"When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is the adage about adapting to new surroundings. Homeowners Jeanna French and Debra Wood ascribed to this maxim when they moved to Paradise Valley from Minneapolis and purchased a house with a Southwest motif—even though they couldn’t say it was really their style. “We’re usually more comfortable with a classical design, but the architecture of the house suited the local environment and it had so many other assets,” says French, citing the home’s vibrant neighborhood, stunning central courtyard and spectacular views of Mummy Mountain. Plus, the couple own a picturesque Victorian cottage in Chautauqua, New York, where they spend summers at the renowned education center. “We figured we could get our fix for a traditional setting there,” adds Wood.
But two years later, the house—with its monochromatic hues, hefty furnishings and tile floors—just didn’t feel like home and the owners turned to interior designer Jamie Herzlinger for help. The designer took one look at the house and knew it needed a change. “It was dark and gloomy, even though so many of the rooms opened onto these remarkable outdoor spaces,” she recalls. “Also, it lacked any kind of architectural detailing.” So Herzlinger, who is also a licensed contractor, went straight to work.
An extensive inquiry led the designer to conclude that the owners were indeed classicists. Moreover, they desperately missed living with color, pattern, polish and warmth. “They wanted graceful moldings, burnished wood floors and some out-and-out glamour to make the place timeless and elegant,” Herzlinger says, answering their requests with a full renovation that accurately delivers on their vision.
Deciding on a design aesthetic that would feature a refined take on time-honored classics, Herzlinger started from scratch. Out went the not-so-old furniture, sold at auction, and out came the home’s original sterile tile floors, overpowering beams and heavy-handed cabinets. A few walls were also removed to bring in more light from the courtyard. These elements were replaced with elegant architectural millwork; columns steeped in neoclassical detailing; handsome cabinetry assuaged with fanciful trims; and wider apertures in every room to let light flow from space to space. Informal rooms and transitional spaces, such as the kitchen, family dining room and foyer, received gleaming black walnut plank floors to set them apart from parquet ones in the grander formal areas.
For the walls, Herzlinger traded the home’s original light brown hue for classic wall treatments drenched in color, texture and pattern, and a mix of vintage and contemporary furnishings was chosen for comfort and scale as well as design pedigree and glamour quotient. “She’d show us things to gauge what we liked, then push us a bit,” explains Wood. Herzlinger adds: “I didn’t have that much convincing to do. These are time-honored designs for a reason; they’re dazzling.”
Indeed, bold choices such as vivid wallpapers, elegant fixtures that range from early 20th-century Bagues sconces to a beautiful rock crystal chandelier, and a mix of character-laden tables, chairs and accents—arrayed with a confident yet measured hand—gave every room balanced hits of refinement and flair. “I went for furnishings and accents that had their roots in tradition and that featured a hint of personality,” explains Herzlinger, pointing to the living room’s sumptuous 19th-century Swedish Gustavian settee drenched in gilt and linen, a charismatic antique marquetry chest in the hallway, and an assortment of chair styles in the formal dining room. “Jamie came up with the idea of using different chairs so it looked like we collected them over time,” says French.
Today, the owners have a totally different relationship with their home thanks to Herzlinger’s curative design makeover. “We used to stay at Chautauqua until it was about to snow late in the fall,” says French. “Now we leave as soon as the seminar season is over because we can’t wait to come home.”