Category Archives: Living & Design

Tryst with a House & Tom. Part 3

I have a confession. I dreamt that I went to court for blatantly stealing a chocolate brown room with cotton candy pink sofas.  I confess.  I, Ruthie Sommers, ripped off one of my favorite decorators in the history of decorators, Tom Scheerer.

Interiors of Tom Scheerer for Book

Tom sits on the steps of his family’s home in East Hampton. The wallpaper and coral colored tread combination has seen generations of families. Powerful decorating comes from the inhabitants when they recognize that new is not always better. Disposable decorating has become second nature these days. “Trending alert”, headlines magazine articles about the newest ideas to follow. Wallpaper one day and then remove the next? Not in my swatch book!


Tom Scheerer Decorates, by Mimi Read is arguably the best design book in ages.

Mimi, a super smarty pants writer, (Think magna cum laude Brown University in literature) penned his book and I could hang on every word she wrote as she described this master of charming and fresh design.

Why is his book different? Well, for starters all of the rooms are actually rooms he designed for homes around the world. Unlike several design books on the market, nothing reeks “photo shoot for book”. Formality is missing and what a relief! Each space, whether town or country or island, lends itself to ever lasting decorating. I find myself wanting to read, eat, entertain or nap after a sun drenched day in all of his rooms and, truthfully, in all of his beds.

Familiarity drives my personal design and this is why I adore my old car and yearn for my grandparents peeling cherry wallpaper in their china closet. Spirit and life are the definition of a successful room. No two homes feel that they are related in his work. They may be distant cousins with similar exquisite design qualities but all of his work feels particular to the client and the home.

We must move on to the subject at hand. Lyford Cay Club and how I was caught with my hand in the brownie jar. At this club Tom created what is an already iconic room. A room where a mocha grande of brown grasscloth drenches the  walls with stenciled cream palm trees and is peppered with pink sofas, sisal rugs and gold mirrors.

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I did ring up Mimi to find out how Tom came up with his famous mural idea.  He explained, ” I was going for an El Morocco look, vividly etched to those of a certain vintage. The iconic New York cafe society hang out was midnight blue with uplit white papier-mâché palms shooting up behind zebra covered banquettes.

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Lyford Cay Club has a history that is as colorful as its interiors and guests.   When I open a delightful invitation via mail (thank goodness for real invitations..) and the name Lyford Cay Club sits raised off the card, I know I am going to be packing my bags. Weddings and birthdays are a highlight in my travel notebook of spectacular weekends I have spent in the Bahamas vacationing here.


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Tom redesigned the interiors at this venerable private club. Clearly, it was a match made in heaven.








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How did he decide on chocolate brown?” I ALWAYS choose chocolate brown when attempting something chic and sexy”. When I read this on my email,  I turned a shade of Ban de Soleil gel #4.

Moving on to my blatant thievery for my client in Chicago , I will remind you that my client had been very sick. The chemo had her in bed, during tough bland winter months. Elissa is quite the traveler and the thought of Lyford Cay Club holds happy memories. What better way to have a nibble of a memorable room than to recreate it?



In comes the most talented painter I know, Patrick Roullier.

Patrick Roulierr

Patrick Roullier

Painting palm trees on the walls in Lake Forest Chicago felt a tad out-of-place so when in Rome.. well, be true to your surroundings. We copied the trees on her front lawn, speckled lily of valley around and plopped the large acorns that drop on her driveway in the fall. Some insects and butterflies made flight into the mural as well. And cheesy as this may sound, Patrick pulled it off. Elissa has a young son and he suggested this.  Watching him catch a glimpse of a butterfly on the way to bed is worth all the cheese in the world.



Interior Design Heaven

My mind was racing this morning pondering the best way to open my post.  Last night I met the WHO’s WHO in interior design and photography.

While I am not a ga ga kind of gal over people-Dogs,trees, musicians and good ole chintz-yes,yes, yes!  I would rather be seated next to the nerdy science geek or WWII veteran any day over a fancy smachy Us Weekly person of the moment..But throw in a celebrated magazine editor of the old days of magazine divinity  AND an insanely talented photographer? Pull out your autograph books! Giddy with delight is an understatement when I saw the who’s who of fabulousness standing by the front door at a party I attended last night.

Claiborne Swanson, a bombshell of a beauty ,author and photographer of the book AMERICAN BEAUTY , hosted a small summer soiree last night in her Beverly Hills home.14-Claiborne-7837_151159588030-682x1024

The Swanson girls are some of my favorite people on the planet. I will be shallow and mention their incredible good looks.. But the real beauty oozes  out of all of them the minute you start a conversation. We gab about the wonderment of life, babies, work and fun and everything in between. These sisters always have something positive to say and it is usually about an idea or an interest and always spoken with kindness. I have met their mother, Elizabeth , and I know she is responsible. Therefore , with three of my own girls, I strive to recreate whatever she did right. Authenticity appears to trump all things material and I love this about them.

Now moving on to the hot ticket in the house.  Douglas Friedman,the photographer, was in my presence.


My friend Nena and I decided we may  just hide in his mustache and go along with him to the next party. As most of you know his work as an interiors photographer, he is equally fabuloso in fashion and lifestyle. I squeal with delight when I open a magazine to see that he is the photographer. As busy as he is ,the best homes require his touch so you know that the spread will be special.


Douglas Friedman


Douglas Friedman


Douglas Friedman. He can make anything look beautiful. Check out his blog the Facinator.














Douglas Friedman


Douglass Friedman


Douglas Friedman


Douglas Friedman


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Claiborne married James Frank, Cynthia’s son.  James could have been James Bond in any movie, in any year, if you get my drift.

VERONICA BEARD Spring 2013 Presentation

Cynthia was an editor at House and Garden-ahhhhh. those days..  Cynthia is responsible for making magic with some of the worlds most artistic and unique homes by placing them upon pages in the top magazines from House and Garden days  to Elle Decor and Town and Country.  I devour my old House and Garden magazines on a weekly basis. Tattered and dog eared, they are  peppered all over my cottage in Newport RI. And every year, I find something new to adore in the same magazine I have been reading for years.

Cynthia was kind and chic and I would pay money to follow her around for weeks on end. Here is some of her personal work. We are all fortunate to have her producing shoots that we read in Elle Decor at the moment.


This was Claiborne and Jame’s home in New York and Cynthia helped design this.  Her home in Beverly Hills has  many of the same furnishings with the help of her adorable cousin,Nena Woolworth. Claiborne’s house is deliciously simple and inviting. Photography and family photos are her main event. And the house was impeccably neat but I felt I could relax here and dive into art books for hours on end.


Cynthia’s Home in South Hampton . Haynes Roberts collaborated with Cynthia. I love this duo of design team. One of my favorites by far.





The floor plan of this room is close to genius in my opinion.



The one blue chair? The blue chair is bold and brave amongst his monochromatic friends.


House and Garden Magazine. Elsie de Wolfe


House and Garden

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House and Garden Mathilde Agotinelli bedroom. Oberto Gigli


1961 House and Garden photograph


Oberto Gigli . I adore this photograph

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Elsie de Wolfe House and Garden











Tryst with a House Part 2

If you have not been following this story, please read The Tryst Part 1 or this will sound extremely corny to you. 

He had me at Blue Ground.. A Farrow and Ball paint color that is. I met him when he first appeared on a small swatch at little paint store.Unknown I did not know when we would meet again but.. he came in hot and swathed his little dandy self all over my clients dining room walls and molding before I could say no..

This is the paint color that I adore yet can scare any decorator. Strong and lively, this color lends itself to a historic tone in the right space. But if used the wrong way, it can go too Pirates of the Caribbean tick tacky or bad Greek restaurant bathroom..

This dining room was gloomy when I met it.  But it was only having a bad hair day. Think of a fresh coat of paint as a blow out. It can do wonders, right? The Jansen table was a score and the chairs, while uncomfortable for large for a man, reinforced my bond over anything French.



View to the hallway and the living room.




A Bennison floral fabric made it’s way to this bench Elissa had already.

Phase One was accomplished. However, it felt naked. Draperies and shades could solve that. Who do we turn to for advice?  Miles Redd of course.

Finding a lower cost silk to make the draperies took forever to source . Keep in mind the house got the curtains in the divorce. We lined them with pink taffy silk stripe to pump up the charm. We limited the trim because Elissa and I are self recognized patisserie snobs and the little bobbles we wanted were about $300 a yard..

Photo shoot ready

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A Tryst with a Home . Part 1

This is a post about an affair I had with a house. My client Elissa and I cheated on her house with another house, a David Adler designed home down the street. She and her husband placed a bid on this home, all the while we were decorating her current home..

David Adler Home for Sale

David Adler Home for Sale that was the culprit and part of the reasoning behind her current color explosion at her existing home

Elissa called me out of the blue around the time  I was pondering the idea of exchanging my swatch books for more time on the tennis court and possibly taking a stab at gardening.  Yet, secretly I wanted to be everything from a Vegan Shaman to a City Council woman who fosters dogs.  I was lost  in my creative and yet schizophrenic spirit that had me  thinking I could do anything and .. nothing.

Elissa called and candidly explained how she was in remission from cancer and sent me a photo of herself with a swollen face on a beige sofa, next to a blanket of white snow in the background. Help! was the subject in the email.  During her illness her mother hopped on a plane from Connecticut to dive in with decorating.  Elissa had a young son and an empty house. Stepping into high gear her mom ordered from catalogs, sourced fabrics and raced around in the hopes that her daughter’s family had something to sit on.

House in Lake Forest

Elissa’s house in Lake Forest









Elissa’s mom, prefers barns to design centers so this was a labor of love for her daughter. ( Yes, tears welling up now)  She sounds like my kind of gal, a lover of animals and rarely shops or buys anything, unless it is for someone else. If you had a sneak peek into Elissa’s closet-Cream and black rule so I assumed color would be out. Her home was somewhat decorated with muted tones and while I thought they were pretty, she wanted to out them like her memories of sitting in bed for days on end.

How could I not take this job? Cancer survivor funny girl with a super cool house? Check.

Upon arrival Elissa and I raced from room to room talking more about factory farming and big Pharma more than paint colors. She insisted she needed me and I accepted.  Although I would have lived in this house naked in the cold for a year just to be close to this architecture.)

After the weekend we made our final design decision for the house ,”Lets make this feel like a preppy 80’s house that Mark Hampton may have designed.” This way, it could feel dated in a chic way and we never have to decorate again.

I was also to design her apartment in the city which we agreed would be more “French and urban” because we both think we are half French.  Lake Forest was to receive a color injection. And we went a little bonkers..


Front yard area in Lake Forest

Our design juices flowed because we knew that Adler was lurking, flirting with us in the background. Nothing was mulled over endlessly, we were quick on decisions, we reused and reinvented everything.  We pulled from the basement. We spent wisely.  Palm Beach thrift stores, sisals and chic catalog pieces were easy choices. Art and photography were new investments . Family photos received new white frames with grasscloth mats. Auction pieces trickled in.

Miles Redd

Miles Redd- Talk about a happy room. This was our inspiration… Here is a lesson to everyone including myself- Inspiration is inspiration. Your home will never resemble the tear sheets because most likely the bones do not match what you have, or your wallet.  Whoever you are is more exciting than who is living in that Elle Decor spread. When you buy with love and it is coming from an authentic place-Well, that trumps that Pinterest pin that was styled by a professional and created for a photo shoot ( unless Miles Redd decorates your house and it does look like this in real life)


Grotto Bench

Grotto Bench

So here we are at Happy Town . After you experience what Elissa did, we focused on how things made her feel more than how it looked to anyone else.

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Samuel and Sons Trim

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Confidence is sexy like that.  We picked what we loved, no matter provenance or pedigree and it worked in our eyes.

The mirrors are a purchase from Wisteria catalog from her mother. J’adore!



A Richard Goerner Photograph

A Richard Goerner Photograph sits above two Painted White Miniature French chairs covered in Clarence House Velvet Fabric


Photo Photo


The dining room comes next. Stay tuned.

Peter Marino


Peter Marino’s Hampton Retreat is one of the most beautiful gardens I have seen ( only on the pages of AD no less). .  I am often told by my dear friend and landscape architect, Shannon Cushing,  that there is no such thing as an instant garden when she brings over my minuscule looking 5 gallon plant-. And this is the most pristine example of labor, love and creativity.  ( Architectural Digest ) Photography credit-Jason Schmidt



This is the purple garden. The fountain, purchased in France by Peter,  is surrounded by rhododendrons. How chic! Purple is my favorite color. I have loved purple since I was in elementary school. When I came home from camp one year my mother had my bathroom painted aubergine. While it was not the striking lavender or the pinky purple I adored-I thought this was very forward. She then had my best friends mother, Lulie Mallard, paint pale green celadon bows over the doors and small detailed renderings of shells everywhere. How I wish I had a photo of that bathroom..

This is the purple garden. The fountain, purchased in France by Peter, is surrounded by rhododendrons. How chic! Purple is my favorite color. I have loved purple since I was in elementary school. When I came home from camp one year my mother had my bathroom painted aubergine. While it was not the striking lavender or the pinky purple I adored-I thought this was very forward. She then had my best friends mother, Lulie Mallard, paint pale green celadon bows over the doors and small detailed renderings of shells everywhere. How I wish I had a photo of that bathroom..




I can not imagine strolling down this walkway in the early morning dawn in the spring. How glorious! American Beauty roses surround Bartlett pear trees and herbs. When I started reading the text, which I do not always do in AD ( sometimes the name dropping and provenance this or that gets distracting ) I learned that Peter Marino drives a “mean tractor”.. While I am not sure what this means exactly I read on to discover that his hair stands on the back of his neck if he sees a hedge leaf out of place. Well, Peter, you should scoot on over to my house with my dying boxwoods and fledging roses.. You may collapse on first site. But he redeemed himself by the end of article when he purposely added a splash of “vulgarity” and planted a cutting garden saturated with gladiolas. “Nobody grows them because people do not want to be accused of having bad taste, So I have acres of them” Now that is cool ,Peter!



Eloise’s Room


The surprise for Eloise’s room begins. Little does she know she is getting the laundry room. Photo by Coral Von Zumwalt

This photo is from when we first bought our home. The room is fairly devoid of anything. Pink and healthy and simple was the vibe I was going for. The chandelier was a mishap. It belonged to the previous owner and it horrified me when I first saw it. I was chirping Chippendale everything those days and this felt very Granny chic to me. However, by the end of the project , I had no funds left and the little confectionary of roses and leaves chandelier now shines light and love into my girls room. I adore it now and only to find out the woman that owned our home for thirty five years raised three girls here.

Eloise is ready for a big girl bed! Bailey arrives to share the room.

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This is still the closet my three girls share. Editing is the key. And because they are three girls they share everything.

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This is Eloise’s big girl bed. The sofa has China Seas fabric and I ordered faux Lily Pulitzer from Ebay to recover her headboard. When the headboard arrived she was clearly very upset.. “Mommy, this is a body board not a headboard!” Like mother like daughter..My second daughter was being born so Eloise upgraded. We waited with baited breath for her Schwitzer Linen heart sheets to arrive. They arrived the day Bailey was born. We were putting them on and my water broke. By the way, this photo was taken by my very dear friend and photographer, Doug Inglish. He did a photo shoot at my house for some fabu ( my fav word) European fashion magazine. I traded hair and make up and some Fathers day pictures for the photo shoot. Secretly, I wanted professional photos of me-They always make me look like I have a bigger upper lip than I have.. and getting hair and make up done.. Well….yum..


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This pink riot of a room belongs to Piper Woodprince, my dearest client’s daughter. My client grew up in New York with a fabu Studio 54 mother who was often at parties more than home. So Mer ( Meredith Woodprince ‘s) daughter was born she pulled out the big guns into girly pink land for her daughter. We copied the bed canopy from a David Hicks bed and added modern lucite from Charles Hollis Jones vanity stools to dime store old vintrines painted Robins Egg blue. I was able to bring Eloise with me to certain jobs around the country ( well that sounded important.. lets say two different states to be fair) and she always left a bit sad and wanting for a bedroom like those I designed for clients children.

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The fabrics we ended up choosing. Pindler and Pindler Ikat, Pindler purple fabric and a Raoul linen for her headboard.

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Here is our former laundry room and now Eloise’s bedroom. I measured the room before the molding was put up for the canopy-Mistake number one-We had to take it off when the canopy came. We all make mistakes in design. The key is to laugh about it and I made sure to tell my contractor this was my fault and bill me for the extra charge. He did not of course. We tested several paint colors. Eloise chose the one I did not prefer but I went with it in the end. We all have to stop caring so much about the small stuff. She was right. Imagine that!

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Here is Eloise ready for her new room. She is so dear and we have made sure to tell her the things do not matter. So when I went to add a mirror or more little items in her room she adamantly told me , no!. She was happy with the way it was. So I canceled the faux painter who was going to do Moroccan stencils and we have not touched the little room since then. She even wanted her old lamp in the new room. The carpet is a remnant thick shaggy purple that I would have never picked for a client-and the headboard fabric is Raouls. And of course, the room sings because Eloise is happy. Not because of any design choices. It is always a lesson to me. Even with my own daughter. Photo by Coral Von Zumalt for Lonny Magazine

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