Fading into the woodwork can be a good thing

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — Does your outfit blend into the woodwork? We're not talking in a boring, bland way, but in a complementary one.

Perhaps your wardrobe is a reflection of your broader taste, and there's no place better to see that than in your home decor.

If you're true to your style — from your clothing closet to the linen closet and the kitchen cabinets — you're probably not going to bounce from trend to trend, style experts say. Instead, you probably have a strong point of view that evolves and is enhanced over time.

Designer Nanette Lepore has gone so far as to make a rug out of a favorite print she used in a fashion collection, and the pigmented colors she likes to wear are the ones on her walls, too. "I want to create an environment you want to come home to," she says.

The home gives a picture window into your personal style because you live with it a lot longer, says jewelry designer Cathy Waterman, and that tends to show off what you truly value. It's not glitz and glamour for her. For example, she likes craftsmanship with a dash of drama. Superfancy sparkly jewels aren't part of her everyday routine, Waterman says, but finely made flatware is.

A glimpse into tastemakers' closet connections:

—Terron Schaefer, Saks Fifth Avenue chief creative officer

Schaefer says anyone who knows him would expect the streamlined decor — and very neat closet — in his apartment.

There are many black-and-white photographs in black or stainless steel frames, and even though he's a collector of interesting objects such as Indonesian eating utensils and aerospace propellers, there's little clutter.

He admires beautiful shapes, and he wants to give them the chance to be noticed. So he doesn't have too much of anything nor does he switch things out too often, says Schaefer, who is also a buyer on NBC's "Fashion Star."

"All my hangers are lined the same way, and all my shoes have shoe trees. ... I essentially wear a uniform of suits and shirts, and they are so similar that I can get dressed in the dark with confidence," he says. The other day, he wore a 20-year-old cashmere jacket. It was emblematic of his classic style, he says.

There's often the touch that gives Schaefer a conversation piece: It could be a bright pocket square or cool tie for his outfit. In his dining area, it's an unfussy table — with bicycle wheels as legs.

—Nanette Lepore, fashion designer

There's nothing precious about Lepore's home, she says. "I want the same thing from my house as I want for my collection. I like to make live-in clothes. I want to think of my clothes as go-to clothes, not special-occasion-only clothes."

"I feel like my personal style is very eclectic and I like to decorate that way. I like a lush, romantic room that feels warm and homey and very personal," says Lepore, who is launching a home collection this fall.

She's a fan of prints and rich colors, and they're an important part of her decor, just like her runway. Of course, she can't swap out her furniture as often as she might a dress — but, she says, she holds on to dresses for a long time, too. Accessories are key, whether it's a pair of shoes and a handbag, or a throw pillow and new sheets. "I think most people want to layer when they get dressed or when they decorate."

The catwalk trick she brings home with her? Good lighting.

—Cathy Waterman, jewelry designer

While she's known for pieces that shine, her personal wardrobe and decorating sensibility are driven by craftsmanship and art. She has a lifestyle that puts her more often in the garden, kitchen or studio than on the red carpet, Waterman explains.

Her tastes are very eclectic, artsy and dramatic, and when she likes something, she really likes it: Take fairy tales, she says. Her closet is home to velvet cloaks and capes, and the flatware collection she recently created for Barneys New York features two patterns — the feminine Guinevere and more masculine Lancelot.

She loves her silver snakeskin boots and "luscious" green velvet dress by Alexander McQueen almost as much as she loves funky pottery pieces and black-and-white photos.

"I like things that have a handmade quality to them. It's probably why I do what I do," Waterman says. "I like to feel like something's intimate, with history and drama. You see that in my clothes and in my home."

—Kelly Wearstler, decorator-turned-designer

"Whenever I work with clients that are uncertain about where or how to start in terms of home decor, I ask them to go into their closet and to describe to me what they find. What color, style and textures they find. We build from there. I can use this feedback as a foundation," Wearstler says.

Her world is filled with mixed messages, and she likes it that way. In clothes, that means raw denim paired with beautiful, shiny jewelry. At home, it's "rough texture and raw art accented with the gleam of polished metals."

The telltale pieces in her home are her chairs. They are "functional sculptures and serve as jewelry to a room," she says.

She'll also take abstract fabric prints and turn them into wall art, or she'll reupholster furniture with denim. A carpet can be a sweater design, and a favorite home object can inspire the closure on a clutch handbag, Wearstler says. "It's superexciting to see all this cross-pollination."

—Dorothy Roberts, chairwoman of The Echo Design Group

Roberts, who is into her 80s, is quite sure of her style: "classic."

"I make decisions about things very quickly. I don't return things often. I know what works."

But her business is fashion, so boring would be bad, Roberts says. "I am about a lot of neutrals. I will add colors through a new scarf every day, or a wrap or another accessory. In my home, it's all neutrals, beiges and tones of brown, gray and off-white, and then I have colors in the pillows on the couches."

Sometimes the prints of the scarves her company is best known for have been turned into wall hangings, and Roberts keeps her father's colorful paperweight collection in prominent view.

Otherwise, there's nothing "too much" — about her living room or her outfits. She doesn't change either drastically very often.

"I am not a fussy dresser, and I am not a fussy decorator. I don't want to have to put in so much effort — that's just me, always trying to simplify."