In her San Francisco home, breakout designer Chloe Warner rebels against the adage "less is more" with a well-tempered approach to fearless prints and colors - inspired by her daring grandmothers and zoologist father.
Left hooks to tradition are a hallmark of Warner's style and that of her firm, Redmond Aldrich Design. Architectural training at Harvard might have honed the 30-year-old rising decorator's attention to detail, but it's Warner's family who deserves credit for her audacity. One grandmother's Maine house had a Sister Parish-designed library that Warner admiringly describes as "chintz on top of floral, on top of navy, orange and stripes, on top of way too many books," and from that illustrious introduction, she realized "it was possible for ugly plus ugly to equal lovely!" Her other grandmother's Ohio home was overrun with silk-brockade floral wallpaper, which encouraged Warner's penchant for graphic patterns and bright hues. The San Francisco apartment she shares with her husband makes good on her childhood education: Every room's tasteful setting is thrown off by delightful surprises and ingenious, often cost-conscious tricks. In her classically appointed living room, two hyper-tall fiddle-leaf fig trees stand sentinel on either side of a love seat. Set against the low-lying furniture, the sculpturally funky forms effect a Dr. Seussian scale shift, and a massive mid-century Italian chandelier adds to the fun-house disproportion.
Warner wanted a library that felt unstuffy, so she zeroed in on a textile that totally energizes the space. "It has presence, and its large-scale pattern gives the room a focal point," she says of the floral upholstery. In typical renegade fashion, she used a fabric you might associate with a Park Avenue grand dame to re-cover a swap-meet sofa, then injected some preppy flair with the cranberry-colored piping. Riffing on the upholstery's aviary motif, she hung an antique Edward Lear print of an egret alongside repros of Walton Ford's theatrical bird watercolors, framed in black and randomly arranged.
Everyone has seen a room with a theme veer into bed-and-breakfast territory (or worse), but Warner knows how to devise smart narratives. She inherited a love of animals from her zoologist father and sprinkled that affection throughout the house in a spry way - with creatures showing up in everything from wallpaper to sculptures. The library offers a veritable menagerie: Doves perch on the mantel, bronze stags rest in front of the fireplace, a deer cavorts in a lamp base (opposite page). Mink-hued walls and a sky-blue ceiling yield a natural setting gone glamorous and a "beautiful, cocooned feeling."
The wallpaper-lined stairwell is a vibrant prelude to Warner's exuberant home. As in all her rooms, she papered only up to the picture rails, then made this celling an oyster-gray, achieving a 3-D, tented appearance. In a nod to her Montana upbringing, she mingled some taxidermy with the flora for a touch of rugged elegance. A final grace note to the tall, narrow passage: Warner's former design partner, Jen Aldrich, suspended more than 1,000 Lucite disks at different heights to form a floating mobile. The stenciled floors, hand-done in outdoor Benjamin Moore paint, introduce a graphic element and dress up the same-old wood.
"Try more pattern than you think is wise. If you do that everywhere, it looks bold," Warner says. In her bedroom, luxurious Clarence House fabric, used liberally for the valance, curtains and bed skirt, creates its own little world. This custom-designed chinoiserie scheme is smartly paired with an off-the-rack tufted headboard from Urban Outfitters. Two yellow bird lamps supply a bright burst, but Warner upends their symmetrical stance by situating them on nonmatching night tables - one white, one pink.
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