HIGH IM­PACT

HUS­BAND-AND-WIFE IN­TE­RIOR DE­SIGN­ERS DON AND RENEE FREE­MAN TALK PAR­ING DOWN, BUY­ING WELL, AND HOW CLAS­SIC FILMS IN­FORM THEIR AES­THETIC.

Philadelphia Style - - Contents - BY SARAH JOR­DAN

De­sign­ers Don and Renee Free­man talk about par­ing down, buy­ing well, and how clas­sic films in­form their aes­thetic.

De­sign vet­er­ans Don and Renee Free­man are sit­ting in their chic home of­fice on the sev­enth floor of the el­e­gant Touraine Build­ing on Spruce Street dis­cussing their in­te­rior de­sign firm. Part­ners in life, they fin­ish each other’s sen­tences or look at the other when they’re search­ing for just the right anec­dote or de­tail, as though sum­mon­ing the thought from a shared brain.

“What’s our best dec­o­rat­ing ad­vice?” re­peats Don and looks at Renee, pos­ing it as a guess­ing game. “It’s one word.”

“Throw it out!” says Renee with a laugh.

Don agrees: “Edit! One good piece is

bet­ter than a bunch of junk. Don’t clut­ter things. The big­gest mis­take peo­ple make is hav­ing too much stuff.”

The cou­ple has built up a loyal book of clients whose de­sign aes­thetic matches the high-drama, edited­down so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the Free­mans, who can be spot­ted around town in their sig­na­ture all-black en­sem­bles. The Free­mans de­liver a wide va­ri­ety of looks—tra­di­tional, mod­ern, min­i­mal­ist—but all with a glossy fin­ish. A mix of res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial work takes them from the city to the sub­urbs, as well as to clients’ sec­ond homes in Florida, New York City, and along the New Jersey coast.

Not sur­pris­ingly, they say the key to happy de­sign­er­client re­la­tion­ships is their abil­ity to un­der­stand what clients want and to give them a fully fin­ished en­vi­ron­ment. “We’re not dic­ta­tors,” says Renee. “We’re col­lab­o­ra­tors. We take a client’s vi­sion and ex­e­cute it prop­erly. It’s their home and they have to love it.”

Though the cou­ple at­tend the big fur­ni­ture and de­signs shows, en­joy shop­ping trips in Cal­i­for­nia and Europe, and keep up with the trends, they don’t fol­low them—and are proud of it. They have been around long enough to be fa­mil­iar with the cycli­cal na­ture of de­sign trends and steer clients to more time­less choices. Buy well once, so you don’t end up buy­ing of­ten. “I’ve seen so much money mis­spent,” says Don. Renee adds, “Just be­cause ev­ery­thing is gold doesn’t mean it’s stun­ning.”

With the cou­ple’s predilec­tion for clas­sic style, it’s not a sur­prise when they re­veal their down­time guilty plea­sure is watch­ing old black-and-white movies. Renee con­fesses recharg­ing by look­ing at films—think the Myrna Loy-wil­liam Pow­ell “Nick and Nora Charles” who­dunits, Busby Berke­ley’s mu­si­cal spec­ta­cles, and of course, the 1948 com­edy Mr. Bland­ings Builds His Dream House. Renee says she likes to study the cloth­ing, jew­elry, and fur­ni­ture. And the Free­mans have made a name for them­selves by re­viv­ing that cin­e­matic glam­our for their clients’ homes. 1520 Spruce St., 215-772-9406; free­man in­te­ri­ors.com

Let there be light: Mixed tex­tures like rich woods, linen up­hol­stery, and suede wall cov­er­ings soften a great room de­signed by Free­man In­te­ri­ors. IN­SET: Don and Renee Free­man. BOT­TOM: FM79 con­tem­po­rary two-tiered ta­ble, Paul M. Jones Col­lec­tion ($14,850). John Boone, Inc.; john­booneinc.com

A master suite be­comes a per­sonal re­treat with its soft color pal­ette. in­set: Sim­ple (and sim­ply com­fort­able): This Slip­per chair from A Rudin mir­rors the Free­mans’ de­sign sen­si­bil­ity.

The Free­mans source lights, like this bub­ble chan­de­lier, from Rit­ten­house Elec­tric: “It’s light­ing that re­ally cre­ates at­mos­phere,” says Renee.

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