Portrait: Lizzie Thornton
Photography; interior: James Merrell
Interior designer Lee Ann Thornton, who lives with her family in Belle Haven, embraces life on the water. “My look is comprised of my California upbringing and my love for New England tradition,” she says. “I was lucky enough to live on both coasts and that helped to define my sensibility.” Recently, her work has been featured in House Beautiful and Coastal Living. Here she shares a few timeless decorating tips. Her goal for design? “It’s about creating a beautiful life, not just a beautiful home.”
Q What decorating rules should people follow?
A Insist on quality! Always. Allow for multiple seating areas in a room. It’s my first order of business to create a furniture plan, then the fabrics and furniture follow. Choose luxurious fabrics and classic furniture, pieces that are timeless.
Any rules made to be broken?
Insisting on symmetry is over. Rooms have energy and sometimes the imperfection is perfect. Try adding an unexpected seating area, a chair that can be pulled up when you have that larger grouping of people, or a drop-leaf table next to a sofa that can be opened for a small buffet.
How do you help clients pick a color palette?
I’m known for my love of blue and white. I’d be happy to drape the walls, furniture, rugs and lighting in blue and white. I insist that all my projects have flow and are cohesive, but I let location, project and client lead that decision about color. A house by the water might allow for a more concentrated blue and white feel; a house in the country could allow for pops of reds, greens and maybe window trim and interior doors to be painted black to warm the space.
What are the best places to splurge in your home?
A dining table. It’s the place you’ll celebrate with the ones you love for years to come— holidays, birthdays, parties.
How can families boost style without sacrificing livability and comfort?
I’m known for balancing style and comfort. Use your budget wisely. Save on a family room sofa fabric but splurge on the dining room table, powder room wallpaper, or special lighting that will create the luxurious look you’re going for.
Outdoor entertaining season is finally here. what are Your go-to ideas?
This is my favorite time of year on the East Coast, with the weather, the fireflies, the occasional summer storm. I use wicker and teak furniture with my favorite fabrics that can easily be Sunbrella’d. I love lighted trees and fresh-cut garden roses, peonies and hydrangea. Keep folding tables and tablecloths handy, so you can easily go from six to sixteen for an impromptu dinner party. A go-to menu makes it easy. Mine is grilled swordfish with avocado butter, farm-stand tomatoes and corn, mixed greens tossed with herbs and homemade vinaigrette, and a fresh berry cobbler with ice cream. A playlist of Jack Johnson, James Taylor and John Legend helps make the evening perfect. leeannthornton.com