Car­di­nal Rules

Dec­o­rat­ing mas­ter Char­lotte Moss re­freshes her New York brown­stone with vivid color and pat­tern—and an en­dur­ing ethos of liv­abil­ity first.

Veranda - - CONTENTS - IN­TE­RIOR DE­SIGN BY Char­lotte Moss WRIT­TEN BY Vicky Lowry

Char­lotte Moss brings cozy liv­abil­ity to the fore in a bright re­fresh of her Man­hat­tan brown­stone.


in her Man­hat­tan town­house for 15 years, long enough for the de­signer to cherish the com­forts of the 1920s brown­stone, which she shares with her hus­band, Barry Fried­berg, and also long enough for her to know when it’s time to re­fresh some of the rooms. “I tell ev­ery­one, don’t ever say to a spouse you are re­dec­o­rat­ing. Say you are do­ing main­te­nance work,” she ad­vises with a laugh.

The de­signer is a ge­nius at craft­ing clas­si­cally in­spired, lay­ered spa­ces, where color and pat­tern, an­tiques and art serenely mix amid sink-into so­fas and user-friendly nooks. As she rea­sons, “Peo­ple want to walk into a room, drop their shoul­ders, and feel com­fort­able. If there’s no chair to cozy up to with the fam­ily puppy, and no ta­ble to put a lamp on, some­one flunked the test.”

Her home of­fers a supreme ex­am­ple of that spir­ited yet con­sid­er­ate ap­proach. “I call ev­ery dec­o­ra­tor’s home their lab,” she says, “but af­ter 15 years this is hardly an ex­per­i­ment. I’m too Catholic to be rip­ping ev­ery­thing out and do­ing it over again.” She in­stead ad­heres to a gen­tler evo­lu­tion. Moss wanted to in­tro­duce more color to what had been a gold­en­hued li­brary, for in­stance, so she sheathed the walls in a gutsy red fab­ric em­bossed with a sub­tle pat­tern that, she says, “gave the art a lift.” For the din­ing room, mean­while, which over­looks the gar­den, she wanted just the op­po­site: less color than the dra­matic hand-painted wall­pa­per and match­ing cur­tain fab­ric by de Gour­nay that had en­veloped the space for the last dozen years. The walls, now painted to look like faux lime­stone, “feel like a pal­ette cleanser,” says Moss.


And some­times it’s an ob­ject, rather than a hue, that can launch a point of view for a room. A set of black-lac­quered chi­nois­erie pan­els, dis­cov­ered at an an­tiques shop one week­end, was, for Moss, both a “re­ward for work­ing on a Sun­day” and the fo­cal point for her guest bed­room. She had frames built around the pan­els, trans­form­ing the artful an­tiques into closet doors. “One of the great­est things that can happen to you in dec­o­rat­ing is the spon­ta­neous, serendip­i­tous mo­ment when you stum­ble onto some­thing,” she ex­plains. “That’s the fun part.”

Moss stores fab­ric swatches that catch her eye in a bas­ket that sits in the up­stairs study—a “safe haven,” she calls it, which is oc­cu­pied with tow­ers of books, fig­u­ra­tive art hang­ing salon style, and a pair of King Charles spaniels, Buddy and Daisy, who lounge and nap in the win­dowsills. From that fab­ric-filled bas­ket, Moss chose two prints for a sit­ting room. “By the time I got around to or­der­ing the fab­ric, they were dis­con­tin­ued,” she ex­plains. “The com­pany said, ‘Sure, we can print this, if you or­der 200 yards.’ So, I did and just put it ev­ery­where.”

The rep­e­ti­tion of a pat­tern or an idea, she ex­plains, cre­ates a story in it­self. “It feels lux­u­ri­ous,” notes the de­signer, who played out sim­i­lar sin­gle-pat­tern nar­ra­tives in the bed­rooms with ro­man­tic flo­rals.

And it’s the kind of cozy, con­sid­ered ef­fect that makes you walk into a room, drop your shoul­ders, and feel com­fort­able. In other words, she aced the test.

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY Miguel Flores-vianna

Moss’s col­lec­tion of in­te­ri­ors paint­ings hangs in the li­brary, where she cov­ered the walls in a rich gauf­frage serge an­tique fab­ric (Clare­mont) and tucked an English sofa (John Ros­selli) be­tween lofty book­cases. Sofa fab­ric, Braque­nie.

A pair of an­tique Ital­ian sconces hangs over a faux mar­bled man­tel; the sofa (Cen­tury) is cov­ered in a choco­late printed linen by Bernard Thorp. Bergère, Todd Ro­mano.

The walls in the liv­ing room and study are hand-painted by James Alan Smith. The chair is by Vic­to­ria & Son. A Dutch sec­re­tary dis­plays Sèvres porce­lain fig­urines and poly­chrome Delft gar­ni­ture. Moss’ study dou­bles as a vi­brant por­trait gallery. Desk chair fab­ric, Brun­schwig & Fils. Drap­ery fab­ric, Braque­nié.

In the liv­ing room, a paint­ing of a statue at Ver­sailles (Paul César Helleu) hangs over a tufted sofa by An­thony Lawrence Belfair. Silk vel­vet jacquard fab­ric, Sabina Fay Brax­ton.

In the guest room, Moss trans­formed a pair of chi­nois­erie pan­els into closet doors and swathed the canopies of the lac­quered Re­gency beds in raw silk. Wall­cov­er­ing and bed fab­ric, Manuel Canovas. The bed­ding, wall­pa­per, and drap­ery fab­ric in the mas­ter bed­room are by Cow­tan & Tout, and the lamps and com­mode are both French an­tiques. Bed, Nier­mann Weeks. Swingarm sconces, Vaughan.

Moss’s home ap­pears in tex­tile de­signer Lisa Fine’s new book Near & Far: In­te­ri­ors I Love (Ven­dome Press), a stun­ning com­pendium of in­te­ri­ors that in­spire her work.

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