Interior designer Denese Butler credits a pair of pants and a yellow scarf for bringing some very good things to her career.
The pants came into the picture when Butler was shopping for a pair one day at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, and happened to wander into the Design Within Reach Studio there. She and Owen Shanahan, the Studio proprietor, struck up a conversation and exchanged business cards.
Skip ahead to a phone call out of the blue one day (which came, of course, while Butler was feeding son Ellis John spaghetti) and with it an offer to decorate a town home sponsored by DWR in the 2018 Metro Designer Showhouse at the Glass House, a new residential complex on the Hudson River shore in Edgewater, New Jersey.
“The entire thing was so serendipitous,” Butler says.
The showhouse event, sponsored annually by Aspire Design and Home, an area magazine with a global reach, included two town homes and four apartments, each with its own dedicated decorator. Butler’s unit measured 1,895 square feet on two floors, including 391 square feet outdoors.
“The first impression when you walk in is the breathtaking view of the Hudson River and New York City skyline,” Butler says.
With only three weeks to select furniture and plan arrangement, pick out paint and decide on artwork, Butler had her work cut out for her having to decorate a kitchen, dining room, living room, den, bath and patio on the first floor and two bedrooms, two baths and a balcony on the second floor.
“I integrated similar textures, color, furniture pieces, light fixtures and accessories to anchor each room,” she says. “Each design element brought to life a consistent flow throughout the space. ”
In the living room (which would end up her favorite room in the project), she selected an Outline Sectional with Chaise as an anchor and then added a pair of Paulistano Armchairs in black leather for accents. She chose an ottoman, the Drum Pouf, to serve in part as a continuation of a shape motif.
“I picked an oversized family-friendly ottoman that corresponds to the shape of the light fixture in the foyer and the mirror in the dining room,” Butler says.
A Modo Chandelier was put to work in the adjacent dining room to also help carry the motif, backed by an accent wall painted in Newburg green from Benjamin Moore.
“The dining room elevates the space particularly because of the accent wall color,” Butler says, “and a stunning light fixture that tethers all of the rooms together.”
To show the versatility of the town house, Butler chose to use the second bedroom as an office.
“This area is drenched with natural light,” she says, “which adds balance to the eye. I carried the accent wall color from the dining room into the office and painted the entire space in Newburg green. I introduced the Bottega Leather Desk in saddle to enhance the contrast.”
Butler set the master bedroom apart with a unique identity. “I wanted it to feel spa-like,” she says. “My favorite element in the master bedroom is the Crosshatch Chair and Ottoman. I love that it resembles the texture in the Nelson pendant in that room as well as the Random Light in the foyer.”
She applied a subdued wallcovering behind the headboard and added a painting by Cara Poalillo, which draws out splashes of teal, soft blues, grey and white, reflecting the river view. The remaining walls got a coat of Benjamin Moore paper white.
“Overall, the town house has a harmonious appearance and it truly feels like home,” Butler says.
Based in Jersey City, New Jersey, Butler grew up in Boston the daughter of a union carpenter and insurance claims representative, and aspired to be a scientist until she discovered fashion. As a senior in college studying fashion merchandising, she and her class visited the Lillian August flagship in Norwalk, Connecticut, and she wore a bright yellow scarf for the occasion. Impressed by the senior, Skye Kirby Wescott, company vice president at the time, caught Butler on the way out the door to say, “Email me your resumé and cover letter and in the subject line put ‘the girl with the yellow scarf.’ ”
“Essentially, I was hired on the spot,” Butler says. And her career trajectory shot suddenly and serendipitously higher and in a direction she had not foreseen.
The 2018 Metro Designer Showhouse at the Glass House runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through June 30. Get ticket information here.