Decorating master Charlotte Moss refreshes her New York brownstone with vivid color and pattern—and an enduring ethos of livability first.
Charlotte Moss brings cozy livability to the fore in a bright refresh of her Manhattan brownstone.
CCHARLOTTE MOSS HAS LIVED
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.
PEOPLE WANT TO WALK INTO A ROOM, DROP THEIR SHOULDERS, AND FEEL COMFORTABLE.”
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.
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.