“If pretty and proper had a recipe, it would be: Add one full measure of British Understatement; stir in equal parts Southern Gentility and Manor House Elegance; finally, garnish with a dash of Preppy Whimsy. Serve from silver, of course.”
—Holly Holden, author of The Pretty and Proper Living Room & host of The Classic Design Channel.
The gracious and inviting interiors of Fox Hall, an 1803 historic home in the picturesque town of Farmington, Ct., have been featured in The Great Houses of New England. Fox Hall is also where interior designer, author and Classic Design Channel host Holly Holden and her husband, Stuart, raised their family and where she lovingly created the interiors that showcase her “pretty and proper” style.
Sometimes referred to as “The Grande Dame of Interior Design,” Holly knows how to crack the code and speak the “secret” language of old-school timeless interior design.
Holly’s daughter Alexandria, whose baby cup is shown above with a delicate fresh floral design arranged by Holly, surely sensed her mother’s natural talent and “inside information.” After Alexandria married several years ago and was preparing to move to Germany, she asked her mother, “‘Mummy, how do I furnish my new house so it looks formal, elegant and charming?” Holly recalls. “I realized with a certain sense of pride that she wanted to create a house just like the one she grew up in,” Holly said. “Nearly every piece of artwork, furniture and accessories in our home has a story behind it, and the pieces were carefully selected to complement each other. Alexandra could appreciate the result; she just didn’t know where to begin.” Holly got busy jotting down ideas and tips, and pretty soon, she had an entire notepad filled up…and then another. The personal project soon grew into a public one, and the The Pretty and Proper Living Room was published.
“Reading this book has reminded me of a philosophy upon which I have built a business: A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” writes Michael E. Scully, of Scully & Scully-New York, in his forward to The Pretty and Proper Living Room.
“The knowledge in this volume will empower her readers to create a sumptuous space, brimming with charm. Holly has a deep and genuine understanding of how and what contributes to creating an interior that is refined yet inviting — full of beauty and joy,” he continues.
Scully said he particularly enjoyed Holly’s treatment of collections, in which she shares the do’s and don’ts of presenting small groups of objects.
“It’s the little details that are the secret to gracious, inviting and comfortable interiors,” Holly said. “Little details like needlepoint pillows that tell a story, kidney pillows in a dining chair, family photos arranged on a silver tray and the layering of accessories to tell a story.”
The stunning American Federal fanlight window over the front door of Fox Hall, shown above, features a shelf below the window. For years, this was devoid of decoration, except for greenery during the holidays. Holly recently had the idea to use the shelf to display her collection of ancient Chinese pillows, flanked by four graceful vases. “I like the repeating theme of blue and white porcelain, which matches the cobalt Chinese carpet in our front hall,” she said.
The end table photo shown above has a grouping of black and white photographs, along with a sepia tone photograph of Holly’s hunter-jumper, Tootsie Roll. Keeping the black and white photos together creates a visual consistency.
Just as Holly devotes an entire section of her book to “Charming Collections,” she also devotes a section to “Preppy and Posh Pillows.” Collections and pillows are a key part of the “secret code” of creating “rooms with layers that look as if they evolved over time and represent the passions of the homeowners,” Holly said.
After the warm reception of her book, Holly has now launched a new venue, the Classic Design Channel on You Tube, featuring 8-13 minute visually beautiful educational and entertaining videos about gracious living hosted by Holly. They feature everything from fresh flower arranging to a segment filmed at Highclere Castle in England that gives tips for infusing an English flair into interiors.
“There is a certain permanence and calm in a well-designed room,” Holly said. “A timeless design will last a lifetime. A proper, well-appointed and layered design with every element contributing to a cohesive whole is a lovely thing. Like a painting or a sculpture, interior design is artwork, producing emotional responses and influencing moods.”
Kim Darden Shaver
Leslie Hendrix Wood
Editor In Chief
Leslie Hendrix Wood Interiors
Gracious Living. Timeless Design. Family Traditions.
All Photos courtesy of Holly Holden.