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A Villanova Home Gets a Modern Update


Neutral fabrics and metallic accents bring elegance to the formal living room//Photographs by Drew Callahan    

Initially, Haverford-based interior designer Leslie Hayes was asked to transform the backyard of a certain Villanova home. The to-do list included making over two outdoor areas: a second-story patio off the family room and one at ground level directly below. The client also wanted Hayes to design a pool and the area surrounding it. 

Soon enough, Hayes’ seemingly cut-and-dry project would become a two-year working relationship with the homeowner. Once she’d finished with the outdoor areas, the client invited her inside to see what she could do there. “What was supposed to just be redoing the living room and dining room turned into renovating—in some way—every room of the house,” says Hayes. “It looked like an entirely different home once we were done.” 

It had been almost a decade since the owner had first moved in, and she wanted what most of Hayes’ clients are looking for: a serious style update. “They wanted fresh, clean, edgy and super-comfortable,” says Hayes. “They also wanted it to feel unencumbered. Of course, they still wanted layers of things that make it luxurious and rich.” 

The home didn’t change at all structurally. Instead, the transformations occurred by bringing in custom light fixtures, rugs and furniture, and by refreshing existing furniture with new fabrics or paint. 

From Left: Sweeping staircase adds drama to the foyer; custom sidechairs allow for intimate conversations in the living room

The Great Indoors

The interior project began with the two-story foyer, where a metallic grass-cloth wall covering in a golden brown now makes an immediate impact. An abstract, patterned custom runner on the sweeping staircase has the same tones. Nearby, a lamp with a gold metallic base and three abstract sculptures sit on a custom console.

Hayes typically brings as much detail to the front entryway as she does the living spaces in the rest of the home. “I always want to wow people when they walk in,” she says. “The entry should entice guests into wanting to see the rest of the house—and having some art adds a much-needed layer. It finishes a space.” 

For the formal living room, Hayes kept the palette almost completely neutral, and the size of the space allowed for three separate seating areas. “If you’re having guests over, they don’t always sit in one spot,” she says. 

A Hickory Chair armless sofa in cut velvet joins two oversized sateen chairs in front of the fireplace. A more intimate vignette features two Edward Ferrell armchairs in a silver-gray sateen. Another corner of the living room has a vintage settee accented with pillows, all in a deep-eggplant fabric. A nearby bench was reupholstered in a more subdued lavender Fortuny Italian fabric. 

In the dining room, the existing coffered ceiling sets the formal tone. A new table accommodates 10. Hayes revived the existing chairs with fresh fabric (crushed velvet on front, gold on back) and paint. The dramatic chandelier—with a circular shade from Baker Furniture’s Thomas Pheasant collection—may have overpowered another space. But it fits perfectly here. 

From Left:  the dining area features a custom chandelier, reupholstered chairs and a new table; A vintage settee in the living room

Modern Updates 

The kitchen may have been the only room in the home that didn’t get a complete overhaul, but it did benefit from a few updates. White wallpaper with a thin, black pinstripe adds a bit of pop to the neutral space. Black makes another appearance in the kitchen’s leather counter stools, which are outlined with metallic grommets. 

The real transformation, however, occurred in the eat-in area, with its hammered zinc tabletop. Hayes describes the chairs—designed by Oly—as a modern spoof on the antique Chippendale claw-foot chair. “They have animal feet,” she says. “And they provide a subtle whimsy to the room.” 

Hayes found the ideal Brunschwig & Fils persimmon wallpaper to cover the hallway leading from the front of the house to the back. Hayes repeated the orange accents throughout family room, where two club chairs in a black cut velvet provide a stark contrast to an adjacent light-cream sectional. “A strong black makes a very powerful statement,” says Hayes. “I think it works perfectly here.” 

Interestingly, the family room is devoid of bookcases and shelving. “Technology has simplified everything,” says Hayes. “It all goes back to the trend of keeping things light and uncluttered.” 

The outdoor living area

Not Quite Roughing It

The second-story patio that kicked off the project off is now a sophisticated additional living area. Full-length drapes can be drawn to keep out the cold air, and a fireplace is available when the temperature turns brisk. A comfy sofa, side chairs and rug add to the cozy vibe. 

“I’m only as good as someone allows me to be,” says Hayes. “And this client allowed me to really show our ability as a firm. It was a great opportunity.” 


Interior Design: Leslie Hayes Interiors, Haverford, (484) 380-9020.