House Love: Westchester County by Ashley Whittaker
Ashley happens to be my husband cousin and a favorite person of mine. She is so talented, it is certainly worth the share of her fresh traditional style in this home infused with color.
DOUGLAS BRENNER: If this house were a person, I’d say it had a sunny disposition.
ASHLEY WHITTAKER: The client certainly brought her personality to our design. She’s genuinely happy, gracious, down-to-earth, and fun. There’s so much life in her, and it’s the life in a house that really makes it beautiful. She and her husband enjoy entertaining, and their three grown daughters often spend weekends here. It’s a family gathering place, not at all an empty nest. After living in her previous house for 20-some years, the wife wanted a fresh approach. And honestly, I think this place feels more youthful.
Your palette couldn’t be prettier. What inspired it?
In her former house, the client had two pillows in a yellow cut velvet that I loved. We didn’t bring those pillows here, but they got me on the track of a pale yellow family room. And that began pushing us toward the greens that also flow through much of the interior and out into the phenomenal garden. Of course, scenic wallpaper like the one in the dining room — a truly perennial garden — is a fabulous starting point for a house. You see so many colors to play with in other places. That room is a showstopper, but it also had to feel connected to the family room and the living room. Though you see bright colors in all of these spaces, each one has a neutral undertone or a background of taupes and grays. They provide the continuity, the common thread that’s important in any house.
When you proposed lavender curtains, did the client gasp?
I look at a scenic paper and ask myself, What is the weird color in here? Then I pull out some unexpected nuance that keeps things from getting staid or static. In this case, it was that lavender, which we also used on the gimp under the nailheads trimming the blue chair seats. This might not have been our client’s first choice of color for the curtains, but she got excited when she saw the fabric. We realized we could try things that might intimidate some people, like the big Indian-print paper in the upstairs hallway or the sparkly silk wallcovering in the master bath. That’s the client’s J.Lo moment, and it didn’t scare her one bit.
How about the tigers in the bar?
Her husband chose that paper. His involvement in the project began and ended there. But he made a great choice.
I Googled a real estate listing that shows this property soon after it was built in 2013. The rooms looked like huge empty boxes.
We used wall finishes like grass cloth and paneled wainscot to add architectural interest and soften that new-house edge. Bringing down the scale to something more intimate was a challenge. That’s one reason why I decided on a double-sided sofa for the family room, which is straight ahead of the front door. I felt strongly about walking into the house and seeing a real living space, not a formal extension of the entry hall. Because that is what it would have felt like with the usual sofa facing the fireplace and turning its back on a console table and the rest of the space. When I worked for Markham Roberts, I learned why he’s such a big fan of the double-sided sofa: It makes a room twice as inviting.
Designer Ashley Whittaker sits on the garden terrace, where her clients frequently entertain. Read more about her inspiration for this space here.
This story originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of House Beautiful.
All images by Beatriz da Costa for House Beautiful
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