When asked about her decorating style, Priscilla Fenlin pauses. “Traditional,” she finally says. “A young traditional.”
Fenlin recalls how someone else described her home: preppy chic. “She’s a very good friend of mine whose taste I admire,” says Fenlin, who handled all the interior design work in the house. “So I was happy with that description.”
As it turns out, the description fits. In every room, Fenlin paired traditional furnishings with tasteful accessories, colorful paint and rich fabrics for personality and depth. The young family is hip, stylish and social, and the home reflects their lifestyle.
Fenlin’s flair for color is most apparent in the living room. “It was the first room I designed,” she says. “And it’s the one I’ve struggled with the most.”
Initially, Fenlin wanted to replicate a soft apple-green shade she saw in a catalog. “It looked so bright and happy in the picture,” she says.
But when she saw the color on her walls, Fenlin wasn’t as sure. “I hesitated in changing it at first because everyone said how much they loved the color,” she says.
In the end, Fenlin went with a deep olive green, which makes the white moldings, fireplace mantle and silk dupioni window treatments pop. “It needed that strong contrast,” she says.
The green walls provide an inviting backdrop for the caramel-colored sofa and the octagonal, gold-leaf-framed Hickory Chair mirror hanging above it. Welcome splashes of red come in the lamp shades, throw pillows and an oil painting of vibrant red poppies.
A set of club chairs in a Chinese toile fabric brings pattern into the room, and a basket-weave sisal rug covers the hardwood floor. “I really love Chinoiserie, and I’ve used it throughout the house in subtle ways—like on the chairs,” says Fenlin.
When Fenlin and her husband were house hunting back in 2005, they weren’t in the market for a home that needed major renovations. “I was pregnant with our first child,” she says. “This was also our first house, so we didn’t want to be overwhelmed.”
After years of apartment living in New York and Philadelphia, the Fenlins also knew they’d have additional rooms to furnish, so it helped that the Cape home they found was within their price range and in move-in condition.
That neutral backdrop made it easy for Fenlin to visualize the shades she wanted to use throughout. And though she had no previous interior design experience, Fenlin embraced the project. “I always enjoyed decorating our apartments in the city,” she says. “But since we were only renting, I didn’t want to invest in anything permanent.”
Within days of closing on her new home, Fenlin was in North Carolina picking out furniture and fabrics. She found the perfect traditional mahogany dining set complete with a sideboard and corner hutch. Back home, she added extra panache with a leopard-patterned Robert Allen fabric for the window treatments, a Thibaut Strie wallpaper in Nantucket red above the chair rail, and a sisal rug bordered with a berry-red Lee Jofa leopard-print needlepoint fabric.
The wild-animal motif carries over to a set of leopard-print lamps with black silk-string shades on the sideboard, and two candlesticks shaped like leopards. “It was Dorothy Draper who said, ‘Every well-dressed home needs an animal print in it,’” says Fenlin. “I feel the same way.”
In lieu of more conventional artwork, Fenlin adorned the walls with a collection of six Hermès Balcons Du Guadalquivir plates in a red-and-white pattern. They share space with two stunning shots of leopards Fenlin photographed while on an African safari for her honeymoon.
Originally, Fenlin had other ideas for the color scheme in the family room. “I considered using gray (to match the hearth), but I was afraid the color would look too cool,” says Fenlin.
So she went with navy, a more forgiving color for such a heavily used room. The window treatments are simple, with cornice boards in a geometric-patterned fabric and white blinds. A slate-blue club chair sits in a corner, and a navy chenille sofa is accented by blue and white throw pillows. “The sofa needed to be both durable and comfortable,” says Fenlin.
Schumacher grasscloth wallpaper brings a natural element to the space. Pieces of coral, white fish from Jonathan Adler’s pottery collection, and nautical artwork contribute to the aesthetic.
In the adjoining kitchen, the existing cream cabinetry was spray-painted white by Radnor’s David Ryder to match the wainscoting in the family room.
“With this process, you ultimately get what looks like factory-finished paint, without the expense of replacing cabinetry,” Fenlin explains. “And David did a fantastic job.”
Fenlin added new polished-chrome hardware on the cabinets, a faucet and sink, and storm-gray Zodiaq quartz countertops, moving the old counters to the patio’s kitchen area. A new backsplash is composed of crisp, white Carrera marble cut as subway tiles.
“We live in this room all the time,” says Fenlin. “I’m really happy with the end result.”
Elsewhere, the side entrance off the garage opens up into a generous-sized space that was once a mudroom. Fenlin converted it into a family office, adding a wall of custom-made built-ins, a desk and a locker area for the kids. The yellow trim on the window treatments’ Thibaut fabric inspired the sunny yellow color of the room’s walls and matches the throw pillows on the cozy, light-sage-green love seat.
“This room and the family room are probably my two favorites,” Fenlin says. “We walk through it every day, so I knew I wanted the space to be bright, cheerful and welcoming.”
Fenlin was expecting her son when the couple moved in, so she kept the soft-green color of the upstairs bedroom and made it a nursery. Its generous size allowed for a crib, an upholstered chair, bookshelves, a bureau and a queen-size bed. Fenlin hired a decorative painter to create an adorable safari scene, with monkeys hanging on tree branches above the bed and a friendly giraffe standing watch nearby.
A few years later, when Fenlin was expecting her daughter, she had visions of pink. “I love that color,” she gushes.
She chose Sherwin Williams’ Priscilla Pink for her bedroom. Its queen-size bed has a custom-made, upholstered white headboard in a pergola shape with hot-pink trim and light-blue bedding in a Chinoiserie print. Fenlin invested in quality furniture her daughter could grow into, choosing a marble-topped bamboo dresser and a matching mirror from Williams-Sonoma Home. A pink-and-purple floral chandelier is the perfect finishing touch.
After spending the past few years decorating her home room by room and tackling the addition of a new patio, Fenlin finally has her “preppy chic” house exactly where she wants it.
“When you own a home, there’s always work to be done,” she says. “But we’ve accomplished a lot.”
Fenlin loved the interior design process so much that she was inspired to help others with their homes.
“I had friends and neighbors who liked what I did with my house, and they asked me to assist them with executing their look,” she says. “Now that my house is finished, I love being able to continue working with interior design. Some people don’t like having to make decisions on fabrics, paint colors, furniture and accessories. I truly enjoy it.”
Priscilla Fenlin recommends …
1) Fresh flowers. “Even if they’re from your local grocery store, it’s a wonderful way to bring color into a room.”
2) Scented candles. “A great scented candle makes a room welcoming and, of course, leaves it smelling great.”
3) Books. “Fill the room with books you love—novels or coffee-table books on subjects you have interest in.”
4) Pictures. “Pull out great photographs you’ve taken of family and friends and frame them. It’s something you’ll never tire of looking at.”