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Sophisticated Second Home

A light-filled home on Martha's Vineyard designed by Lisa Sternfeld

Written by Rebecca Christian
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  • John Bessler

    Lisa Sternfeld grew up wanting to be a painter—as a self-described “awkward kid” who was equally crazy about Giacometti, Cy Twombly, and Michelangelo, she haunted New York City’s museums. Eventually she found herself in the business side of design, creating branded multimedia campaigns for giant clients Walt Disney, Coach, and Victoria’s Secret (before the two big I’s: Internet and iPod). “And then I woke up one day thinking I’m so far removed from what I love,” she recalls.

    A graduate of Parsons School of Design, Lisa worked stints with design greats Thomas O’Brien and Adam Tihany, then founded her own firm, LSID, in 2006. In a way, she’s gone back to her first love, painting, she says, because “Interior design is like painting. You build layers, and it grows over time.”

    The designer—who lives in an apartment in Chelsea she uses as a design lab—loves to take early morning walks when the city is just waking up. So when fellow Manhattanites asked her to give a bit of the city’s feel to their second home on Martha’s Vineyard, she was already in a New York state of mind. “It’s a really interesting home,” she says. “The front is classically designed, with beautifully landscaped gardens, and the back is wilder, much more casual. The two sides really represent the husband and the wife who own it.”

    Lisa loves handcrafted pieces, like the antique dining room chairs, which she had gilded with white gold. She has used such pieces throughout this lovely home, she says, and the homeowners really appreciate the workmanship that went into them.

    What Lisa loves most about the residence is its light. She made the most of it with a less-is-more approach, making sure that there are unobstructed views of the sea from every room. “When you walk into the main entry," she says, "you are in a living and dining room area with double height ceilings, and the light is extraordinary. There are no window treatments to obstruct the view. You can watch the changing colors of the sky.”

    Photography: John Bessler

  • John Bessler

    Chair Detail

    Antique dining chairs upholstered in icy blue have been gilded with white gold to reflect the natural light and make the room glow.

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    Living Room

    In the living room, which captures the colors of the landscape, all of the furniture is bench-made, whether antique or new. The silk-velvet Irish sofa is wonderfully luxurious, a concentrated hue of the lofty walls.

    Details on the following slides.

  • John Bessler

    Living Room

    Visitors gravitate to the chair in the fanciful animal print, upholstered in Jonas fabric. The pillow on the sofa looks like cowhide but is needlepoint.

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    Living Room Details

    Geometric pillows in sandy tones decorate the sofa; a shapely lamp from Pucci sits on the guéridon; the silver-plated seashell is a nod to the home’s location.

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    Dining Room

    The antique dining table works well with the floor, which is stained cherry and has acquired a beautiful faded patina over time from all the light in the space. The mirrors “weigh a ton!” Lisa says. “Not literally of course, but they are solid, thick, chiseled glass, and when they reflect the sunlight in the space, they’re magical.” The stools below each console table are 19th century; the columns were part of the original architecture.

    Details on the following slides.

  • John Bessler

    Dining Room Details

    Wild animals adorn a beautiful silk-upholstered settee, which sits alongside the dining room table. The luminescent fabric catches sunlight from the windows.

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    Dining Room Details

    Yellow roses complement the blues of the dining room; an equine statue stands guard over the mantel; the antique chairs are gilded in white gold; chiseled glass mirrors flank the fireplace and brighten the space.

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    Sitting Room

    Indigo tie-dyed fabric on the chairs is a nod to the mid-century; Lisa says it reminds her of brushstrokes on canvas.

    Details on the following slide.

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    Sitting Room Details

    Lisa's mantelpiece vignette (middle image) includes a vintage clock, a mirror that is reminiscent of a porthole, and a beetle vase. "The idea of a lovely tray set for tea is so appealing," Lisa says.

  • John Bessler
    • Choose bottom-up shades for kitchens and bathrooms. These offer privacy, but still allow beautiful light to flow through.
    • Consider your paint colors wisely. Selecting softer colors will help reflect light back into the space.
    • To maximize natural light, choose window treatments made of natural fabrics—open weaves or sheers are best bets.
    • For a serene space, opt for tonal variations in color, and then layer in texture and pattern for more visual interest.
    • Mix different scales, textures, shapes, colors, and time periods for a more interesting, dynamic space.
  • John Bessler

    Master Bedroom

    The headboard fabric is graphic but subtle. “It’s a great fabric to work with as it’s visually impactful yet still versatile. I think there’s a good balance in the space between masculine and feminine,” Lisa says.

    Details on the following slide.

  • John Bessler

    Master Bedroom Details

    A crystal lamp and a silver vase next to the bed add sparkle; the satin bedding is by Thomas O’Brien.

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    Master Bath

    Because the master bathroom windows open to formally planted gardens beyond, Lisa kept the focus on the surrounding natural beauty. Welcoming with a touch of luxury, the room features an antique bench upholstered in deep blue velvet, used for piles of fresh towels. It sits beside a traditional caned chair. A framed bird print leans against the wall beneath the client’s own antique painted ship tile, an homage to local history. The corner of the tub is an ideal spot for freshly cut flowers from the gardens beyond. Flooring and walls are marble.

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    Home’s Exterior

    Sitting on a lovely estate on Martha’s Vineyard, the home overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. In the front lie manicured gardens, while the back of the house hosts a more natural setting against the ocean.

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