Photos by Scott Hewitt
Money was no object for this stunning Delaware home designed by Bruce Palmer, who married European furnishings with reclaimed materials.
When Bruce Palmer’s clients purchased a custom-built home to replace their older estate, aesthetic changes were on order. The interior designer knew the depth of the proposed about-face. He’d designed the earlier primary residence for the client, a spread Palmer describes as “Old World, traditional Chester County farmhouse.” The Greenville project “was their way of downsizing.”
With the previous home tipping the scales at more than 26,000 square feet (“a massive house”) for a family of four, the clients’ way of downsizing meant 6,000 square feet packed with bedroom suites, with a primary on the first floor, four upstairs and an additional bedroom in the basement. All have adjacent bathrooms, two of which are powder rooms. “They wanted something more cutting-edge, today’s style,” the designer says.
The daring result—liberal with color, texture and layering—was well within Palmer’s wheelhouse. When asked if the aesthetic could be described as “fearless,” Palmer laughs. “That’s kind of me, I would say. I don’t object to color. There can only be so much beige in my world, so I do like a pop of color, and I think my big thing is texture. I think that’s probably rooted in my background of coming from Utah, being in the mountains, so I’m drawn to natural options—marble, wood, stone, anything organic—as opposed to plastic, glass and concrete. I like living material that has a lot of texture and depth to it.”
Palmer moved to Delaware from Salt Lake City in 2000 and worked as a design director for Lysy Interior Design, but when its founder Debra Lysy moved out west in 2004, Palmer took over the business. His inclination toward natural textures never left him.
The elephant in the room (so to speak) is the color purple, which recurs unexpectedly throughout the home. It turned out to be the wife’s favorite color, which was news to Palmer. “I’ve been working with her for 20 years, and this is the first time that it came out that this was her favorite color,” Palmer says. She didn’t know if it would translate into a home. Absolutely it would, Palmer reassured her.
In the bold but elegant dining room, it is the purple wallcovering that stands out— and that says something, given that the room features elaborate, swirly moldings on the ceiling, a glittering china cabinet and a custom-designed wooden table held up with clusters of metal columns that actually break the surface of the tabletop. The French wallcovering from Elitis is a natural material (“almost like a bamboo bark”) that is stripped, dyed purple and then woven. “That’s why you get such texture and variation in the color,” Palmer explains. The chairs, also custom, are wrapped in fabric by Dedar, an Italian textile company.
The earthy but modern Eggersmann kitchen, a vision in wood, granite and glass cabinetry, manages to carry on the purple theme through the addition of fairly minimalist leather barstools from Holly Hunt. The color pop offsets the organic style of the walls, which are covered in reclaimed barnwood, and the wire-brushed oak of the island. (The floors here, and throughout the first floor, are reclaimed oak.) And visitors to the powder room will discover a sanctuary in the client’s favorite color, as the walls are covered in purple vinyl (Elitis once again) embossed to evoke crocodile. The richly veined marble vanity was sourced from Tropical Stone in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
The casual dining area repeats the beam pattern of the living room, but with reclaimed wood hovering over a simple B&B Italia table./Photo by Scott Hewitt
But the home doesn’t overdo the purple palette.
The living and sitting areas, for example, are extremely stimulating to the eye due to their range of textures and patterns, not color. One has contemporary anigre beams and wall paneling; the other is enlivened by a ceiling of reclaimed woods displaying considerable variety. Each has a stone fireplace as an anchor. The rustic woods and stone subtly nod to the clients’ previous farmhouse home.
The dinette, in particular, registers as a mini-homage to this house’s predecessor, with its unfinished beams and textured oak table from B&B Italia. Though this home evinces a bracing contemporary sensibility, it nevertheless shows that that affection for the past isn’t so easily dismissed.