Design is an everyday part of life for Vanessa Kreckel. As the owner of the custom-design studio Two Paperdolls, Kreckel creates eye-catching business cards, wedding invitations, stationery and more for a long list of clients.
The demands of heading a successful business mean some long workweeks for Kreckel, making her Wayne studio a home away from the real home she shares with her husband and son in Havertown. Two Paperdolls outgrew its original space on Louella Court, prompting a 2008 move to nearby West Avenue. “This location brought everything together under one roof,” says Kreckel of the spacious former dental office. “Our workflow is so much more efficient now.”
Though Kreckel was more than capable of handling the interior design for her new studio, she made the wise choice of putting that full-time task into someone else’s hands. “I had too much stuff going on,” she admits.
Kreckel chose Winnie King, knowing she’d have an active role as a consultant to ensure that some of the same design philosophies from her Havertown home found their way into the new studio space. While Kreckel agrees that mixing styles makes a room visually interesting, she prefers to keep things simple. “I like things to have a purpose,” says Kreckel. “I don’t like a lot of stuff; I like spaces to be clean.”
You won’t find many tchotchkes in Kreckel’s home or office. “I wanted [the studio] to be a calm space and not have a busy design that competed with our work,” she says. “The design didn’t need to inspire our work; we inspire each other.”
Transforming a sterile dentist’s office into a hip design studio was a tall order for King. “When I first came to the office, I couldn’t believe how pedestrian it was,” she quips. “There were still echoes of the sounds of the drill.”
King works mostly on residential projects, though she did design A Taste of Britain’s new tea shop and café in Wayne’s Eagle Village Shops. But she enjoys the unique challenges that come with commercial and office spaces. “This was a dream job,” says King. “Working with this talented group of designers required a strong approach to style, function and originality.”
When brainstorming ideas, King had more than the owner in mind. “A big part of Two Paperdolls’ business is weddings, so I knew that a lot of brides and their mothers would be coming in for consultations,” says King. “I wanted the space to appeal to both of those generations.”
A majority of client consultations and staff meetings take place in an open meeting space in the first-floor reception area. “I wanted the space to be both beautiful and functional,” says King. “All the fabrics, furniture, original artwork and accessories were chosen to reflect the festive events that the studio’s work represents.”
The room features soft blue-gray paint and enviro–friendly tiger bamboo floors. A pair of refinished vintage ballroom chairs, a set of high-back wing chairs and an ebony linen couch are positioned around a custom sawhorse worktable designed by Chester County furniture maker Bryce Ritter. A three-tier console table by Ritter sits nearby.
The houndstooth pattern on the wing chairs brings a touch of masculinity to the otherwise feminine space. “I knew there would be male clients in the studio, so I wanted them to be comfortable, too,” says King.
It was King’s idea to hang a beautiful painting of a nature scene over the custom charcoal-and-cream silk drapes behind the couch. A Sandy Chilewich woven vinyl rug further defines the uniqueness of the space. Track lighting and a contemporary drum shade chandelier finish things off with flair.
In the reception area, King kept the furnishings to a minimum. A rustic counter bar stands in the main room, with three upholstered bar chairs providing an informal meeting spot for clients. Two hand-blown glass pendants from Simon Pearce in West Chester dangle above a vintage counter.
“The challenge with a completely contemporary design is that you want it to last for more than a year or two,” says King. “That’s why I like mixing the vintage antiques with more contemporary pieces—so it doesn’t get dated too soon.”
A few of Two Paperdolls’ creations are displayed in shadowboxes behind the counter. A canvas print of one of Kreckel’s first letterpress machines acts as a floating wall to hide the restrooms. “This was the perfect solution,” says King. “It not only hides the bathrooms but it also breaks up the room’s large expanse.”
King also mixed new and old in the kitchen area. She found a rustic round table at Dancing Dog Antiques in Lakewood, combining it with modern Umbra plastic chairs. Another enviable find is a striking, distressed drop-leaf table with upholstered, high-back dining chairs in one of the private meeting rooms.
So while Two Paperdolls helps clients brand their businesses through stationery and such, King helped Kreckel brand her own business through office design.
No matter where she is, Kreckel loves mixing vintage furniture with modern pieces. But while the colors in her office are more subdued, she doesn’t shy away from rich, saturated tones at home. “Color makes me happy,” she says.
When she moved into her house 10 years ago, the interior needed an update. The couple started by gutting the entire first floor, replacing the rugs in the living and dining rooms with parquet hardwoods. A distressed fireplace mantel adds a touch of whimsy to the living room—never mind that there isn’t an actual fireplace. Sitting on the mantel is an ornate, antique framed mirror, along with pictures of her son taken by acclaimed local photographer Laura Novak.
Kreckel’s keen eye helped her pull off a truly eclectic mix of furniture in the dining room—everything from a red hutch that belonged to her parents to a black corner display cabinet that holds her dishes. “I like that there are different pieces in this room,” she says. “It makes it interesting.”
And who says a dresser has to go in the bedroom? Kreckel gave the unique yellow piece, with its original glass pulls, a prominent spot in the dining room. “It’s nice seeing it every day in here,” she says. “And it’s the perfect piece for storing things.”
Bookending the dresser are two regal ’40s-era chairs upholstered with wood-type letterpress fabric custom-designed by Kreckel. The room’s dining table is oversized, square and quite traditional, with a matching set of chairs.
The Kreckels spend much of their downtime in the family room, and it’s hard to believe that this cozy space—with its flat-screen TV, plush leather couches and side chairs—used to be a garage. Framed family photos can be found almost anywhere you look, lending a welcoming, homey touch.
Kreckel likes to say she has “an eye for trendy jackets, vintage wallpapers and unique furniture.” Apparently, she’s also mastered the art of searching out chic bargains—and that gives both her home and studio their quirky yet sophisticated appeal. “I shop all over, from flea markets to antique shops,” she says.
And it takes a true creative talent—one with confidence in her own personal style—to make “found” furniture and accessories work this well.
1. What’s the overall look you’re after? Is your style contemporary or more traditional? Do you want your home to be a show house, or are you looking for comfort and livability?
2. Which personal tastes are compatible and which should be eliminated? It’s fine to have more than one style preference, but you want to make sure you’re not mixing too many of them. After all, you don’t want it to be a hodgepodge. A proper mix makes for a cohesive look.
3. Do you have a clear picture of the end result and what it will take to get it? Make sure you have an honest conversation with your interior designer about expectations and reality.
4. Can your budget support your expectations? It’s crucial to be upfront with your interior designer about how much you can afford to spend.
5. Are your expectations realistic and manageable? If your wish list includes custom fabric and furniture, it can take several weeks to deliver. So don’t expect the process to go quickly. Painting rooms or doing minor construction can disrupt your daily routine. Plan on being flexible.
6. When you see yourself in your new space, how does it make you feel?
7. Do you have a source of inspiration to help your interior designer get started? It could be fabric, a painting, a piece of pottery or something else that’s special.
8. How will your new space look at dusk? This will definitely affect your lighting decisions.
9. How can you use accessories to help create an environment that inspires you? You want a space that reflects your interests and likes—not something copied from a catalog.
10. Picture a get-together with friends in your new space. What’s the nicest compliment you could receive? Now, use that as inspiration.