Decorators like to say every room tells a story. But Melissa LaSalle, known on Instagram as "The Book Mommy," felt that after some choppy additions, her 1930s Colonial- style home outside Washington, D.C., had lost the plot. She enlisted interior designer Melissa Colgan, formerly an editor at Martha Stewart Weddings, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful (and part of this year's Next Wave class), to revise its story by reworking the layout to suit her family of four—with plenty of reading nooks, of course.
"We wanted there to be a sense of who the family is from the second you open the front door," Colgan says. "So we commissioned custom bookshelves to highlight Melissa's rare and first editions of books like Winnie-the-Pooh and Pinocchio. Then, I suggested we paint the room purple. She said, 'Let's try it!'" The smoky mauve is part of a larger palette that skews saturated and traditional in the original brick section of the house and lighter and brighter in the newly reconfigured additions. LaSalle and her husband, Ryan, have two school-age children, so creating a central hub was a priority. But they wanted the open floor plan to feel homey and to offer the casual intimacy of a great place to curl up and read.
For Colgan, that meant adding a sense of character. "I got a bee in my bonnet about using real, old barn beams as an accent," she says. "You can have them made to look old, but I wanted that authentic patina. I tracked down 200-year-old hemlock beams in a Pennsylvania barn and brought them in."
In spaces like the combination kitchen-living-dining room, the beams, along with evocative furniture and textiles, bring charm and coziness, eradicating the big white box effect that such open-plan layouts can foster. Even the more formal dining area feels warm and friendly, thanks to a mellow pine table and sweeping curtains.
Throughout, the story of the home slowly unfolds, thanks to layers of pattern, like a giraffe-print chair atop an acid green rug in the living area and Matouk bedding flanked by Ottoman-inspired curtains in the primary bedroom. After all, in good design—as in a page-turner—it's the skillful, surprising mix of elements that keeps us entranced until the very end.
The built-ins are new but designed to reflect the home's original 1930s character. Glass cabinets highlight rare and collectible books. Paint: Mauve Blush, Benjamin Moore. Chair: Michael Taylor Designs. Rug: vintage, Asia Minor Carpets. Sofa: Lee Industries, in Manuel Canovas velvet. Pillow: custom, in Schumacher fabric.
Family Room and Dining Area
In the epicenter of the home, "chesterfield sofas look sharp but feel comfortable," Colgan says. Sofa: Hickory Chair, in Soane fabric. Lighting: Visual Comfort & Co., with Fermoie shades on lamps.
The shelves were inspired by French patisseries, says Colgan, while the blue paint evokes "well-worn jeans." Appliances: Thermador. Counter stools: Century. Pendants: Visual Comfort & Co. Sink: Signature Hardware. Fixtures: Newport Brass.
Colgan carved out a bright dining area near the living room and kitchen. Chairs: Villa & House, in Perennials fabric. Dining table: custom. Curtains: custom, Jasper by Michael S. Smith fabric.
Reclaimed hemlock beams add a real lived-in vibe. Chandelier: Made Goods. Curtains: custom, in Martyn Lawrence Bullard fabric. Bed frame: John Robshaw. Bedding: Matouk.
A slipcovered chair by Lauren Liess for Taylor King makes for a perfectly cozy reading corner. Curtains: Pilchard Designs, fabric: Martyn Lawrence Bullard. Roman shades: Horizons. Lamp: Curves No.1 Floor Lamp, Mark Sikes for Hudson Valley. Paint: Benjamin Moore.
Colgan used the client's favorite wallpaper from her former dining room. Paint: Newburyport Blue, Benjamin Moore. Faucet: Kohler. Light fixture: Visual Comfort & Co. Wallpaper: Quadrille.
Pierre Frey's Diwali print, depicting the Indian holiday, is just the kind of joy the clients wanted to celebrate. Sconces: Vaughan. Vanity: Kingston Brass. Hand towels: D. Porthault. Mirror: antique, Chairish.