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Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State: Before & After

By 06/01/2016March 14th, 202248 Comments

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State

The following photos are taken with my iPhone 6 (not as awesome as usual 😉


My long distance client Lisa Partelow lives in Clinton Corners, New York with her sweet husband Harold, and her two boys, age 2 and 4.

She says her dream in life was pretty simple. To live on acreage and be able to look out the window and see her two horses.

And that’s exactly what she has.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

This is Lisa’s view when she stands on her balcony on the second floor of her house (above). They own 22 acres and her driveway starts where the grass ends on the left side.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

When Lisa first moved into this house in 2009 (shortly after I started writing this blog) she hired a decorator to help her make decisions on colours and furniture in her family room (below).

The era of Lisa’s house is the 90s (even though it was built in 2005) Her cabinets and hardwood floors are orange, and the finishes in her kitchen and adjoining great room are sage green.

The decorator sold her a brown sofa with a chaise including a gold beige chair and ottoman (below).

She also advised Lisa to paint the fireplace mantle black.

When the gold beige wing chair was installed in the family room (below), it just looked dirty and wrong with the 80s emerald green fireplace surround (which wasn’t changing yet because she had a bunch of furniture to buy for her empty house) plus it didn’t relate to anything. The black fireplace mantle certainly didn’t look right and Lisa felt like she’d just wasted her money.

Lisa and her husband are not rich, but they work hard and like to be smart with their money. Her talent is not decorating but she knows when something doesn’t look right so she stopped buying furniture and a few months later, found my blog and booked an on-line consultation with me.

And we have been working together ever since.


They built some stables (keep reading), and that put the decorating budget on hold for a while.

Most of the online consulting that I do is simply straight hourly consulting. It’s a small piece of my business model that I keep alive strictly because it keeps me on the pulse of colour and I love talking to my readers. But I don’t offer on-going long-distance decorating projects online because I just don’t have time to do it. My focus online is colour training. Locally I can handle one decorating/design project per year combined with my event schedule.

But Lisa would not take no for an answer.

She would email me, I would see her note and think “Okay let me mark that to respond later”.

Then I would get busy and forget.

She would wait patiently for me to respond.

Then when I booked my event in Basking Ridge she said I had to come in person since she lived only a little over an hour away.

Here’s a glimpse of the photos I had time to take when I was there this week. Keep in mind they are iPhone photos so they are not as great as usual. We finished her master bedroom too but I don’t have those photos.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

My advice in this room (above) was to drywall in the arched wall on the left and remove the half columns in addition to re-painting the mantle back to the trim colour.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Floor Lamp (Joss & Main) Jute Braid Throw Pillow (Pottery Barn)

When I arrived on Monday morning, two days before my New Jersey Specify Colour with Confidence™ event for a shopping and styling day, I introduced cream and white to this corner which is a good way to make gold beige feel fresh. We are ignoring the dated green carpet but not by adding a completely unrelated colour.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

I probably corralled every available book she had in the right size and colour to use as a pedestal for smaller accessories (above).

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Lisa has always loved horses and her Mom had given her a collection of really great vintage equestrian accessories that she had tucked away in a cabinet because she saw them as tchotchke’s.

I pulled them out and found homes for them (above).

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Her Mom passed away 10 years ago and Lisa’s happy to have them out on display!

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Here’s the other side of the arches (above).

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Wall colour BM Revere Pewter

Here’s the view from the family room into the living room (the wall is now closed up on the right). The arch had to stay on the opening because the rest of the house is full of them.

The colour of the throw pillows in the family room flow with the living room (above).

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Mirror (West Elm) Cabinet Joss & Main (similar)

And here’s what’s on the left side of the living room now (above).

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Coral (Pottery Barn)

Another vintage horse from Lisa’s Mom.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

The living room before.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Lamp, Joss & Main (similar) Rug, (West Elm) Coffee table (similar) chair (similar) Banded drapes are custom made. Ektorp sofa and chair (IKEA).

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam


Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Lisa has two boys under 4 so she wanted washable slipcovers. And when they get trashed, they are inexpensive to replace.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

A glimpse from the mirror.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

This is me walking around HomeGoods with one of Lisa’s existing pillows (above). My philosophy on accessory shopping is you start at the inexpensive stores first and then go up from there. This way if the mother-of-pearl inlaid frame is at HomeGoods, hooray! If not, you get it from the Pottery Barn instead.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Lisa owns a beauty shop called Beehive in Carmel, NY. At the back of the shop, she does full body waxing. We stopped in because she wanted me to see it. Before I knew what was happening, I was on her table getting a bikini wax. She would NOT take no for an answer.

Now I know what ‘Bossy in a charming way‘ looks like with someone else, haha.

She laughed and said ‘Now you’re in MY domain Maria’.

So if you need a regular wax, go see her, she’s one of the funniest women I’ve met in a long time and she’ll make you feel totally comfortable as she’s removing any uninvited hair which was one of the lines she used to get me on her table!

Lisa sent me this note after our visit:

“After talking with Maria for so long by phone I was fortunate enough to meet her in person. I am in complete awe of what an amazing and talented designer she is. Not to mention her infectious personality. Her ability to bring my dreams to fruition  was truly an unforgettable moment. Maria I love you and look forward  to sitting on our rocking chairs sharing  cheese and crackers with extra fig the next time you’re in town”.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

I spent the night because we were an hour and 15 minutes from Basking Ridge where Terreeia and I were staying for our event and it didn’t start until Wednesday. When I woke up at 5:30 am, I walked outside and snapped this photo of their tree line (above). Love the morning fog in the distance.

Here are the stables:

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

{Pre-painted siding colour} James Hardie Light Mist {Dutch Door Trim} BM Kendall Charcoal

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

When Lisa and her husband Harold built stables for their horses, I helped choose the colours. I was really impressed with the result, the most beautiful stables I’ve ever seen!

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

The choice for the inlaid brick floor was black or the terra cotta red. I chose the rusty red because it’s always a classic.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

Lisa’s horses are named Sweat pea & Hammer.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

This is Lisa & Harold’s 4 year old Harry. I was there overnight and Harry just walked around singing and playing by himself the WHOLE TIME. Cole, the 2 year old is a lot higher maintenance Lisa confided. Harry is heavily into Star Wars, as you can see 😉 His light sabre is behind him.

Styling, Waxing and Country Living in New York State | Maria Killam

When I drove up to the barn, at first I thought the yellow beige inserts should actually be white in the end. When I chose the colour, I was looking at other inspiration pictures where the dutch doors were an accent colour.

So I’m turning it over to you my lovelies. What do you think? Should the inserts of the dutch doors go back to white or should they stay the colour they are? Her husband would be really happy if we left them the way they are!

If you would like help creating a beautiful and classic exterior, we have exterior consultation packages available here.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact us! We would love to help you choose colours, select the right combination of hard finishes or create a plan to pull your room together. You can find our fabulous e-design consultation packages here.


If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

Related posts:

The Timeless Floor Everywhere in Italy

Do you Give your Clients Exactly What They Want?

How to Inject Fresh Into Your Earth Toned House

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  • Norma says:

    Right now I don’t know of spaces in Chicago but I wanted to put my vote in for Chicago for your location plan for next year! Pleeeeeeasse!!

  • Linda says:

    You would love Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It’s just across the border from Niagara Falls, NY. It’s a historic village to die for – and a main street with tons of boutiques, and specialty everything… great place for you to have a romantic week-end if you decide to come. This area is filled with wineries, (world gold medal wines) fabulous dining – there are bound to be multiple choices for light filled rooms for your course. It’s famous for all of the above, plus it’s incredible B&B’s and Inns. You can rent bicycles or join the wine tours, lunch in front of the Niagara River and take in a play at the famous Shaw Theatres. Seriously.. seriously consider NOTL. OH, and fair warning, I will tell you where to find the worlds best ‘butter tarts’ (lemon too). No kidding, they’re the best and I’ve tasted many along our ‘butter tart trail.’ I have them on speed dial and they’re dinner party worthy!!

  • KA says:

    See you in September. I’d wanted to go to, I think it was, Toronto a year or two ago where you had a place with truly gorgeous windows/architecture. The Santa Barbara area has some places I could think of that have great windows, but the cost may be excessive. I can’t remember if Shutters on the Beach has meeting rooms with good light but, that’s close to LAX and also probably expensive. There may be places near the Burbank airport that are cheaper but I can’t think of any since I just go home instead of staying at these hotels, although I’m sure there’s a lot in this area with good light and windows.

  • KA says:

    BTW, vote to repaint the doors. They look dirty yellow next to the clean. I’m ok with what looks like darker gray, it’s the yellow that’s seems odd here.

  • Fran says:

    Amazing transformation, Maria! Lisa’s home now looks so fresh and inviting!

  • Becky says:

    I vote for painting the panels back to white. Everything else is lovely.

  • Gina says:

    Fun post! The new spaces in the house look fantastic. I vote the insets on the door be painted the same gray as the as the door trim.

  • julie from Downunder says:

    Am so amazed (again!) how you transformed those rooms! So talented. I’m in awe.

  • Debra says:

    Love…love…love her updated living room.
    Amazing difference.
    Cant believe she got you into the torture room at her salon!
    The barn door inserts should be color corrected.
    They are photographing really yellow, it really takes away from the perfection of the lovely doors.

    Someday I’m going to join you in a class.
    Florida is good, Chicago is better 🙂

  • Brenda Schmidt says:

    Sorry, Harold. I think I see a paint brush in your future! Paint the panels!

  • tara dillard says:

    Great, and fun, story. For both of you.

    Would do barn door same color as barn siding, with trim same as barn trim. It’s the historical formula. If not, I would go white with the barn door inserts.

    Would stain the four board fencing same color as existing trim on the barn door. And paint the farm gate that same existing trim color too.

    Luff this barn !! Great choices.

    And knowing to turn those interior arched openings into walls. BRAVA !

    Pulling those horses from cabinets to display? Magic.

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

  • Jean Hortman says:

    The Blue Mist Hardiplank color for that Barn is the prettiest Barn I’ve ever seen. And I and I’m a huge fan of red barns. I vision the panels on the door painted in either the same blue mist color, or darken the Blue Mist a little bit for a slight contrast against the barn siding. I would not paint the panel’s white. I think that would draw the eye too much and detract from the beautiful blue on the barn. Beautiful home and property. What a glorious place to live!

  • Maria- I would be love to help as an assistant in Chicago if it’s in September! Or in Florida if in winter as we have a vacation home there as well as our Michigan home. I would count a privilege to help such an amazing designer;)

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    HI Maria,
    What an amazing piece of property! Your advice & styling were spot on. The inside spaces look as lovely as the outside now.
    A bikini wax?!! I think I would have preferred some time on the horses. Such beautiful creatures.
    And the door inserts need to be painted. I’ll do in in exchange for a horseback ride.

  • Deb Landy says:

    I would vote for Niagra On the Lake too! You all will totally be inspired by the colors and charm of the place. Who can locate a building with light??

  • Brenda says:

    Maria – Amazing job on Lisa’s home. Seems bright and fresh for a young couple with children. Would love to see the kitchen – my favorite room in a house. About the barn – I could see the doors painted Light Mist or the gray trim color – the yellow just does not have a good feel to me – too much going on. Thank you for the wonderful blog – I am a big fan of yours!!

  • s mattes says:

    genius-fantastic job…lucky, lucky Lisa!

  • Bert says:

    A great job, Maria. And my first impression of the stable was “wow”! Nicest looking stable I’ve ever seen, inside and out! Lisa and her family are so lucky to be living tbeir dream on such a gorgeous property. Who says you can’t have it all!
    After reading about repainting tne beige, I looked again with a more critical eye and honestly, it doesn’t bother me at all but I can also see how white would tie it all together better. I have a feeling Harold has a small painting job to do, just the same.

  • Kris C. says:

    Florida, please!
    I’m probably in the minority, but I like the panels as they are. I think that color lends character and isn’t as predictable as white.

  • Barbara says:


  • Chris says:

    Just photoshop the barn doors white, then you will know right away if it is worth the trouble to re-paint. Personally, I think the color beige yellow it is now is good. It does lend the smallest bit of contrast to the barn and is repeated in the top hayloft doors. White would be a bit boring in my eyes and not worth the effort need to paint it. Plus if it is a working barn, you don’t want crisp white on the bottom part as it will get splattered with organic matter pretty quickly.

  • Susan Hubele says:

    My vote for the barn doors is to paint the insets the color of the barn or, better yet, a little darker. Barn doors get lots of use, and white would be always dirty. Beautiful barn, happy horses! She is living my dream!

  • What a great transformation! Turning the fireplace surround to white makes the whole room come alive! Love it! Everything now looks so warm and inviting. Good job!

    I can’t decide on the barn door color. The yellow is not that bad and yes white will look dingy in no time because of weather and organic material as someone pointed out. I think, as suggested, photo shop it to see what looks best.

    Are your classes in LA full yet? I wish you were coming to Newport or Laguna Niguel as I have wanted you to at least speak here at the Laguna Design Center. I have wanted to take your class for so long!

  • Sweetest post ever! You are a rock star Maria!!
    My vote, the panels go back to white!

  • Stacy says:

    I love the after; and such budget friendly fixes without doing construction on the fireplace tile and floors…It looks fresh and inviting. The vintage horses are the real star, subtle yet striking. Great job! About the stables, yes, I think the white would tie in better but I’m on the same page as the reader above who suggests painting them out the same color as to not highlight it. Lovely.

  • Carol says:

    White would be my first choice as it would set off the grey. But all grey would be more practical as the doors will get a lot of use and may show dirt.

  • Christine says:

    Amazing makeover!! I love that you closed the half wall arch, such a great idea. I vote to repaint the barn doors. Have you ever been to the Boston area?

  • Susan Guzman says:

    I agree with Harold. However, he may not be pleased to hear that I’d like to see all of the white window trim and barn trim painted Kendall Charcoal! 😉

    Lovely blog post about Lisa, Harold, and their boys! It was delightful meeting them and seeing their beautiful home and property, as well as their stables and horse.

  • Beautiful living room. And definitely repaint the barn doors!

  • Kim says:

    Insets on barn doors and loft door should be repainted, but not white – – maybe a darker barn color or a medium version of the charcoal trim color.

    Love -love-love the transformation of the living and family rooms, the accessories, books, colors, drapes, furniture placement. Love that you shopped her house and used what she already had in so many places. I need your help!!

  • Lee Perrault says:

    I would leave the upper door as is, but change the lower doors to siding gray. The reason for the upper is that eliminating all of the yellow will ‘flatten’ the palette, making for a less interesting whole. I actually like the complexity that the existing solution offers, but it feels a little busy, with all the crosses. Also like the detail color better than the color from a distance … not sure if it is simply the photography. I like your work, Maria!

  • cheryl says:

    Maria, I’m curious about your ignoring the green (is it teal) carpet in the one room. Did you feel like the revere pewter worked with it, or did you not worry about that at all and truly ignore?

    I have some really teal (with gray and blue) ceramic tiles in a room that will be replaced with wood down the road, but now it looks green green green from the late 80’s. A medium bluer gray is there and looks too dark and drab.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Revere Pewter is probably not awesome with the teal but it doesn’t clash with it. They are replacing it with the same flooring already throughout their house so I really didn’t consider it at all when we chose the wall colour. Great question! Maria

  • Phyllis E says:

    Beautiful, “makeover”, Maria! The before and after of the family room fireplace corner shows what amazing “power” color has to transform a space! I want to make sure I didn’t misunderstand: is that Revere Pewter in both the family room and living room? It looks so different in each setting, yet so perfectly perfect for each room with different furniture and lighting, etc. I love how the cream on the mantel works with the walls, would you mind telling us what color that was?
    I wonder if the original black color for the mantel was chosen merely because it was “trendy” and “different”, since it doesn’t seem to go with ANYTHING in the room and hid all the gorgeous detailing in the woodwork (black with a brown leather sofa–what was that designer thinking?????)
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes it is the main neutral on the main floor, it does work with the gold beige chair surprisingly! Thanks for your comment!

      I’m actually not sure what the trim colour is because they just matched it to their existing trim. Maria

  • Katie says:

    I say leave the panels as they are. It adds depth and looks intentional, a nice contrast to the rest.

  • Mid America Mom says:

    Love to have you in Chicagoland! The yellow feels nice to me but not with the white. I think a third color would be nice. I would go with a red.

  • Andi says:

    You are an amazing designer. I love her home and she sounds like such a fun gal.

  • mrsben says:

    Beautiful transformation in every aspect, Maria. As for the barn door insets, IMHO definitely ‘not’ white. That said; I would either opt for a lighter version of the Kendall Charcoal or a darker shade of the barn’s sideboard and no doubt in the process would drive myself and everyone else within ten feet of me crrrrrazy … deciding which I preferred … ☺. Wishing you a wonderful weekend! -Brenda-

  • Kathrine says:

    The classic look would be to paint all of the panels on the doors the same color as the siding and then paint the rail, the trim and “X” detail white.

  • Susie says:

    Maria, you are so talented! The barn colors are lovely, but I think painting the insets would make it perfect. Come to Florida please! South Florida would be great!

  • M says:

    Another vote for white. Sorry Harold.

    I think you should come to San Diego! 🙂

  • Sandra Beaty says:

    The house is lovely, Maria! Home run.

  • I can’t believe I am only now reading this post! I was in your NJ True Colour Expert™️ workshop when you posted this. I was too busy studying (and socializing) after hours to read your blog. What a beautiful job you did with accessories. I love the white FP surround, such an improvement! The barn doors are beautiful, I wish the whole barn could be painted yellow beige with Kendall Charcoal trim, but don’t tell Lisa . I think white panels would be nice, but boring. I vote to leave as is!

    And, OMG that’s where you were waxed. You are brave and Lisa is a darling character! I had a favorite male doctor/client suggest an OB exam once! Fortunately, I was not due for one!

  • Myrna says:

    I am a little confused. How did the configuration of the living room windows change ? Did I miss something when it became a wall of windows?
    Looks great.

    • Maria Killam says:

      HI Myrna, the angle of the photo was unfortunately not in the same place, but basically the wall was closed up between the living and family room.
      Thanks! Maria

  • Judy says:

    Hi Maria,
    I also have a living room wall of windows with base board heaters running along the floor. I have long wanted to put in full length drapes like those that you designed for your client’s living room, but was told it could be a hazard to have them go to the top of the heaters. Is that not the case?
    Thank you for sharing your redesign. I love the whole look.

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