But there is nothing "plain" about Ms. Wiseley's home. If there is a house I could move into and feel completely at home, it is hers. One side of her living room below:
|View from foyer to hallway. On the left, a 16th-c. Spanish quilted leather bench. To the right a series of framed antique seaweed botanicals with an antique Portuguese iron-studded leather trunk below them.|
|Picasso drawing with ebonized dentil frame; Han dynasty bowl; Roman lion fragment and Etruscan bird. The item in the center is an antique silver headdress. Japanese maple tree in fabric-wrapped vase on right.|
Ms. Wiseley has the ability to integrate antiques and artifacts with newly designed furnishings producing completely modern and up-to-date interior. Another example of her effortless style is her dining room.
|Iron table base by Formations; 18th-c. terra cotta urn and a pair of 2nd-c. roman carved dogs. The 'grabbers': the mossy pots planted with dwarf olive shrubs and a Japanese iris. Again, nature augmenting ancient.|
While Ms. Wiseley's home is filled with indisputably wonderful antiques, artifacts and newly-designed furnishings (she is a partner in the LA design firms Dennis & Leen and Formations), it is her garden and the way she integrates nature with the new and the old that makes me take note. And - like the talented designer she is - Ms. Wiseley also makes gardening look effortless.
|This is another beautiful exterior vignette. The table is made of 18th c. limestone slabs; the mirror is 17th c. Italian. Here again, a bonsai, this one a pine tree. The succulents are planted in a French 17th c. stone trough.|
|Antique Spanish stone table, 18th c. Italian candlesticks and shell used as a planter.|
Ms.Wisely's home is in California and the mild weather allows her to use soft furnishings outside. But the use of hard materials like the stone tables and troughs lends itself to most parts of the country. The pine bonsai would stand up in all but the most severe winter weather, and an inexpensive mirror found at a thrift shop could be distressed and used in place of the costly antique Italian version. Thinking outside the box is what this kind of decorating is all about.
She also integrates plants, both common and exotic, into her design both inside and out. Again, this is something anyone can do. Small trees and mosses of all kinds are available at garden centers around the country. The next time you visit one, examine the trees for interesting shapes and bark texture. Buying a small one costs next to nothing, and planting it in a stone container will keep its growth slow. Trim a few of the branches, add a little Spanish moss and you've created your own bonsai!
Finally, almost every part of the country has stone quarries with odd pieces available for sale. Visiting one inspires all sorts of ideas. An example: I recently found several small pieces of slate at a nearby stone outlet. With the addition of soft felt on the bottom, I now use them to serve up cheese, crackers and cold appetizers. The added plus: They were so small, the owner gave them to me free of charge!