Sunday Spotlight: Gretchen Farrell, interior designer and North Salem resident.


Gretchen Farrell, interior designer. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo

After a year of pandemic living, many of us are feeling ready for a new beginning. Starting anew could be an existential exercise, like reevaluating the priorities in our lives and the ways in which we spend our time. But new could also be about simpler things, like a fresh look for our home. After all, we’ve all been spending quite a lot of time living in and looking at our respective habitats. With longer days upon us and spring starting to emerge, the time feels right for a house refresh.

The North Salem Post recently spent a day with Gretchen Farrell, North Salem resident and interior designer. Farrell shared her best tips for breathing new life into your home, whether you’re looking for a few simple ideas that will give your space a new look or are ready to splurge on a big investment.

For folks who want to give their home a quick and simple refresh, what do you suggest?

Farrell: Given the past year’s circumstances, it’s easy to forget why we initially fell in love with our homes. But given most of us are spending an increased amount of time at home, it’s all the more important to refresh and lift the mood. Remind yourself of the home you once loved. A few approaches I have found that can help:

1. Reframe and move your art - just as the right pair of shoes can elevate an outfit, moving art to a different spot in your home can work wonders. Reframe a work that’s been in your family for years and you have a quick pick-me-up that lasts a lifetime. I like to visit Tim at Katonah Art & Frame Shop.

2. New lighting or lampshades can also make a huge difference within your home. Avantgarden in Pound Ridge is a wonderful shop located in a renovated 1950’s gas station. Husband and wife team Charlie and Kristin Allen offer vintage pieces and can design custom lighting pieces to suit whatever you’re looking for.

Lighting options at Avantgarden. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo

3. And, a last quick fix that anyone can do is to incorporate fresh flowers in the home. I especially love blooming branches; they add height and drama to any room.

Farrell arranges blooming branches at a client's home. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo

I long for forsythia after a long winter. They’re readily available around here and if you don’t have any in your yard, your neighbor just might. My favorite, though, are quince blossoms. They add beauty and elegance to a space, and you can get them from Amy’s Flowers at Hayfields Market.

Quince blossoms at Hayfields Market. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo.

Flowers at Hayfields Market. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo.

For those who are looking to spend a little more, or to add pieces that may have a bigger impact on the feel of their homes? What should they be thinking about?

Farrell: If you want to commit a little more, I recommend investing in what I think of as ‘timeless classics’ - these are pieces that are going to have a long life for you and ideally can serve multiple purposes. One great example is a game table. I think of it as something that allows for family time without technology. Housatonic Trading Company in Bantam, CT is wonderful for game tables. Robert, the owner, can let you know when he receives one from an estate. The other thing I love about these types of tables is how they can serve other purposes. For example, you can throw a beautiful linen over the top, pull the table in front of your fireplace and all of a sudden you’re set up for a romantic date night at home.

Ultimately, what I recommend is this: invest in one statement piece in a room. It will elevate everything else in that room.

Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo

For those folks who are ready to go big, and want to splurge on major improvements, what do you recommend?

Farrell: I really believe in investing in a mud room, and here’s why: a well-organized back of house gives the rest of your house room to breathe. Now, you could go as simple as setting up plenty of hooks to hang bags, backpacks, jackets and such. Or, you could go all the way by hiring a contractor and designing a really well-thought-out space that maximizes its potential. But overall, a mudroom is really worth the effort.

The other thing that can dramatically improve the look and feel of a home is new windows and doors. They add natural light and really allow the outdoors to bleed indoors. We live in such a beautiful area; we want to invite that beauty into our homes.

Where do you go when you’re looking for inspiration? Do you have favorite local shops?

Farrell: There are so many wonderful places around here that are not too far away if you’re in the mood for a scenic drive. Some of my favorites:

  • Dumais Made in Bantam, CT Designers Charlie and Kevin Dumais never fail to inspire with their handmade ceramic lamps and objects.
  • Milton Market in Litchfield, CT is a general store with beautifully understated tabletop and home goods
  • The Huntress and Hedgerow in Pound Ridge. The Huntress is a great inspiration for the home. It’s my go-to for hostess and client gifts.
  • Patrick Mele in Greenwich, CT is a family-owned chic and cheerful shop where you can often find the perfect vintage lamp with a Sari lampshade or colorful French linens that brighten up your table.
  • Michael Trapp in Cornwall, CT is always worth the scenic drive. His global findings are artistic, textured, and unique.
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