Meet the Designer: Linda Allard

Balance and proportion are key to success in fashion and at home

Fashion designer Linda Allard of the clothing line Ellen TracyFashion designer Linda Allard, the creative force behind the clothing collections of Ellen Tracy (which evolved into her own namesake line of wearable classics) has retired to her Italianate home she helped design and build in Litchfield County. We talked to her about the symbiotic traits of fashion and structural design.

With decades of fashion-design experience, what led you to think you had the know-how to design a house and gardens?
My mother brought us up believing that if you want something, you can learn how to do it. But you have to work at it, have to figure it out. Clothes have a certain architecture to them too, you have to figure out balance and proportion.

Your architect brother had you list everything you wanted in every room. Then the two of you traveled to Italy to study Palladian buildings. How did you launch the project?
Pretty much the way you’d start a collection. We’d find a piece of fabric and say, “Wow, that’s beautiful, let’s work around that.” Designer Steve Mallory helped me with research. We’d discover amazing things. For the living room, we found a textured cotton tapestry, white on white, and it’s on almost every piece of furniture in that room.

An expanse of lawn around the pool

A rose courtyardYour home is surrounded by a variety of gardens. How did you create them?
I’d spend the winter laying them out. But I didn’t just draw it and go ahead. The first year, where the boxwoods are now, I planted beans to see if I liked the shape. And I had tomatoes where the rose arbors are. I had to adjust the space, like when you’re making a jacket and you fit it on the model, and it’s not quite right and you have to adjust it. I did the same thing in the garden; I would lay things out with annuals before putting in the perennials and shrubs.

What pleases you most about the house?
I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It looks like the interior of a Colonial, but it’s functional at the same time. And the house is situated really well. My favorite thing is the way the light moves through it all day long.

In the 20 years you’ve lived there, why have you barely changed a thing?
The strength of Ellen Tracy was I liked making a collection that flowed from one to the other. There was a continuity, but it wasn’t boring—a classicism that was interesting. There’s a classic feeling to the house. It doesn’t ever tire me. When I get up in the morning and walk down the hall, it’s very uplifting.

The extensive gardens at Linda Allard’s Litchfield County home include a walled garden filled with an everchanging selection of vegetables and flowers.

What are your favorite garden flowers?
In the spring, I have loads of daffodils, then peonies, and I love when the roses come. It’s like the fashion world: The seasons change, you get different colors and different textures, but it’s still the same garden. 

A version of this article appeared in the September 2015 issue of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Linda Allard.