Anatomy of an Installation: Governor’s Mansion Makeover

A few weeks ago I posted before and after shots from the office of a Greenwich, Connecticut estate I redesigned. This week, I thought I’d share the room I redesigned in the Governor’s mansion in Hartford, Connecticut. I was one of a handful of designers, including Jamie Drake and Philip Gorrivan, who were invited to redecorate a room for the 100 year anniversary of the mansion.

I like design challenges, and the Living Room certainly fit into that category. The room was decorated in a combination of styles—mostly Federalist traditional—and it needed a complete makeover to bring it into the modern age. The catch? There was no budget for the project, as this was a donation by all of the designers involved.

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As you can see, the original room was chaotic with a jumble of colors—the result of a succession of decorating efforts by past occupants. It felt a little like a tired hotel lobby. However, I could see potential in the existing antique wood furnishings and beautiful moulding. The tall secretary was exceptional and the piano was pretty, too.  I new it was a matter of paint, upholstering the furnishings with new fabrics, and re-styling the room.

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I wanted to keep the stately feeling of the room, but streamline the colors and furnishings. We started by giving the room a fresh coat of paint. Once decluttered, it was easier to see the room’s potential.

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We painted the room a creamy white, and added a charcoal gray border on the ceiling for added dimension.

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I particularly liked the moulding on the far wall. I chose to paint the fireplace wall a deep chocolate to highlight the drama and crispness of the white moulding. I was inspired by Bill Blass’s New York City & Connecticut residences.  He loved brown and had a gift for combining beautiful wood pieces in interiors with neutral, classic fabrics.

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The painting finished, we brought the artwork and furnishings back into the room. We didn’t have a budget for new furniture, so we recovered most of the existing pieces. The wing chairs and sofa were modified and covered in more modern fabric and the traditional console table was covered with a tailored reversed pleated corner skirt. All fabrics used were from the Connecticut based company, Rogers & Goffigon. They have a clean, serene feeling and I chose chocolate, grey and neutral colors. The room’s original wood case pieces took on a new life surrounded by the newly upholstered furnishings.

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The taped section of the wall, above, was to indicate and determine if a borrowed oil painting from the local Wadsworth collection would fit there.

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The brown chairs, as well as the circular ottoman, were newly made.

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We made sure to keep the Living Room inviting for state functions and also as a place for the Governor to relax with family—it needed to work for both purposes.

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The finished room is much more unified and classic looking, yet still livable. It’s amazing what paint, new fabrics and thoughtful styling can do!

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by design and the subtle impact of our surroundings. Some of my earliest influences still resonate – I think of the dark woods and textured lodens of my father’s shooting club, the smell of fresh paint on a new canvas, and the bold symmetry of the Philip Johnson Glass house just down the street. For me, it was a natural path to become an Interior Designer. I love what I do. I’ve created this Journal to share my thoughts, finds and design inspirations. I hope you enjoy it!

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