I first find a main fabric that will give us the palette,” she says. “Then I find another fabric that comes in several colors that we can mix with the main fabric.” In the living room, that main fabric is the turquoise floral that covers much of the seating. To complement it, she chose the windowpane plaid in three different color combination – coral and white, aqua and white, and yellow and white – which she used in different places around the room, such as on toss pillows and on the bergere by the fireplace.
Like any dressmaker, Wood pays attention to the subtle embellishments that turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. Living room pillows are finished with playful ruffles, cording, or both, and the valance is adorned with a fabric bow. “I think one of the things that helps make a room look finished and put together is a lot of detail,” she says.