Tour Interior Designer Lilse McKenna’s Recent Project

“I think it’s about picking up context clues from the client,” says interior designer Lilse McKenna. “You can sometimes tell by the way someone dresses how much texture and color they’re going to be into.” For a recent Upper East Side project, McKenna gauged from her client’s appearance, her upbringing and, of course, an extensive collection of Pinterest boards that she was ready for a home steeped in print and color.

This particular client discovered McKenna via Instagram and a few mutual friends. The client and her family had already begun the renovation of their Manhattan duplex and called in McKenna to help them add both light and vivacity. The project began with one child in the home and ended with two—family friendliness was a must. So the interior designer breathed life into the space with, yes, print, but also fresh feminine touches to offset the louder components.

Take, for instance, the powder room. Walk in and you immediately clock five different prints. “It’s all about balance,” McKenna says, before clarifying. “It’s about density of the print.” The wallpaper is light and airy, as is the stripe down the Roman shade. Whereas the French chintz blanketing the shower curtain and bordering the aforementioned shade is much denser so as not to overwhelm your eye.

The entryway produces a similarly striking effect. Leafy wallpaper swathes the walls. A corresponding hue of blue paint coats the door and trim of the mirror. Mckenna did this on purpose, creating a sort of mysterious forest-like entrance to juxtapose the much lighter main space, capitalizing on what she describes as “a natural human urge to move from darkness to light.”

Unlike many of McKenna’s projects with more traditional layouts, this one combined the living, kitchen, and dining area in one cohesive space. “I didn’t want it to feel like we tried to create three separate rooms,” says the designer. “Luckily, she was open to keeping [things] really simple.” In contrast to the more intensely decorated spaces, here, she breathed fresh air into the room through ivory walls, a light blue paint in the panels throughout the coffered ceiling, and a lightly colored oushak. The tandem dining space on the opposite side of the room houses a custom shaped banquette in a Plumettes in green by Pierre Frey, a Soane Britain light fixture, and a custom pedestal dining table. Amidst it all, the kitchen is bathed in a swatch of pale blue cabinetry and cool grey countertops and backsplash.

At the onset of a project, her team spreads out all the materials anticipated for the entire home on their office floor to make sure nothing seems too jarring. Though some of the smaller bathrooms may seem different from the rest of the space, look closely and you’ll find greens peppered in that match those of the living area. “It’s more about having the rooms [in one space] be related to or hold hands with each other, as one of my bosses used to say,” says McKenna, “to have common threads through all the spaces.”

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