Susan Bednar Long Uses a Palette of Pastels to Create Sophisticated, Unified Interiors in This Shingle-Style Weekend Getaway
Interior designer Susan Bednar Long probably would not claim color as her strongest suit. Sure, her projects feature well-integrated threads of blue here and some bold red accents there. But by her own admission, she’s no Jamie Drake (well known for his exuberant palettes). So, when a New York City couple tapped Long to design a weekend getaway that felt nothing like their full-time Tribeca digs, a monotone study in gray, she took a giant step outside her comfort zone.
Faced with a classic shingle-style house that cried out for paint and wallpaper to give it a distinct personality, Long went for it with a color scheme that required integrating peach, violet, blue, yellow, red and gray, and made it her mission to establish a plan that would allow the rooms to flow together and “not turn into crazy town.” “Wall colors and general set colors were determined on the ground floor first,” Long says. “I didn’t want the house to look childlike, and it’s important to maintain a level of sophistication, especially with bright colors.”
The first thing visitors see upon entry are the pewter-gray walls in the foyer framed by the soft coral grasscloth cloaking the living room just beyond. According to Long, the pigments are intentionally soft, and the gray repeats with accents in the living room. “They are significant without being super bold, and that’s why it works,” says Long, who upholstered the sofa in plush salmon velvet and topped the tufted bench in mohair. The deft combining of elegant fabrics and classic furniture shapes perfectly complements the subtle hues.
The adjacent dining room is grounded by the owners’ traditional wood table, which is surrounded by chairs with faux ivory leather seats and narrow backs wearing a geometric ivory and taupe pattern. The fabric, along with a Lindsey Adelman Bubble chandelier makes the space feel more modern. “I’m obsessed with light fixtures,” says Long, who punctuated her point with a chrome David Weeks fixture over the solid white oak table in the kitchen, and a sputnik chandelier in the master bedroom.
With the coral, gray and ivory tones established, Long moved on to tackle more challenging hues like the violets and blues that dominate the den. “Accent colors play an important role when you are working with purples,” says the designer. Here, she introduced a chocolate-brown sofa and burnt-orange edging on the drapes. “It’s the deeper more earthy tones that make it work,” she explains.
The same matte violet sets off the breakfast nook where seating is a mixed message of walnut chairs and a chrome bench upholstered in shagreen alabaster faux leather, and the outsized picture window is intentionally unadorned to allow views to the lush landscape. Underfoot, the gray, cream and black rug is woven plastic that can be hauled outside and hosed down as needed. “I wanted to fill the house with some unexpected things,” says Long, who notes that such durable items also answered her client’s directive “to keep things family friendly everywhere.”
If there was one room that gave the gutsy designer pause, surprisingly it wasn’t the second-floor guest room where vibrant lemon walls and deep pink accents elicit a cheerful grin from even the gloomiest overnight visitor. Despite yellow’s reputation for being tough, according to Long, closing in on the canary hue was easy compared with finding the exact right shade of peachy pink for the master bedroom walls. “I wanted something to work with the muted blue and brighter coral fabrics and furnishings,” she says. “It was a long process to get just the right tone—some colors went very flesh toned, and others too sweet and pink. The final one was just right in daylight and shadow.”
Long claims the overall success of the project relied on the use of pastels that made everything flow. “The colors chosen definitely have complexity to them,” she says. “Whenever possible, I tried to stay away from tones that were too pure and saturated.”