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Nina Farmer’s Number One Rule for Applying Wallpaper

Words by Gabrielle Savoie
a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photo by Paul Raeside

She’s been dubbed the historic house whisperer.

At least, that’s how an Architectural Digest article described Nina Farmer’s knack for bringing storied New England properties back to life. But the Boston-based Expert wasn’t always on the path to being an interior designer: “I had initially planned to go to medical school,” she recalls. Halfway through a degree in public health, Nina enrolled in an immersive summer architecture course at Harvard: one that would make her swiftly switch gears and enroll at the New York School of Interior Design.

And we’re thankful she did. Her latest project—a storybook stone house in Westport, Connecticut—had us positively floored (on antique terra cotta tiles, no less!) with its eye-catching art deco details, hand-painted ceilings, and overall pastoral charms. And we’re poised to see much more from her: between her many ongoing client projects, she’s also writing a book for Rizzoli due next Fall. Here, she shares her biggest architectural pet peeve, her dream project, and the one thing she always buys vintage.

a bathroom with a sink, mirror, and shower
a bathroom with a toilet, sink and mirror

Photo by Paul Raeside

Photo by Paul Raeside

What architectural style and design era is inspiring you right now? I love historic houses. This summer, I went on a fascinating architectural tour of the Hudson River Valley. I was inspired by the Federal and Greek Revival houses in the area.

If your design style was a fashion icon, who would it be and why? Yves Saint Laurent. He seamlessly combined exotic elements from Morocco with sophisticated tailoring from Paris. He was also known to embrace contrasting styles: masculine and feminine, classical and modern…

Name an architectural pet peeve that always needs fixing in any project—big or small? My biggest pet peeve is a house with too many different flooring changes. It leads to a choppy, disconnected sensation that throws the design off balance.

a kitchen with a large center island with chairs

Photo by Paul Raeside

You’re designing a room—where do you start? I always start with the rug. It helps set the tone and palette.

Favorite question you’ve ever received in an Expert consultation? On my last call, I successfully talked my client out of a patterned wallpaper feature wall. I am never in favor of an application on only one wall of a room. It’s either all or nothing!

What fabrics, wallpapers, and color combinations are you loving right now? At the moment, I’m really into wall coverings that have an old-world feel. I just installed a fabulous one in a project that was done in oil paint on gesso.

a bedroom with a large bed and a painting on the wall

Photo by Paul Raeside

What should you always buy vintage? I am a big fan of using vintage pieces in my projects in any capacity. But, I would say vintage lighting always makes a significant impact. Lately, I’ve been eyeing a fabulous chandelier by Paavo Tynell.

What are your go-to finishing touches that always elevate a room? Vintage accessories, books, and art go a long way. Without them, a room just isn’t complete.

What are you dying for a client to request?

To design a vacation home in Corsica!

a dining room with a table and chairs

Photo by Paul Raeside

Formal dining room or eat-in kitchen? Both! I love designing dining rooms for everyday use but I think it’s so practical to have an eat-in kitchen as well.

Describe your dream sofa: what does it look like, how is it built, and how does it feel? It has a down-wrapped bench seat, an 8-way hand-tied foundation, and it’s covered in silk velvet.

What hotel anywhere in the world represents ultimate luxury to you and why? The Aman in Venice. It’s authentically glamorous without being stuffy or over the top. I love sitting in their library with a cocktail and watching the boats go by on the Grand Canal.

a woman standing next to a chair in a room

Photo by Paul Raeside


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