Deep Blue Hues Pull Together This Heirloom-Filled Wilmington Home

Photos by Rebecca McAlpin

When a Wilmington home stuffed with heirlooms didn’t make sense, a deep-blue theme by Liza Nicole provided one solution.

The homeowner’s original aversion to blue fell away as the concept took shape. The study boasts yet more blue—the color covers the millwork, the shelving, the French doors—and even the pre-existing brick fireplace. Opposite page: the aesthetic calms down in the transitional country kitchen, which draws upon a neutral palette.

It isn’t very often that an instance of required civil service leads to a home renovation, but that’s exactly how interior designer Liza Nicole met a recent client. “She was at jury duty and picked up a copy of Delaware Today, and there was a feature on my former home, so she called me from there and that’s how we met,” Nicole says. The designer, a graduate in interior design from Moore College of Art and Design, has an eclectic portfolio—she grew up on the East and West coasts, and her various transitional projects in Delaware and the Philadelphia suburbs draw from both aesthetic traditions.

The client from jury duty needed a lot of help. The Wilmington house—5,800 square feet, with four bedroom suites with en suite baths, plus a powder room— “needed a complete overhaul,” Nicole says. “Aside from all the beautiful cosmetic work that we did, it needed all new plumbing and electrical work. It’s an old home that she bought and lived in for some time, inherited a bunch of things from her family and collected a bunch of items from her travels. She just got to that point—a lot of people do—when nothing in the house made any sense.”

Interior designer Liza Nicole’s client found her by happening upon an issue of Delaware Today. In a Wilmington home that mixes family heirlooms with custom transitional pieces, blue frequently provided an assertive backdrop to help unify things. The ample dining room of the 5,800-square-foot home features peacock blue grass cloth walls by Phillip Jeffries.

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Well-traveled people who end up with family heirlooms can relate; inherited pieces are difficult to part with, but the homeowners typically become frustrated with the lack of seamlessness, a home devoid of a finished quality. A pricey property can start to look like an auction house.

But before the furniture, phase one (the interior architecture) required attention: “We opened up certain spaces—we removed the wall between the formal living room and the dining room to create a nice flow from living to dining to kitchen,” Nicole says. The designer renovated every bathroom in the house, except for the primary bath, which had been reconceived a few years earlier.

Then came the color palette, with liberal use of blue. “What’s ironic,” Nicole recalls, “is that she didn’t want blue.” In fact, the client listed blue as “one of her aversions.” Nicole isn’t a huge fan of blue herself, but nevertheless, she found herself showing the seemingly blue-averse client jewel tones in blue, and the objections fell away.

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The vintage pieces made sense with blue—the color lent the collection a kind of elegance. The oversized dining room now features blue walls—peacock blue grass cloth by Phillip Jeffries—above the pale dado moldings, and there’s a blue and white chain-like print on the backs of the custom-designed dining chairs. The study boasts even more blue—the color covers the millwork, the shelving, the French doors, even the pre-existing brick fireplace. Nicole calls this “a perfect little space.”

On the second floor, the four en suite bathrooms rely on a more traditional flavor evinced by their white pedestal washbasins; with an array of exotic travel artifacts adorning the hallway walls, it was important to keep the bedrooms and bathrooms soothing, as demonstrated by this bedroom vignette.

Each of the four bedrooms has its own cozy charm: there’s a sleigh bed, a four-poster, a brass bed and a bed upholstered in leather. Neutrals predominate, with wooden pieces, trunks and brass lamps all about. The bathrooms contain pedestal sinks. This floor, which has touches of the traditional, features not a stitch of blue.

Related: This Modern Delaware Home Adds Flare With Asian Influences

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