Sparks - the Blog of Interior Designer Schuyler Samperton

Russian to the movies: the beauty of Anna Karenina

Fall Can’t Get Here Soon Enough…

Last weekend while waiting for an unfortunately mediocre movie to start, I was COMPLETELY and TOTALLY KNOCKED OUT by the trailer for Joe Wright’s amazing new version of Anna Karenina.  Starring the stunning Keira Knightley, the gorgeous Aaron Johnson and Jude Law (he’s not bad either), the film is an overwhelmingly beautiful combination of colors and textures.

From Anna’s breathtaking costumes of silk, feathers, lace and fur, to the magnificent interiors complete with intricate inlaid marble floors, damask covered walls and glistening crystal chandeliers, the entire production is almost too glorious for my “more is more” personal aesthetic.

While most of us can’t completely replicate the splendor of 19th Century Russia, here are a few things that can help get us halfway there.  You’re on your own with the diamonds and pearls…

{Anna Karenina inspiration: 1. Antique Bronze & Crystal Chandelier; 2. Russian bracelet, circa 1880; 3. Nicholas I of Russia: The Railway Tsar portrait; 4. Russian Metal; 5.Black Lace; 6. Claremont Damas Chinois fabric; 7. Michael S Smith Cosmati Alhambra Tile; 8. Gold, enamel and diamond portrait miniature pin; 9. 19th Century Russian Swan Couch; 10. Russian Ivory filigree mounted octagonal box.}

Westside Provençal

Thank you so much to Remodelista for featuring photos of Carolyn Murphy’s garage-into-art-studio transformation!

We’re excited to debut the rest of Carolyn’s house on our website. Click here to see the beautiful photos shot by Grey Crawford.

Dining room

This room was basically a clean slate with only the existing Restoration Hardware burlap chandelier and some simple beige linen curtains. The exquisite pair of French needlepoint chairs from JF Chen were what really took us in a specific direction. The rest of room just fell together with a beautiful dining table from Suzanne Hollis and a set of chairs from Lee Stanton that we covered in a floral embroidery.


This space needed to be cozy – it doesn’t get much light, so we decided to make it like a little gem — full of patterned textiles, pillows and rugs. Carolyn has a great collection of books, so it was her idea to add the rustic shelves over the sofa.

Upper Hall

The hall on the second floor has this magical alcove, so we found this fantastic Indonesian bench from Dos Gallos and loaded it with a mix of pillows from antique toiles to kilim fragments. The space was also perfect for highlighting this group of landscapes, still lifes and portraits. I love the mini globe under the glass bell jar!


We kept the master simple and serene. Carolyn already owned the soft blue velvet curtains and the caned bed, so we just added the primitive side table, an incredibly beautiful still life, and one of my favorite things EVER – a pillow made from antique vintage chintz with a dog and floral motif!!!


The stone sink and tile backsplash were part of the previous owners’ renovation, so we just added an extra layer with vine-filled vintage pottery and antique watercolors, and voila – instant Provencal charm!

Breakfast Room

This is my favorite room in the house, and not just because my dog, Tricky, is in the picture! I had such a great time finding these vintage floral fabrics – we sourced things from dealers all over the country and turned them into pillows, then mixed in some beautiful antique cushions from one of my local favorites – Pat McGann. From antique Liberty prints, to Indian embroidery – Pat McGann has it ALL!  The sweet valance was shipped to us from a lovely textile dealer back East, and when it fit perfectly, we knew it was meant to be.

Living Room

Again, we continued the theme of femininity with the combination of Carolyn’s existing curtains and a smattering of soft-toned floral pillows. The portrait is so lovely, and came from the fabulous Nathan Turner several years ago when Carolyn and I started working on our first project together.

{Photography by Grey Crawford.} {View the entire gallery here.}

Inspired By Mom

I give full credit to my mother Nonie (above) for any sense of taste I may have.

When I was moving my parents into a new place a few months ago, I found this amazing photograph of her taken in the backyard of the house I grew up in.  That awesome hat was by acclaimed designer Mr. John, whose avant garde creations informed much more than her sartorial style.

Mom/Momma (said in southern accent)/Mama (said in French accent)/Mothra (just weird nickname for no reason) has taught me some invaluable style-related lessons, and here are a few of her favorite things…

- Black and white stripes for anything from lampshades to rugs

- Purple anemones for a splash of color

- Palladian windows for their gorgeous lines, and abundance of light

- Menswear fabrics for upholstery

- And of course, always wear a hat.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!

{Images: Marianne Faithfull via The Vogue Vibes; Palladian windows via Giovanni Giaconi Illustrator; black & white stripes via the quilt bug; Eames chair upholstered with menswear fabric via Small But Mighty.}

Sweet Breath of Spring

Every page of Bringing Nature Home, the new floral design book by Ngoc Minh Ngo, is a work of art. I just got it a few days ago and have already devoured it five times over. It’s not just that the photographs are stunning; they’re also jaw-droppingly inspiring: Ngoc offers info-packed sections on vases, arranging and cut flower care, plus a clever seasonal guide to available blooms. With breathtaking arrangements by Nicolette Owen, prop styling by Amy Wilson, and a thoughtful introduction by design-world icon Deborah Needleman (of Domino and WSJ Magazine fame) this amazing art book/practical “how to” is a must-have in any collection. (Better yet, it makes the MOST PERFECT Mother’s Day present ever!)

So… all of these blossoms got me thinking about my other obsession: floral fabrics – especially ones that share the same louche beauty of the flowers in Ngoc’s book. Here are a few of my favorites – both vintage and current.

Above: I picked up this vintage printed linen remnant at a flea market in Washington, DC, and can’t wait to make a pillow out of it. It would be amazing on a claret-colored linen velvet sofa.

Above: Claremont’s cheerful combination of stripes and florals will look unreal as a window seat cushion, with an assortment of vintage floral pillows mixed in.

Above: This gorgeous, large-patterned fabric by Jasper would be fantastic as wall upholstery, or for a more economical option – a three-paneled screen. It adds instant old-school charm to any room, and I love the idea of a collection of mismatched art hung against it, salon style.

Above: This Robert Kime fabric would make a beautiful a coverlet at the foot of a bed in a bedroom with apricot grasscloth walls and white trim– so summery and fresh.

Above: I can see a traditional arm chair upholstered in this bold raspberry and lilac Robert Kime print sitting on top of a well-worn Sultanabad in a library.  The colors are so cool, and unexpected.

Above: Delicate and  soothing is how I see this print by Penny Morrison, so I’m using it for a headboard and curtains in a bedroom against a background of subtly striped green and cream wallpaper.

{All photography used with the permission of Ngoc Minh Ngo from her book Bringing Home Nature: Floral Arrangements Inspired By Nature.}