Designer's Home Decorating Rules
Charlottesville, Virginia, homeowner and shopkeeper Christy Ford offers five ways to turn a house into a home.
The Ford Family
When Ryan and Christy Ford first moved to Charlottesville, it was just the two of them and their dog. Now the couple’s house is also home to 6-year-old Henry, 4-year-old Ruby, and 3-year-old Tulip.
Here are her simple rules for finding, living in, and loving a home that’s bursting at the seams, yet still has style to spare.
French cabinet: antique. Similar pieces available through Kenny Ball Antiques; kennyballantiques.com.
Get the Look:
Many of the items in Christy’s house are vintage or one of a kind. Similar items, as well as much of the new furniture and lighting, are often available through her store, And George, Charlottesville, VA; 434/244-2800, andgeorge.com.
1. Be Persistent
If you fall in love, fight for what you want. “We love, love, love this house. We love the location. We love the simplicity and the European influence,” Christy says. “But when we first noticed it, the house wasn’t for sale.” While Ryan waited in the car, Christy knocked on the door and asked the owner if he would consider selling what was then a house in major disrepair. The man said no, but Christy begged for a tour. “Just show me what I’m missing,” she said.
Throughout the four months that followed, Christy would call the owner, and he would waffle between maybe and no until finally he gave them the answer they were waiting for. That was when the fun began. Ryan and Christy spent the next 18 months renovating their prized cottage, with Ryan acting as general contractor and Christy choosing all of the paint colors and furnishings.
Door and window paint: Palladian Blue (HC-144) by Benjamin Moore; benjaminmoore.com.
If you see a house you simply must have, knock on the door and ask the owner if he’s planning to move to Florida anytime soon.
2. Play Up Your Favorite Color, but Keep the Base Neutral
“I’m kind of obsessed with blue French opaline glass now,” Christy says. The bright, almost turquoise color can be seen on table lamps and candlesticks in the living room as well as in the entry. “I would go crazy with that color, but I learned from my mother to keep the base neutral in order to let accessories really shine. She has reined me in a little bit to retain the calmness.”
White or off-white walls and slipcovers stay the same even as Christy flirts with new obsessions. “I tire quickly of things,” admits Christy. “I’ve gone through phases with several different colors, so I try to change things up with pillows and throws.”
Wall paint: Battenberg (AF-70), also by Benjamin Moore.
If you have a lot of collections, always keep the base neutral so your displays won’t overwhelm the space. Try a creamy paint color such as Donald Kaufman Color DKC-4 for a subdued background that allows artwork and objects to be the stars.
Painting (above sofa): by Dean Dass, other works available through Les Yeux du Monde gallery; lesyeuxdumonde.com.
3. Adapt Your Home to Your Current Needs
There’s no law that says a dining room has to be a dining room. Several of the rooms in the Ford home have served many purposes. What was designated as the “children’s dining room” when the 1911 home was built was Christy and Ryan’s home office. Now, with the simple addition of a row of hooks for pint-size coats and sweaters, it serves as a combination library/mudroom. “Just for the moment, not forever,” Christy jokes.
Their home office is now located in a small, sunny space just off the dining area. The former dining room became home to the television and was reincarnated as the family room. In the living room, the previous kitchen table now holds a display of books and objects. “For now, the formality has left our house,” Christy says. “We’re just going with where we are in life. We live in constant motion.”
If a once-formal space works better as a den for multiple viewings of Dora the Explorer, swap out the furniture. You can always change it back.
4. Let the Wild Things Roam
Christy shares the secret to letting kids and animals really live in a house without losing your mind: “Slipcovers—everything is washable!” The white slipcover on the sofa in the dining area, just across from the kitchen, is forgiving of mealtime mishaps. “I purposely chose white because you can use OxiClean on it to remove ketchup and marks from the dogs rubbing up against it.”
Every room has details that forgive wear and tear. In the kitchen, Ryan and Christy chose Virginia slate countertops and then had a sink custom made out of the same dark slate. The color hides stains that would show on a white sink
Use animal-print rugs as much as possible. The cheetah print in the family room and the leopard print in the dining area hide a multitude of sins.
5. Let the Kids Bring Nature Inside
In the family room, a bleached bone has a spot of honor on the mantel. Family lore has it that this baby shower gift for Henry is a dinosaur bone (though a paleontologist might insist otherwise). With that humble item, the first of the three Ford children was thrust into the world of collecting. While many of Christy’s accessories are antiques, art books, and small sculptures, some of the most valuable are found or made by Henry, Ruby, and Tulip during backyard wanderings.
Wall paint: Angelica (AF-665), also by Benjamin Moore.
Duvet cover: Kerry Cassill; kerrycassill.com.
Let the children explore the backyard and bring in feathers and birds’ nests (abandoned, of course) to display on bookshelves or mantels. Not only will they learn to love nature, but they’ll also learn to respect the items displayed in your home.
Wall paint: Tranquility (490), also by Benjamin Moore.
Get the Look
Duvet covers: For a similar look, try Dottie Duvet Cover by PBteen; pbteen.com.