A New York City Rental’s Picture Perfect Transformation

September 18, 2018
She’s the creative genius behind some of Schumacher’s most sought-after patterns (Acanthus Stripe, anyone?), so it only made sense to have her devise more gorgeous goods. Armed with her just-released products, designer Celerie Kemble (right)—with the help of her associate Kristen Wilson (left)—casts her happy, irrepressible spell.

The Challenge:

Take an utterly boring bedroom in a thoroughly banal manhattan rental, and turn it into a blissful cocoon. With her inimitable blend of high spirits, sharp intelligence and pragmatic problem solving. Not to mention a slew of new fabrics, wallpapers and trims for Schumacher—Celerie Kemble and her trusty colleague Kristen Wilson are just the designers for the job.
The bedroom before Kemble worked her magic.
After the transformation. The bed linens are by Celerie Kemble for Eastern Accents, throw by Léron Linens, and wall brackets by Chelsea House.Francesco Lagnese

How did you ultimately want the room to feel?

Fun, feminine and friendly, but not little girly, and not so matchy-matchy that it felt transient. The overarching goal was to infuse the room with emotion and make it feel like home.

What was your starting point for the design?  

This was a bland, white-box rental, devoid of any character, and it required a deep dive into the decorating toolbox to give it style and heart. The landlord didn’t allow wallpaper, so the palette we chose really drove the room. We had the artwork we wanted to use—the midcentury plates and old seascapes, full of pale aquas, purples and greys. Once we settled on those, we were off.

How did you tackle giving the room instant personality?

We did some rapid-fire vintage shopping on Chairish. This allowed us to make the space feel layered almost overnight, as if it had been collected over time, even though pretty much everything in it was a recent purchase. Plus, since the room is in a rental, it was important to use pieces that could eventually be moved out easily and used in the owner’s next home.

What were some of the unifying elements that helped tie the space together?

After assembling our furniture pieces—a good range of vintage and new, up-market and lowbrow—the upholstery fabrics we chose, their mix of colors and scales, were what threaded everything together. Other decorating tricks such as bespoke lampshades and a vanity custom-wrapped in wallpaper added extra notes of cohesive visual interest.

Were there any tricks you used to get around the room’s imperfections?  

The ceilings are tall, so we put giant decorative panels above the bed to anchor the space and calm it down. The windows were horrible, with ugly edges and soffits. To fix that, we used foggy, gauzy sheers trimmed in tape to define and sharpen the space. Good curtains can stand in for subpar architecture. And because it’s a small space, we worked hard to make the most of every available nook—you’ll see that the windowsills double as bookshelves.
A relaxing reading spot in the bedroom. The chaise longue is from Chairish, the Starry Cocktail Table is by Celerie Kemble for Henredon, and the throw is by Léron Linens.Francesco Lagnese

Why the wall-to-wall carpeting?  

It makes things feel immediately enveloping and clean, especially in a space that might not be long-term. Layering a smaller rug on top further amps up the cosseting vibe without requiring a big financial investment.    

Is there anything you always look out for when decorating a bedroom?  

Light management is critical. Here we used sheers to let in sunshine during the day, but the matchstick blinds behind them are backed by blackout material to control the outside light. And comfort is supreme. The bedroom is perhaps a home’s most tactile experience. It should be a place of sanctity and serenity, full of comforters and super-soft pillows.  

What are three things that every bedroom should have?

A desk, because as a private retreat, a bedroom is where people often go not just to rest but to do their best thinking. There should also be a space where a good friend can come in for a chat, a seating area that doesn’t feel awkwardly intimate. And good-looking storage boxes, to corral all the necessary but unsightly items such as remote controls and keys.

Tell us about the genesis of your new designs for Schumacher.

I’d been craving options for sophisticated geometrics—patterns that are sweet but complex, with more than two colors to give them dimension and depth—and for palettes that are soft, gentle and bright, with a hint of masculinity. Creating new products feels like getting the chance to satisfy an unquenched appetite. When we received the first real yardage of these new Schumacher goods and put them to work in this project, it was like finally taking big bites of this delicious cake batter we’d been mixing.

Any last decorating words of wisdom?

If you have the opportunity to pick something unique and surprising over something more expected, always do it.  


Produced by Olivia Caponigro.