Monday, April 20, 2009

Inspired by Elizabeth Martin

The cover shot in this month's Elle Decor (shown above) is from the Washington, D.C., home of George Stephanopolous and his wife, actress/author Alexandra Wentworth (perhaps best known for her guest appearance as Jerry Seinfeld's girlfriend (Schmoopie) on the infamous "Soup Nazi" episode). Decorated by Wentworth's childhood friend, designer Elizabeth Martin, the house is a charming example of a classic Colonial Revival home done up in a decidedly more modern way, with an eclectic mix of traditional antiques and artwork, bohemian eclecticism, beach house chic, and assorted curiosities primarily inherited from Wentworth's grandmother.

Going through Elizabeth Martin's online portfolio, I'm struck by how timeless her work is, despite being incredibly "of the moment" since one of the major trends for accessories this summer is nautical and seaside motifs (for some excellent examples, see Thomas Paul, Williams-Sonoma Home, and West Elm), which she employs with some gusto. In my opinion, Martin hits a home run for successfully incorporating Wentworth's gigantic collection of antique corals and shells into a very traditional (and not at all cottage-y) interior.

My two favorite rooms in the spread were the dining room (pictured immediately above and below) and the study. You can peruse the entire spread online HERE and see more pictures of the home not included in Elle Decor's story at Martin's portfolio HERE. In all of the rooms, Martin paints the backs of the built-in bookshelves (of which I am completely envious) a more saturated and, in some instances, contrasting shade, which not only highlights the shelves as an architectural detail, but spotlights the many wonderful books and objects that fill them. The pops of orange in the dining room are also brilliant, especially against the cool gray walls. Normally I dislike trim painted out in the same color as the walls, but in this room I think it works as it modernizes and simplifies very traditional and ornate trim work and moldings.

I love the orange curtains here. With the light streaming through them, they almost glow. The matching settee is also a great touch.

The moody grey-brown-green walls (what would you call that color anyway?) of the study really cozy up this large room. I think the furniture arrangement is particularly well done here as Martin created two intimate conversation areas separated by a low wicker bench/console table. By dividing such a long space into two distinct areas, Martin ensures that entire room is usable space. And by placing the larger furniture pieces (i.e., the sofas) on this side of the room, Martin creates a visual anchor underneath the large windows that can stand up to the fireplace and built-ins on the opposite wall. Despite the formal paneling and salon-style art installation, the room still manages to feel relaxed and livable thanks to comfortable sofas and chairs that boast overstuffed cushions and more modern lines.

The insides of those bookshelves make my heart skip a beat. The brown velvet armchair and ottoman tie in with the brown velvet sofas in the seating area on the opposite side of the room. I also love the giant Chinese figurines on either side of the fireplace (my guess is that they're representative of George and Alexandra's Chinese zodiac animals as my parents have smaller bookends that look remarkably similar of an ox and a dog that represent their birth years as well).

For fun, I thought I might put together a mood board for a living room inspired by Elizabeth Martin's work at the Stephanopolous-Wentworth house. For wall color, I'd go with Benjamin Moore's Nantucket Fog, a mid-tone blue-gray whose name seems particularly appropriate given the nautical motif. Like Martin, I'd paint the trim to match.

Taking my cue from the dining room, I decided to use coral as my primary accent color, which gets picked up in the traditional side chair, Moroccan-style pouf, and some of the accessories. Hints of blue-grey would be found not just on the walls, but on a throw pillow and some seaside-inspired artwork. The bisque velvet sofa is comfortable, but has a contemporary shape that blends modern with traditional. For a coffee table, I'd go with table that looks like an antique trunk while the wooden side table has an organic and sculptural quality that is decidedly more modern. The zebra rug (which Martin uses in several rooms throughout the home) would keep the room interesting, but still grounds the space in neutral tones.


1. Colin Chair, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams ($1445, as shown)

2. Zebra Rug, Pottery Barn (5' x 8', $349)

3. Taka Trunk, Crate&Barrel ($499)

4. Orange Pouf, John Derian ($269)

5. Decorate Spheres, Williams-Sonoma Home ($48/set of 6)

6. Faux Coral, ZGallerie ($19.95-$44.95)

7. Twist Stool, ZGallerie ($119.95)

8. Seabury Sofa in Bisque velvet, Pottery Barn ($2099, as shown). Pillows (from left): Bristol Pillow in Mist and Ventura Pillow in Sunset, Crate&Barrel ($39.95 each); Octopus embroidered pillow cover, Pottery Barn ($49)

9. Breezing Up by Larry Miller, Artassance ($89-$498, depending on size)

10. Nina by Alicia Grau, Artassance ($136-$1057, depending on size)


Christy said...

I'd take it! Hook, line and sinker. LOVE IT.

I subscribe to that magazine and just loved this story too. Mmmm...

Sam said...

I love this new take on the classic Washingtonian decor. You often times see homes that are either to contemporary or too historical, finding a perfection in-between was truly captured here.

Thanks for sharing this - I had not read the article yet!


Sam @PrettyLovely

Patch said...

Love it! :-D

Liz said...

What a gorgeous post! Your commentary is fabulous, and I love that you've highlighted the really unique aspects of Martin's design - the painted backs of the bookshelves are dynamite (although I'm such a sucker for trim that I don't think I could let all that beautiful molding blend in). And great job on the mood board!!

Kristina with a K said...

I picked up this magazine the other day. I fell in love with the cover before I even knew what magazine it was.

Great comments and that coral color will be lovely :)

Mademoiselle Frou-Frou said...

i didn't know Ali Wentworth is the same one from that Seinfeld episode!!! wow, how did i miss that one!??!?!

i just received my ELLE Decor last week and loved the spread. in fact, we were inspired to do what Wentworth did with her rug featured on the cover (buy a plain rug and paint it ourselves!).

you have a beautiful blog!!

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