If we hadn’t already internalized that home should be our happy place, the COVID-19 pandemic sent us an indelible reminder. Joy was the ultimate inspiration for the pre-pandemic interior makeover of a 1950s stone colonial in Wayne. Like the homeowner, designer Michelle Gage has an affinity for whimsical, unique pieces and playful prints.
The springboard for the project was a small orange sofa that already was part of the owner’s décor. Imagine the citrusy orange of fresh fruit or the warm glow of the sun just as it dips below the horizon. “We loved the sofa and wanted it to stay, so we designed the room around it,” says Gage.
The rest of the project began as a blank canvas, which the designer would layer with color, pattern and texture. The client’s wish list included freshening the living room, revamping the sunroom and upgrading the look and feel of the powder room.
Mixing patterns and colors can delight the eye and infuse a space with energy. It’s a technique that transcends time and trends. Think hippie chic, Moroccan magic, tropical retreat. But before you go mad for plaid or plunge into a cacophony of color, contemplate the big picture. Design pros view the marriage of diverse patterns and hues as a delicate balancing act that brings together rugs, wallpaper, curtains, throws and accent pillows. “Consider color and scale,” advises Gage.
“Michelle Gage designed a lean, streamlined sofa upholstered in a custom artisan red-and-white block print, its curved skirt accented in nail-head trim. “It’s an amazing print,” she says.
Adjacent to the kitchen and accessed via a wide arch from the living room, the sunroom has a casual vibe, with a great view of the outdoors. It’s also home to the inspirational orange sofa, a tailored piece that’s now paired with decorative pillows in a floral scroll print and graphic checks. Pillows in the same floral pattern accent vintage rattan chairs with cushions in contrasting green-and-pink leaves and blossoms.
The wallpaper is fun and fanciful—a bold rendering of camels sporting orange saddle blankets, the same spritely hue as the sofa. “I chose it based on a lot of the images the owner showed me,” Gage says. “She wasn’t afraid of color and print, so I just followed her lead and went for it.”
A collection of blue-and-white ginger jars is displayed on built-in wood shelving painted white. Gage balanced the polished pieces with natural elements that add texture to the space. A rattan balloon chandelier hangs overhead, and round wood coffee table with chunky carved legs bridges the seating areas. The windows and French doors are dressed simply in reeded blinds, with a jute carpet anchoring the room.
With its arched doorways and a crisp white fireplace accented with dentil molding, the more formal living room is a practical space the owner enjoys daily. “It’s a place where she watches TV and works from the sofa at times,” Gage says.
Gage designed a lean, streamlined sofa upholstered in a custom artisan red-and-white block print, its curved skirt accented in nail-head trim. A sculptural stool covered in the same lively pattern provides extra seating. “It’s an amazing print and we were thrilled to create a totally one-of-a-kind sofa for this space,” says Gage. “No one else has this piece, making it all the more meaningful.”
In this house, a chair isn’t just something to sit on. It’s a statement in comfort and creativity. A traditional club chair gets a fresh new look when it’s covered in eye-popping coral upholstery. Gage added a pattern with a big, cozy pillow in a blue-and-white floral print. “Prints and patterns liven up a room and add an extra layer of excitement,” she says.
A sleek wood credenza with a mid-century vibe provides storage. A white lamp accented with rows of spheres looks vintage, but it’s actually an artful contemporary piece. Gage likes it so much she bought one for her boutique design studio in downtown Bryn Mawr, stationing the lamp in her window display.
The living room’s second sofa is tactile and inviting, upholstered in a velvety green solid. The buoyant multi-hued print on the pillows echoes the fabric on a large, circular skirted ottoman. For added texture, a slate-blue carpet is laid over the jute rug on the hardwood floor. The white walls serve as a gallery of sorts for colorful art and furniture. The windows are dressed in the same understated textural blinds as in the sunroom.
In personalizing each space, Gage is always on the lookout for art and other unique pieces that reflect the character of the homeowner. “For my own home, I shop flea markets and estate sales, as well as artists I admire for prints and original works,” she says. “For clients, I will mainly shop local galleries or trade-only art sources to give them something that feels personal to them.”
The project was completed well before the designer and her client had an inkling that the pandemic would keep people sheltered at home for a year. That’s only reinforced Gage’s commitment to crafting joyful interiors that lift the spirits of those who live there.“I always strive to create cheerful spaces— and it’s always a delight to work with a homeowner who loves color and pattern as much as we do,” she says.
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