After 10 years of living with almost-bare white walls, a University City homeowner called on designer Tom Manche to bring his mid-century brick home to life. “In the beginning he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted, but he knew he wanted color,” says the designer.
“Many people are afraid of color,” Manche explains, “because they can’t visualize what it will look like. So I developed the palette from a painting above the fireplace, because he had purchased the work in Bali and loved the colors.”
In the living and dining room, Manche chose a coral terracotta for the walls. “It gave the space a European flavor appropriate for the client’s international
collection of art and furniture,” Manche says. “And because I always select three colors, I also used the grayish blue-green from the painting for a ‘touch of the ocean,’ and the bright lime green to suggest outdoor foliage. It was a warm and welcoming color scheme, evocative of world travel.”
In addition to his own purchases, the homeowner also had some inherited furniture he wanted to keep, says Manche, and that determined other choices for the design. “The French Country dining table, a family piece, was ornate, as were many of the things brought home from the Middle East, so I focused on clean, simple lines for the new furniture,” he says. Unconvinced that ‘clean and simple’ was the right choice, the homeowner wondered if antique end tables might be an option. “But we ultimately chose simple, but stunning, gilt end tables that echo the gilt frame of the Bali painting, and he loved the look.”
The inviting living room now features a new cream-colored sofa, accented with barrel chairs upholstered in look-at-me lime green. A tufted ottoman completes the arrangement. “Because we already had Oriental rugs in the room, these pieces were anchored on a subtle carpet of deep lime and ocean blue,” the designer explains.
Somehow managing to be relaxing and exciting at the same time, the redesigned rooms are a seamless blend of old and new, and a casual observer might not grasp the details that make it all work. The new sofa, for example, was destined to be angled from the beginning, because the traditional placement—straight in front of the fireplace—would not be as visually appealing. “Angling the arrangement adds interest to the L-shaped space, and also improves the flow,” says Manche. “In my head I see it all finished before anything is even ordered.” In the dining room, twin lamps with elegant black shades provide just the right amount of illumination without a cord in sight. The secret? The cords are meticulously hidden behind the narrow iron accent table, chosen for its openwork design that lets the terracotta walls show through.
While the décor shows international style, it’s also very personal, says Manche, because his client has traveled (and shopped!) throughout Asia and the Middle East. “There was so much to choose from, and I wanted to use as much of it as possible, because those are special memories,” he says. “By designing small vignettes of his favorite pieces, we created focal points in every room without cluttering the space,” he says.
An abundance of natural light pours into the rooms from expansive windows, softened by simple window treatments that Manche designed. “The neutral color brings all of the furniture together,” he explains. “The window treatments bring your eye from the floor to the ceiling, showcasing everything in between.”
And even though it took almost a decade to get started, Manche says the client is now very pleased with his home. “In the end, it was everything he wanted.”