A home for elegant entertaining yet durable for a family of six

A family of six and one adorable pug named Mimi, who endearingly snores loudly in her sleep.

A year, ago, Mimi’s folks, the Macs, a newly transplanted family of six enlisted my services to help them furnish their lovely center hall home in Bronxville.

It’s certainly a family home, but it’s also a place for elegant entertaining which the Macs frequently enjoy.

One of the more unusual aspects which I thoroughly enjoyed is that they brought to the table (pun intended) virtually an entire container filled with gorgeous antiques and a vast collection of some amazing art.

Their former home in Atlanta was somewhat larger and had a thread of red going through nearly every room. This time they wanted to do away with the red and instead use a palette of primarily blues and greens.

After discussing their wish list, I asked Mrs. Mac if she had heard of Phoebe and Jim Howard? No, but after looking, she said that is exactly the kind of look she wanted. Soft and serene.


An elegant living room by Phoebe Howard


A wonderful vignette with Chinoiserie wallpaper by Phoebe’s husband, Jim Howard

I was terribly excited about that because I’ve been wanting to do a project in that color-pallette

The process took several weeks which is about average for four rooms.

One issue from the start is that the Macs had a custom-painted pale yellow and red table that they wanted to keep. They were told by a decorator friend in Atlanta that they would need to give it up.

I told them… I’ll make it work. (thank you Tim Gunn)

I went home and thought. I will?

Oh, I’ll worry about that tomorrow… ;]

The first room to get sorted out was the dining room. It is on the small side, nearly square and has a cozy corner fireplace using up a bit of the available space. Fortunately the room is plenty wide to accommodate furniture on two sides.

One visit, I brought over several wallpapers. Mr and Mrs. Mac simultaneously, zoned in on one paper. That’s it, they both chimed in, very excitedly. I love it when that happens because from there, I can build.

To round out the design, we choose a trim color to match. However, on another visit, I realized that we should only do the blue trim on the crown and baseboard. I didn’t want to interrupt the line of the wall with a contrasting color, but the trim around the doors and windows felt to me that it needed to be the same creamy white found in the rest of the home.

Is that a little foam I see in the corner of your mouth?

Oh wait. I get it. Yeah… it’s about the white trim.

You’re dying to know which one. Please go get a drink of water and relax.  It’s one of these. ;

For the floor covering, we went with my fave sea grass with a coordinating linen border. Sea grass is a wonderful product for area rugs. It’s durable, reasonably priced and inherently stain resistant!

I know that Phoebe and a lot of other top-tier designers use sisal and they often use my favorite concentric diamond pattern. Oh, and I love it too! I love the way it looks. Love it!

But… as discussed previously in carpet fibers to avoid

Sisal Sucks.

It sucks in terms of cleanability.

It stains.

It stains.

It stains.

Spill plain old water on it and it stains! Yuck! Please don’t be seduced by sisal! In all of my years, I’ve never specified it. Close, but never could commit. If anyone out there can tell me how to make it work, I’d be grateful, but everything I’ve heard over and over and over is how horrible it is to maintain.

 A few before pics from the previous owners.

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 7.12.32 PM

Classic Fuddee Duddee. Dude, what’s with that valance?

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And now…


Because it’s a small room, I wanted to keep the color scheme simple and monochromatic. The Macs loved the whole scheme and deemed it to be killer. I agreed.

mc-dining-greek-key-trimI chose a fabric to match the paper and my fave Greek Key Drapery trim.


A view of my fave piece of art! It makes the room!

traditional dining room and furnishings for elegant entertaining

Their gorgeous furniture fits here perfectly!

dining room hutch and furnishings for elegant entertaining

The best, sharpest photo of the bunch and wouldn’t you know? Their delightful housekeeper was busy and the vacuum cord was stretched all along the rug!

IMG_0045 (1)

Don’t ask how I got rid of it. But worse than that? I had stowed the doggie gate (normally in front of the living room entrance) behind the chair against the wall and as you can see here, failed to remove it for the shot.

IMG_0045 (2)

Very elegant, isn’t it?  Oy, I really needed an assistant!

Difficult to get rid of that one, but if I hadn’t mentioned it, I don’t think you would’ve noticed it. (in the final edit)

And…now, for the living room.

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 7.13.51 PM

the before shot :]

I have never understood why people put that crap on their windows. Incidentally, I have no idea how they even jimmy-rigged that thing up thar. There was no header whatsoever between the crown moulding and window. The contractor had to add one in, so that we could hang our drapes! Fortunately, we noticed well ahead of installation day!

Below the living room built in with about two, too many rows of shelves!


The patient is prepped and ready for surgery doctor.

living room for elegant entertaining

Six months later, after all of the swelling had gone down…

Well… not all of it. Long story short. This was my second 4-hour photo shoot. The first one, resulted in nothing as my memory card was busted. The camera was taking shots, just not recording them. Needless to say, I was a tad P. O.’d!

Take Two. The week before. Gorgeous, sunny day. The following week on the day of this shoot? It was an exceedingly dark and dreary day. Clouds are good. Dark, not so good. We make do with what we have and fix it later on if we have to.


Another smashing piece of art! They sure do make me look good! The lamps, art and antique tables and chest are part of their collection. Everything else is new.


A custom Chinoiserie coffee table from my new fave vendor Phillips Scott.


A shot from last May, right after the window treatments went up with my cell phone! Can you tell the difference? Actually, with my cell phone, I don’t get lens distortion. It was fixed the best I could in some of these other shots. I use a free editing program called GIMP.


A close up of the slipper chair detail. This was the Mac’s idea. Wish I had thought of it first!

quadrille-roman-shadeAnother cell phone shot from last May.

The second adjacent sun room/family area mostly for the four boys (well, really young men now!) to hang was an additional challenge. This room had to be able to withstand a bit of abuse. In addition, there is an entrance to and from the pool. AND it has Mimi’s private entrance to let herself out and back in when necessary. So cute!

Of course, it also has to flow from the formal living room.


By this time in my photo taking, I was bemoaning that I didn’t have an assistant with me. I tried this time, but Mario, my wonderful installer wasn’t available. He would’ve fixed the cushions better. Love this sectional, a synthetic brown velvet and fabulous jute rug which is part of the Bunny Williams Collection from Dash and Albert.


Earlier shot before the coffee table arrived and another beautiful custom table from Phillips Scott.


Now to the other side of the dining room where a new kitchen was installed.

Wanna see the before? ;]

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 9.52.36 PM

Adorbs, ain’t it? And with a little peek at the Albatross Valance.

I know… I’m going to rot in hell.  smiley devil


FYI, I had absolutely nothing to do with the kitchen except to give my stamp of approval and help pick out the cabinet color. We made the chair cushions out of the same fabric going in the next space. But these are laminated.

Moving on…

And what have we here?

The Macs had two club chairs and a sofa that they were hoping to refurbish.

I love breathing new life into some well-loved furniture with a lot of potential!


Seconds before the chairs and sofa were whisked off to the fat farm, where they were put on a strict regimen of Tony Horton’s Beachbody P-90x and Shakeology to get the weight off!


You can’t see it here, but the back was FAT. It’s now lean and mean, which you’ll see in a sec.

Just past the new kitchen is the “make it work” table. It’s sitting in the newly minted eating area/cozy family room which was formerly the garage!


Do those lanterns look fake? Well, they are! I was having fun. It’s become a little hobby of mine–photo editing. But, it’s also a great way to show a client or yourself how something will look before you dive in and buy it. I love these Chinoiserie lanterns juxtaposed against the Mac’s gorge antique Swedish Country clock. BTW, it was NOT 2:00. Nosiree… by the time I got to this area, it was nearly 4:00 PM. Sunset on November 10th? 4:46 PM.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the raw photo of my favorite space, the charming grownup family area/Mimi’s bedroom adjacent to the table.

IMG_0202 (1)

And after several hours in hair and makeup…

casual sitting area for elegant entertaining

Bonus points for anyone who can point out the two main edits besides the lights going on!


Doesn’t the upholstered furniture look great?


The Mac’s art totally makes the room!

The red and yellow problem-child-table actually turned out to be an asset.

I love it when that happens!



I would like to dedicate this post to the memory of the fallen in Paris, France.

May this be a symbol of healing and peace.

Paris Peace

45 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel,
    I’m not one to leave comments, in fact this is my first time:) I love the colors you’ve used in this home
    I also love the descriptions you gave of the before shots, l literally laughed out loud so funny! I subscribed to you…I think. I’m not a computer person and my daughter just coaxed me to get Pinterest which I love!
    I’m looking forward to following you.
    Would you please tell me the name of the wallpaper you used in the dining room? Beautiful!
    Delighted to have found you,

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Welcome! And please don’t be afraid. We’re a friendly, helpful bunch here.

      The wallpaper is by Cole and Son – called Oleander. It is available through Lee Jofa in the US.

  2. Laurel, This is one of my favorites where I keep coming back to see more details. Would you please share the color of the grownup family room? Thanks

  3. I love all your blogs. My cousin jus having her house painted throughout and the floors done in English chestnut. I think it looks great. But we are at a Loss as to where to put the chair rail. What do you think of iremoving the apron and running it at the apron. It is about 30″ from the floor?

    1. Hi Sylvia,
      Not sure what you mean by the term apron in reference to a wall. I’ve never heard that before. Do you mean window sill? If so, yes, that is fine to run it at that height. In fact, in the post I did a couple weeks ago, they ran it a little lower than that to meet the sill of large windows that are only about two feet or maybe a little more above the floor. https://laurelberninteriors.com/get-window-treatments-like-see-magazines/

      However, the window sill is not removed. The chair rail dies into the sill. If doing it yourself, perhaps research how carpenters handle this or higher a carpenter who has experience with this.

  4. Dear Laurel

    While looking for some advice on paint I discovered your blog and have become a fan. I have learned a lot and very much enjoy your humor and high spirits. May I request a posting on how to specify curtains? I have a suburban home and have the names of a few places that will make custom curtains. I have already chosen some very lovely and very expensive fabric that I don’t want to ruin. After choosing a style of pleat, how does one specify the depth of the pleat, spacing, etc?
    PS if you could avoid publishing my name I would be grateful as I have had my identity stolen.

    Many thanks!

    1. Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your identity theft! That is no laughing matter. But the only name I have for you is “anonymous,” so unless that’s your real name, you should be okay.

      I will grant your wish as there have been a few requests. But a couple things to tide you over. You should not have to specify the depth of the pleat or spacing. That is the art of the professional workroom. They would probably be insulted if you did that. It’s a little like going to a restaurant and walking into the kitchen to tell them how hot to make the pan. But there are other things you can specify such as the type of pleat you want, lining; that sort of thing.

      Normally a single width of 54″ fabric has 5 or 6 pleats and then a ring on the front and return back to the wall. The return is just like what it sounds. It is the fabric turning back 90 degrees to cover the space on the side of the drape.

      One of the most important aspects is the installer. Some are better than others. Sometimes it all goes smoothly, but usually it’s a nerve-wracking, nail-biting process.

      Again, you should not have to specify this. It took me YEARS to learn what I needed to know about window treatments. They do not teach any of it in interior design school.


      I know… crazy-time!

  5. The slipper chair detail is gorgeous! I’m so happy to see beautiful trims are making a comeback! If a person has an existing sofa and would like to add a trim detail like that at the bottom, is it possible to just glue it on with fabric glue? Or is there a special application that an upholsterer does? I’ve hesitated to use trim along the base a sofa/chair because I’m afraid people’s legs/feet will eventually abrade it, as most trims are a lot more delicate than upholstery fabric. What’s your take on that? Thank you so much in advance! As always, your blog never fails to get me thinking…and teach me something!

    1. Hi Joanne,

      I’m not altogether sure, but a big wide trim probably needs some sewing. However, a hot glue gun is very good and I think should hold. Maybe there’s a way to experiment before attaching to the sofa.

  6. I love your work!!! I also love this home and the color palette they chose. We just moved in to a new house, and as blue people, we plan on going with cool blues throughout. When I tell people the direction I am going in family room, I get lambasted with advice on GRAY, GRAY, GRAY. Thanks for permission and inspiration to do what my heart loves!

    I especially love the blue in the formal living room. Just perfect, and especially love those slipper chairs! Maybe when my kids are bigger and aren’t so sticky. 🙂

  7. As usual, another gorgeous room Laurel,
    I love the pair of unadorned side chairs done up in what looks like Fortuny, (sofa cushions as well) tying to the soft, muted celery back wall of the built-ins.
    Ditto on the sisal. Made that mistake in the 90s. LOVE sea grass. It is indestructible, especially with pets.
    Thanks again for sharing your beautiful work.

  8. Great job with all of the rooms, but where is Mimi? I’m a pug lover and unfortunately only one old girl (almost 15) remains from our original pug posse of five.

  9. I absolutely love these colors. My own home has white, creams, grays, blue grays with some greens. You did an amazing job, and being able to do so with some of the homeowners possessions.
    I really love the blind too, I just had roman blinds put in my home, not the whole house but the kitchen, dining, living room and I had never ordered them before. I had no idea about all the folds & you can see from the outside. I had wanted just plain white on the outside as you see in from the road. I like them up, but do not love them when they are down. Not to mention they are not cheap by any means. Is this shade just plain on the back? What a transformation on the Mac’s home, from the start to the end. I loved seeing it, thank you.

    1. Hi Karen,

      Thank you so much! Yes, Roman Shades are pretty expensive. The savings over drapes though is that there’s less fabric and no rod and installation costs less too.

  10. Hi Laurel! Excellent post and I really love love the Living Room! Phoebe Howard is one of my fave designers for her use of soft colors and restraint. However her style is a bit too formal and symmetrical ( of course the home she decorates always have like 10′ ceilings…haha. Like we all have rooms like that) You did a great job incorporating her color schemes and limited use of pattern into a realistic liveable lifestyle. Well done. May I ask what pale blue color u used for the walls? It’s lovely. I had a Fernwood green LR w blue and yellow accents but changed it to navy and white w red. You INSPIRE me to go back to light blue and green!

    1. Hi Mary Jean. I believe the downstairs rooms were all Benjamin Moore Ivory White 925. We were going back and forth with Mascarpone for a while. They are very close. In some areas of the home we also used White Dove. For traditional interiors, I usually like a creamy white.

  11. Hi Laurel (it’s me again), Is it okay to ask the name of the fabric you used for the Macs livingroom curtains? Cathy

  12. This is so beautifully done! I love how the colors segue to al the rooms in a really relaxed buy functional manner. I guess I am saying that I love the restraint and the energy in the rooms done in different way!

    This house give me hope! I am embarking on a redo of my house and want it to show me and my taste and not what everyone sees on Houzz. Thanks for inspiring me to figure out ways to fit things in in a modern design way!

    1. Hi Susan,

      Yes, please stay off Houzz! lol Of course, I’m being facetious. But I’m also tired of the same old “transitional” styles. I see them looking phenomenally dated in 10 years.

      This is one reason why I encourage people to ignore the popular trends and go for what’s classic. And certainly go with what they genuinely love, not what they think they’re supposed to love! Thanks for your lovely comment!

  13. Oh Laurel, I wish you lived near me. You’re designs resonate with me – especially a blue and green colour scheme and your style. Everything here makes my heart sing! Thank you!! Cathy

      1. I hate that too, because I do the same thing all the time; like write hear instead of here and feel like an illiterate dolt! I wish I could add an editing feature for commenters!

    1. Hi Cathy,

      Thank you so much! I was lucky in that I had two clients who were not only a great team with each other, but were phenomenally engaged in the entire process. My philosophy is always that it’s the client’s home. I don’t need to have my thumb print on every little detail. Some clients do want that but most don’t. I love this color scheme too! And I love that it certainly looks coordinated but not overly “done.”

      BTW, the Macs really do use their living room. In the back there is a folding table that converts to one of their passions which is playing Bridge.

  14. I discovered your blog a few months ago and now I am a big fan! I have been both educated and entertained while catching up on all of your posts. Now I look forward to reading your latest with my morning coffee every Sunday! Loved the before and after transformation this morning. What a difference! On that note – were the 2 changes the magazines to books and removal of the lamp cord?

    1. Hi Maxine,

      Thank you! I love my coffee too! I forgot about the cords! Yes, that’s a third one! Lots of cords and in photos, they stick out like crazy! Next time, I have a shoot this large, I am definitely going to have an assistant!

    1. Hi KC, Thank you! I probably didn’t make it clear enough but the edits were those between the before and after digital editing I did with my computer, not those done during the shoot. Actually, I put the throw back on the sofa!

  15. Laurel, Very lovely interpretation of Mrs. Howard in living & dining rooms– However, your ability to incorporate the Macs’ loved pieces & maintain flow throughout the house is outstanding! I think my favorite rooms are the breakfast space & family room. I hope the pagoda lights happened!
    Photo-edit: (1) Magazines to books (2) Right drapery edge on left window.
    Actually, I kind of like seeing dog gates & vacuum cleaner cords–makes it “real”!
    You’re so right: Sisal sucks. Made that “never again” mistake in 1995.
    Because you asked 😉 that LR valance needed the curtain on left side pulled over. Valance installed re: high & wide mantra.
    The house was clearly “dated”. I suspect it was last “done” in the 80s and then staged to sell–knowing updates were needed. I only mention this because I feel criticism of decor left over from “previous owner” is not useful & can be hurtful. After my dear MIL sold her house, a newspaper article appeared on its redecoration. The current owner made lots of diparaging remarks about MIL’s choices. Those who loved her, hid the article! But, a “friend” made a point of ‘dropping it off’! That criticism of her beloved home, for all to read, was hurtful & humiliating.

    1. Hi Susan, Ding, ding, ding! You got them both! Good eye!

      Actually, this style of decorating proliferates all over this area and it could’ve been done last year. And I agree, an article in a newspaper which identifies at least one party and the owner going on and on in a disparaging way is tacky in the extreme. And yes, could be humiliating. That is one reason why my post is 100% anonymous.

      However, this is a blog, not an article in a magazine. People are reading it to be educated and for inspiration. I feel that it is helpful to point out mistakes and gaffs.

      I certainly wasn’t afraid to point out my own! I make plenty of them. All I can do is laugh at myself sometimes!

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  16. I would move in today, if given a chance because this is a home that has comfort, color and true elegance- it’s designed to give many years of happy service to this lucky family. I love the antique Swedish clock, and that red table is divine!
    Family room is my favorite, so comfy and stunning and cheerful.. AS far as the edits go- I did notice two 🙂

    1.You moved the topiary plant closer to the lamp.
    2.You took the magazines off the side table next to the chair and replaced them with a nice pile of books, with a red book anchoring the little vignette.. How did I do 🙂

    1. Hi Dolores. You got one out of two. It looks like I did move the topiary, at some point, physically. The comparison is with the identical shots. I was in such a rush that I forgot about the magazines. The housekeeper had laid them out like that which is lovely in real life, but in the photo, my eye went straight to them!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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