A lush palette brings updated glamour to a traditional home

The dining room walls are impossible to ignore: as crimson as the lips of a 1940s movie star. Peek into the kitchen, however, and the mood is fresh and organic, awash in creamy white and cool turquoise-green. And in the entry, deep pumpkin tones exude the warmth and welcome of fall. “I’m so enthralled by the entire world of color,” says Francesca Quagliata of the Portland home she shares with husband Keary Knickerbocker and their toddler, Amelia. An artist and designer with a flair for eclectic combinations, Quagliata turned a simple folk-style Victorian farmhouse into the perfect canvas for a gutsy modern palette.

A subtle interplay of textures and hues is the basis for Quagliata’s style. In the kitchen, much of the design was driven by her passion for Carrara marble, which she used around the sink and as a tumbled tile accent. “I love the depth and variation, the antiquated look,” she says. “It’s extremely versatile ― you can make it seem old, or use it in the most contemporary of settings.” Counters of Honduran mahogany, another of her favorite surfaces, provide a warm contrast. At the other end of the spectrum is the stainless steel Thermador range, which the couple bought on eBay (hailing from a family of foodies, Knickerbocker had requested “precision equipment and a professional kitchen feel”).

Upstairs in the master bedroom, the challenge was to create drama in a small space. “The original room was cramped and awkward, so Keary and I decided it needed a little romance,” Quagliata says. Ornate drapes ― hung at ceiling level to add height ― and a majestic sweep of a valance highlight the clean lines of a citrus-painted Pottery Barn metal bed frame. On the landing just outside the bedroom is one of the couple’s most prized finds: a set of beat-up high-school lockers that Quagliata unearthed at the town dump. She paid $20, hauled it home on the roof of their car, and invested in $100 worth of materials ― spray paint, doorknobs, rivets, and metal roof flashing. “I gravitate toward old, worn things because it’s easy to live with them,” she says. “But I’m also drawn to shiny chrome and sexy modern lines.”

Constant reinvention is a fact of life in the household. “I get bored with a room after a while,” Quagliata admits. For instant makeovers, she stocks quick-change accessories, from lampshades and ottomans to pillows and pottery. Garden stools crop up throughout the house in multiple guises ― as a side table, a piano bench, a pedestal for a candle by the tub. To Quagliata, they serve as a reminder of her mother, who passed on her love for Asian antiques and collectibles. A little old-fashioned, subtly glamorous, and rich with color and personal meaning, they’re the embodiment of her style and the ideal finishing touches for the home itself. 


Here are Francesca Quagliata’s tips for incorporating a range of hues into your home.

Use strong shades as a backdrop
The take-no-prisoners hue in the dining room is a good example, casting the objects in front of it into sharp relief.

Consider the palette as a whole
Plan how the colors in one room will look when seen through the doorway of another.

Unify with white trim
It links disparate spaces and colors, and helps tone down a dramatic shade.

Design: Francesca Quagliata, 4th Street Design, Portland.

Resources:  Dining room Cranapple paint on walls (item 1015; color is discontinued, but many stores can mix it or provide a similar shade) and Silver Lining paint on trim (item 32-32) from Pratt & Lambert (800/289-7728). Refinished and painted antique table from Antiques & Oddities (about $1,350; similar items available; antiquewholesale.net or 503/222-4246). Kilim rugs from Pakobel (similar items available). Vintage photographs are homeowners’ own. Looking for Home (acrylic on canvas) by Jody Katopothis (503/957-3167). Kitchen Contractor for kitchen was Matt Sears Wood and Metalworks (503/957-4649). Aged Mint paint (item IB77) from Ralph Lauren Paint (800/379-7656). Silver Lining paint on trim and cabinets from Pratt & Lambert (800/289-7728). Rhodes pendant in Antique Black (item PD-14-1-4) and Opal glass shade (item OP-2250-09-4; $203 each light, as shown) from Schoolhouse Electric Co. (800/630-7113). Carrara marble tiles and counter from EuroStone (800/632-5811); counter with drainboard fabricated by De La Tierra (503/720-6581). Mahogany counters by Hardwood Industries (800/745-6620). Thermador stainless steel 36-inch range and chimney-style wall hood (800/735-4328). Sub-Zero built-in refrigerator (800/222-7820) with custom chalkboard front fabricated by W.H. Cress Company (503/620-1664). Antique cast-iron table base with custom-honed Absolute Black granite top from Classico Marmo (503/233-0224). Bedroom Soothing Celadon paint (item ICC-95) from Behr (877/237-6158). Mendocino bed from Pottery Barn ($1,099-$1,199; 800/922-5507) refinished in orange paint by Northwest Refinishing (503/670-0410). Eileen Fisher rippled cotton coverlet in soft white ($198) from Garnet Hill (800/870-3513). Nate Berkus chunky knit throw in turquoise from Linens ‘n Things ($80; 866/568-7378). Drapery and valance designed by homeowner and fabricated by Ginger Abernathy Creations (503/788-1142).