Exquisite Details and Chic Materials Shine in this Sleepy Hollow Home
Lexi Tallisman’s clients had been living in a circa-1990s spec house in Sleepy Hollow for about a year. They loved the layout, the location, and the area’s great schools, but “all the finishes were very model-home-like,” says Tallisman, founder of the SoHo-based interior design firm Greyscale Interiors. “And I mean that in the worst of ways.” Think yellowing Venetian plaster walls, giant pillars, shiny brass big-box-store hardware, and clunky millwork. A renovation was in order, with Tallisman’s clients living on-site through a two-phase project that occurred over the course of five years. “We stopped just short of knocking down all the walls.”
In her own home and with virtually any space she designs, Tallisman says, “I really like conversation pieces.” So the horsehair-and-pewter wall sconces in the dining room, for example, were an unexpected jumping-off point for the overall design scheme. “They cast such a beautiful ambient light. The sconces are more exciting to me than a huge piece of art by, say, Rothko. The way it all comes together is what really matters to me.”
Tallisman studied textile technology and fashion merchandising at the Fashion Institute of Technology and never really thought about interior design, but while living in SoHo and doing research at MTV, she started haunting the neighborhood’s furniture showrooms. “I had a natural sense of proportion and color when I was in my low 20s,” she says. “My apartment looked way more adult to all my friends than anyone else’s.” Her decorating career took off about a decade later, when “a friend of a friend bought a place, and I literally had no idea what I was doing and just pretended. She didn’t know, either, because she was young, too. I essentially started BS-ing my way through the design process and then actually figuring it out. Luckily, being in New York City, you meet a lot of people, and some of them are generous about talking and sharing with you.”
Her aesthetic, she says, is “timeless, but, I hope, relevant”—meaning that a chair in one of her rooms could be a random find from an estate sale or off the floor at Ochre. “Everything I do is cultivated and thought out, from the colors to the materials palette and the furnishings. And I’m always looking for craftsmen who care about their work, but let my clients and me be involved in their process, too.”
Customization is an important part of the Sleepy Hollow home’s DNA, from the millwork in a walk-in closet to a trifold brass mirror based on a French antique. “I had to go to three different metalworkers because it was such a challenging piece to make,” she says. (The back panels are covered in a custom dyed linen.) In the master bedroom, she took her lead from a photo of the famed Hollywood sign (the owners are originally from California), which established the “serene” color palette upstairs. In the dining room, a “driftwood-y” chandelier “adds a little whimsy to the more serious wallpaper.” The wet bar, with its butterscotch onyx and linen-fold wood, was a present from the wife to her husband, a cocktail aficionado who makes his own bitters. “It’s all in the details,” Tallisman reflects, “and it has to be special. I want clients to walk into a space and see that it’s what they dreamed of.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 2019 issue of NYCC&G (New York Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Sleeping Beauty.