Two chairs in the casual sitting room were repurposed with blue velvet fabric to reflect the bold new look of the space//All photos by Rachel McGinn.
It’s been almost 10 years since interior designer Lori Shinal first started work on the traditional Bryn Mawr Colonial featured on these pages. “The clients wanted to update the design,” she says. “We ended up doing every room in the house.”
The unconventional mix of custom pieces, repurposed furniture and accessories—along with offbeat details like wallpapered ceilings—makes for a remarkably cohesive transitional home for a busy family of four. “They really let us run with the design,” says Shinal. “They have great taste—and it shows throughout the home.”
MLT: Now that this project is nearly complete, what do you admire most about it?
LS: I think this house flows really well. They use every room, which means it was designed for their needs. It has a nice, clean look to it, and it’s really cozy, too. The design really reflected them, which is so important to me. I don’t think you see my projects and say, “Lori Shinal was here.”
MLT: It’s apparent that they were willing to take some chances on the design.
LS: I think that people who hire us are looking to take some chances. It’s like a wardrobe: you can have some classic pieces and then throw a great piece of jewelry on to finish the look. We have more of that New York/Los Angeles aesthetic.
A pair of modern glass chandeliers above a substantial island are well-suited to the kitchen’s contemporary tone.
MLT: The Robert Abbey light fixtures hanging over the island prove that this is not your typical Main Line kitchen.
LS: The client went edgy with the kitchen; it’s definitely contemporary. It feels like a sophisticated Manhattan space. She kept showing us a picture that was her inspiration. It was an advertisement with a white kitchen and veneer cabinetry. We worked with kitchen designer Michelle Kennedy, who was so amazing.
We went with an extra-thick, white Caesar-stone-like material for the island countertop. The refrigerator and pantry space is behind the veneer. I love gadgets, and the owners wanted a steamer in the space; they use it all the time.
It also helps that the clients are very tidy. You couldn’t do this kind of kitchen for someone who’s going to have a lot of clutter around.
MLT: You’d expect a space off the kitchen to be the family room, but they made it a sitting room.
LS: We made what would’ve been the formal living room in the front of the house more of a family room, where they watch television. People are starting to rethink formal living rooms. We’ve been making them into modern billiard rooms. We’re doing one right now in Gladwyne. It will have a seating area and the pool table in the rear of the room. I want people to use their living rooms, and not have them be a space they just pass through.
MLT: You’re quite skilled at repurposing furniture and accessories. The chandelier in the sitting room is a great example.
LS: The original chandelier was gold and wouldn’t work well in the new design. But the owner had a sentimental attachment to it, so we lacquered it black, and it now makes a great statement. The two side chairs in the room also existed, but we lacquered the wood white and reupholstered them with a navy velvet fabric. The sofa is custom, but we reused their lamps and side tables.
I typically don’t like floral prints, and neither does the client, but my design associate, Megan Matthews, brought one to a meeting, and we decided to use it in a more modern application through pillows. There are three small pillows in the room in that fabric—and it’s just enough.
Wallpaper on the ceiling of the formal sitting room provides an elegant finishing touch.
MLT: You even wallpapered the ceiling.
LS: I say we like to do “soup to nuts, floor to ceiling.” It’s nice to paper a ceiling in a solid texture. It finished the room.
MLT: You have a pillow line that you sell at Barney’s. Why are pillows a must?
LS: I think if you start with a neutral sofa, or even a bold-color sofa, you can pop the look with a pillow. It’s an inexpensive way to change the whole look of a room. Really, it’s the whole reason I started my pillow business in the first place.
A painting’s hot-pink hues inspired this vignette, arranged on a mirrored console
MLT: One look up the stairs at that bold abstract painting, and it’s obvious that pink is someone’s favorite color.
LS: The artwork belonged to the homeowner, and we wanted to display it in a prominent way. This vignette proves that well-designed little spaces like this can be so powerful in a home. On the mirrored console, we paired two lamps and placed a piece of pink agate stone in front of each. At night, when the lights are on, the agate illuminates.
The owners love fashion, so we placed some coffee-table books about high-end designers in the center.
MLT: You worked with the clients’ two kids on their rooms. Any tips for getting teens involved in the design process?
LS: I love kids, so it’s always fun working with them. I really listen to what they like and how they’re going to use the space. The clients’ daughter really liked orange, pink and white. We did a custom bold-pink headboard and than added some Jonathan Adler lamps.
The big thing is that you want them to love their rooms when they come back from college and after college. Working with the kids in this family was a pleasure, just like working with their parents.