Designer Snapshot: The Well-Dressed Room

July 17, 2013

By Paula M. Bodah 

Jill Litner Kaplan began her career in the world of designer fashion as a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. No surprise, then, that the interior designer, now based in West Newton Hill, Massachusetts, calls on that stylish background whenever she’s outfitting homes for her clients all around New England. “It’s possible to wear an outfit with clean, conservative, even traditional lines, but then jazz it up by layering dynamic things on—a bag of pebbled leather, distinctive jewelry, a snakeskin belt, cool shoes—all these elements can transform the look of a basic,” she says. “It’s the same with a room. But like an outfit, the most important thing is that the foundation itself has to be inherently good and has to exude quality.”  Jill, whose selections of gorgeous things for the house in the colors of summer were featured in Perspectives in our July-August issue, gives us a closer look at a few of her favorite spaces. Her clients even refer to the way she dresses and layers a room with unique art and accessories as “merchandising their space.”

Putting together the perfect outfit means more than just slipping into a pretty dress. The accessories can make (or break) the ensemble. The same is true for dressing up a room, Jill says. For this sleek dining room owned by a couple who moved to New England from New York City,  the goal was to create a space that reflects her clients’ sophistication while at the same time, their warmth and appreciation for natural materials. A commanding Berman Rosetti dining table grounds the room, while stunning Fuse Lighting with pendants with chunks of frosted rock crystal float above. A rich palette of aubergine—in the Michaelian & Kohlberg rug and in the flocked chenille from Lee Jofa on the armchairs—makes a dramatic counterpoint to the quiet bisque color of both the walls and the Michael Berman dining chairs sheathed in a Pierre Frey fabric. A graphic Robert Rauschenberg print adds a jolt of bright color and brings the aubergine and rose tones to the wall.

mix print dining room chairs

Photos by Michael J. Lee

“This living room, like the homeowners, defines preppie chic with a twist,” Jill says. “What’s wonderful about this room is that it is grounded in something slightly conservative and understated, but it has a really playful mix of color and pattern, too.” Navy and chocolate brown get a lift from shots of orange. The sofa wears a classic Brentano tweed, enlivened by the Schumacher Imperial Trellis fabric on the toss pillows. Traditional French bergère chairs pop with Schumacher’s colorful Chaing Mai Dragon fabric. The subtle Asian theme is further punctuated in the bench with its textured Pollack fabric, Hmong Plush, in a yummy cinnamon shade, and again in the fretwork embellished wet bar Jill designed and had custom made for her clients. Over the sofa hang two original pieces from the artist Polly Apfelbaum, whose pieces Jill loved for the space because “they define the exuberant, playful and happy spirit of the homeowners.”

The right outfit not only looks good, but also has to be appropriate for the occasion, Jill notes. That was her goal for the design of this media room as well. “The owners have three children and they anticipated hosting family movie nights as well as entertaining friends in this space. So the space had to not only look fabulous, but be able to withstand wear and tear, especially if buttered popcorn was in the mix” she says. Walls and built-ins paneled in naturally stained walnut give the room a warm, cozy feel, while the grain of the wood adds a dose of drama. The S. Harris fabric on the Bright sectional looks, at first glance, like a brown and white sturdy tweed, but a closer inspection reveals bright flecks of turquoise, orange, yellow and jade green—a perfect match for the abstract painting that brings color to the wall behind it. “It’s also a very hardy fabric,” Jill says. “It can withstand a tremendous amount of use, hides stains and is easy to clean.” Like the other rooms featured above, this one is grounded in natural, earthy tones, but gets a dynamic punch from the art, the playful Ikat pillow fabrics and coral and turquoise collectibles on the shelves. With its Moroccan star pattern picking up those same flecks of color from the sectional, the hand knotted wool rug from Niba is the perfect foil for errant popcorn kernels.