I never tire of looking at spaces where A-list interior designer Jeffrey Bilhuber has waved his magic multicolor wand. So imagine my delight when my February House Beautiful arrived and a Bilhuber renovation of a New Jersey farmhouse made the cover.
Except that it doesn’t look like any farmhouse you’ve ever seen before. Scrubbed white walls and plain but serviceable rooms have been switched out in favor of lime green, mandarin orange, purple, magenta and royal blue. And modern art shows up alongside family heirlooms and antiques.
It’s Bilhuber at his best and definitely boho chic.
Bilhuber credits architect John Heyrich with the idea to connect the original farmhouse with an old stone icehouse and fill in the void with this huge living space. But Bilhuber is the one who dressed it. Note the three different drapery fabrics, which the designer calls a lesson in hierarchy.
“The center panels on the tall window are done in a big block print that creates a big impression,” he explains. “The side panels are a more simple ikat. And then the persimmon curtains on the French doors were repurposed from [the owner’s] New York apartment. There is no reason why a good set of curtains can’t follow you around.” A man definitely after my mother’s heart.
My favorite in this room? It’s hard to pick just one, and next time I look at the photo the answer could be different. Right now, the ikat patterned chairs are jousting with the raspberry sofas for my affections. Whichever wins my hand, I’m pretty sure I’d live happily ever after.
Meet and greet
Bilhuber gave the former living room new life as a welcoming reception area, which you see in these two views. Paintings are by Dan Walsh (above) and Julian Schnabel (below). “Modern art is essential to modern life,” Bilhuber says. “It invigorates a room.” Need more proof? Hold your hands over the artwork in these two photos and see the difference.
Purple walls, crimson sofa and antelope rug aside, Bilhuber describes the library as an intimate, quiet, relaxing room. “The purple walls encourage you to look inward,” he says.
As long as I can sink into that tufted sofa with a good book, who am I to argue? SERIOUS envy on the antelope rug, I might add. I do love how it mixes so well with the striped upholstery on that wing chair.
Don’t try this at home
How do you know when to stop with the color and pattern?
I wish I could tell you, and I would caution anyone from trying it at home. I’m like an artist painting a canvas when I scheme, adding a splash of color here and an interesting texture there. Years ago, you would pick out a fabric, and running down the side of the sample were complementary fabrics and trims, in matching tones. Those days of decorating by the book are long gone. Now it’s completely intuitive. I just respond to color and texture. But it takes a lot of effort to make things look this effortless.
I don’t know whether to take his reply as a caution or a challenge.
More dining choices than a restaurant
The old kitchen was renovated and expanded as part of the connection to the ice house. I’m not really big on the two-tone cabinets, but I find the green extremely restful. And it looks great against the bright red industrial stools, as well as the blue-and-white print chairs. Two favorites here, too: That window into the living room, left from a formerly outside wall, and the simple bowl of lemons. There’s nothing like yellow and blue to cheer up a room, in my book.
The ice house itself became a formal dining room, with seating for a crowd or an intimate gathering. Note the tartan rug and chartreuse window casings. “I get so tired of windows that look like bars in a cell and make me feel trapped inside a house,” Bilhuber says. “I often end up painting them green, to blend in with the landscape. Or sometimes I paint them pitch black, so the muntins practically disappear in the evening.”
I like that the window and door casings vary as you go through this house. Why are we all so hung up on keeping them the same? And white, cream or stained at that? So many colors, so little time!! Bilhuber agrees: “Color adds a level of excitement and says a lot about personality.”
On the up and up
That glorious green makes a reappearance alongside black in the baseboard and staircase—and it’s dynamite! But what I love most here is the colorful Missoni staircase runner. It reminds me of a Mexican serape.
More green picks out the architectural details in the master bedroom, and those same matchstick blinds from the dining room are used again. I think a bedroom of lavender mixed with teal, green and yellow just might be the stuff sweet dreams are made of for me. Bilhuber admits he’s a pushover for gingham curtains. But me? I’m gaga over the faux fur coverlet. I can pretty much predict never leaving this room. Or that bed.
Always room for more
I’ve never met a ROOM I didn’t like, let alone a color! There’s not a room I can’t improve, because I always see the potential. These rooms will continue to grow along with the family. They will accept change. Nothing is static or fixed. And in a couple of years, they’ll look even better.
I don’t doubt it for a second.
See more photos from this property (including exterior shots), read more about the renovation, and check out sources at House Beautiful. Or pick up a copy of the February issue and enjoy this article plus other features exclusive to the print edition. Follow this link to see more drop-dead gorgeous rooms in Bilhuber’s portfolio.
More by and about Jeffrey Bilhuber…