4 Cutting-Edge Home Design Couples (And Their Advice)

Meet couples with forward-looking home design flair.



Photography by John Rizzo

Stacy Kunstel (Co-Founder) and
Michael Partenio (Creative Director) 

Dunes and Duchess

“Romantically and financially bound” for six years, Stacy Kunstel and Michael Partenio launched Dunes and Duchess in 2010. The company designs and manufactures original residential and commercial furniture and lighting made entirely in the United States. Both work for magazines—he’s a photographer and she’s a photo stylist for publications like Traditional Home, Country Home, and Better Homes & Gardens—and were on a photo shoot when Partenio saw a Napoleonic-era candelabra. “He was trying to woo me, so he decided to make me a candelabra.” After months of learning about woodturning, Partenio produced something so stunning that others wanted one as well—so the couple started to make and sell candelabras in their living room and basement. When interior designers asked them to turn their designs into lamps and sconces, they branched out to offer étagères, chairs, dining tables, and other pieces. Together with a few part-time employees, they now work from a 3,500-square-foot industrial space with a small showroom.

Captain’s Compass Table in Gold Leaf and Marble      

Captain’s Compass Table in Gold Leaf and Marble       

Chappy Bench with a Custom Lance Woven Leather Top

Latest Addition:

Tiki or bamboo. Known for the classic spindle, the couple has added bamboo spindles to chairs, étagères, dining tables, and a round upholstered ottoman for greater versatility.

Top Three Design Tips:

1. Mix it up with a variety of textures (smooth, rough, shiny, and matte); patterns (solids and prints); and colors.
2. Always include something living, like plants or flowers. 
3. Trust your gut. “If you love something, you love it for a reason. Go with it even if you don’t understand it.” 

Treasure-Hunting Tip:

“The worse the place looks, the more treasure it likely holds. In other words: Don’t be a snob.”

Favored Colors:

Blue and white anywhere and everywhere. “Just add an accent color or pattern to change the entire look.”

The Dunes and Duchess workspace

Go-To Trend:

Originality and customization—or having something no one else has. Their customers can select a design and then choose one of 15 colors, a custom color and/or gilding and for upholstered pieces, as well as their own fabrics. 

Cool Collectibles:

Ironstone, hotelware, and French linens

Inspired By…

Design blogs Peak of Chic, Elements of Style, The Zhush, The English Room, Carolyne Roehm, and shelter mags World of Interiors, Vogue Living, Elle Décor, House Beautiful, House & Garden UK

Bookmarked Online:

Flynnside Out Productions, Domaine, Jersey Ice Cream Company, Ralph Lauren, Tracey Kendall Wallpaper.

71 Forty Acre Mountain Rd
Danbury, CT 
(205) 422-0084 
www.dunesandduchess.com

 

Melissa Lynn (Creative Director) and David Dilmaghani (President) 
Old New House

Melissa Lynn and David Dilmaghani so enjoyed the hunt for homey and old-fashioned accents to decorate their intimate Connecticut farm wedding
celebration that they decided to tie the knot professionally as well. An online rug and modern home furnishings retailer featuring a refined design sensibility, Old New House curates smaller, highly specialized, boutique collections of carpets and home décor. Dilmaghani had been collecting rugs as a hobby but wanted to approach the market from a new, less conservative angle. Launched in 2010 in their 600-square-foot apartment, the company now operates from an industrial loft-like studio/gallery in a renovated 1930s barn. They recently began designing and manufacturing their own furniture, including a large leather pouf modeled after an antique pouf the couple once owned, low-slung tables, and rugs. The pair continue to be inspired by their life together and what they love. “We buy only vintage or antique items or take on new merchandise that would make us happy in our own home,” Lynn says.

Patent Pending: Handmade to Order Wooden Mod Square Table Limited Edition

Trademark Pending: Mod Table Made with Plastic Recycled Plastic                       

What’s Hot:

Pairing modern and traditional elements in the same space; deep, comfy furniture that’s close to the floor and horizontally elongated; lightly layered, smaller rugs.

Especially Fresh for Fall: 

Low-slung, antique revival leather ottomans in a range of colors.

Treasure-Hunting Tip:

“Flea markets and tag sales offer both good deals and dangerous buys, so while it can be fun to discover gems there, specialty shops know what they are selling you.” Sometimes it is worth a little bit extra to pay for that.

Develop a Design Vision:

Curate a tailored space that’s cohesive by selecting what you identify with aesthetically. “If your purchase decision is primarily driven by a 70 percent price reduction, you likely are not heading toward a design vision. And be careful not to negotiate yourself out of an awesome love affair with a special item.”

Old New House's industrial studio

Bookmarked Design Blogs: 

Elements of Style, French by Design

Preferred Palette:

White, light, and airy, with subtle accents of faded oranges, aqua, raspberry, yellows, and blues, or “something inspired by every season, with a hint of warmth and happy.”

31 Katonah Ave,
Katonah (retail by appointment) 
(914) 401-9060

www.oldnewhouse.com

Lyn Peterson (Designer) and Karl Friberg (President)
Motif Designs and Lyn Peterson Design

College sweethearts, married 40 years, and in business together since 1980, Lyn Peterson and Karl Friberg head up two companies. Motif Designs sources and curates collections of home furnishings exclusively to the trade, with catalogs and products sold nationally to top designers and architects; Lyn Peterson Design is an interior design firm. Author of three decorating books, Peterson is also a licensed general contractor and highly respected designer, with three House Beautiful covers to her credit. A Harvard MBA, Friberg worked at Citibank when Peterson first opened a little wallpaper store in Larchmont. When she began designing wallpapers, he produced them under their own label. The pair approached Marimekko about licensing that brand and selling Marimekko wallpaper in the United States. They then approached Ralph Lauren—not yet in the home business—with a similar premise, and they sold that brand’s wall-paper and fabric lines for more than 15 years before deciding to launch their own brand. Today, both companies are based in an 8,000-square-foot loft-like space with concrete floors, oversize windows, and 18-foot ceilings.

Tuxedo Lamp         

Laguna Chair         

San Juan Ottoman

What’s Back?

1. Pattern and print everywhere, including needlepoint rugs, brass finishes, and pottery.
2. Traditional design—but in a cleaner, less cluttered, and more classic style.
3. Light wood floors. 

Best Treasure-Hunting Tip 

Your town’s bulk pick-up day and local “mom” websites with giveaway lists trump old-school sources like tag sales or consignment shops. 

The offices of Motif Designs and Lyn Peterson Design

Top Design Tips

1. Quality always holds its value. “If a piece is of quality and you really loved it once, you will love it again!” Buy things to last. 
2. It’s all in the mix. It’s fine to have some fast fashion in both home and wardrobe, but mix it with quality—antiques, store bought, family stuff, and the like. “I may not like all my things, but I love them—because my grandmother’s hands touched them or my husband bought it for me.” 
3. Step away from throw pillows—or candles or fake flowers or repetitive picture frames. “We all seem to think we are a new set of throw pillows away from a perfect home. Just stop.” And use only good-quality inserts—not the cheap, board-like ones—for the throw pillows you do have. 
4. Don’t overthink, over-question, or continually poll your pals. “Be yourself. That is the most interesting thing about you—not what you can buy.”

Don't...

1. Drink the Kool-Aid. “If it is not you, when the flavor changes you will be left with ‘What was I thinking?’” 
2. Buy ten $167 things instead of one $1,670 item.  
3. Match everything too closely—loosen up.

Cori (Vice President) and Roy Estrow (CEO)
Country Willow

Married 27 years, Cori and Roy Estrow loved searching for that perfect piece of furniture as they decorated their first home, favoring solid wood pieces—especially those with a heritage or made from reclaimed wood—and handmade artisanal items. When they discovered that the only thing missing from their hometown was a shop at which to purchase such things, in 1996, they opened their own. A complete home furnishings retail store and design center, Country Willow features beautifully crafted furnishings in a range of styles, from classic country to transitional urban, including deep-seated, down-filled sectionals; clean-lined contemporary chairs; and handcrafted farm tables from reclaimed wood. In addition to offering interior design services and custom furniture with specific finishes, colors, and sizes, Country Willow Kids & Baby is a store within a store, showcasing bedrooms for the whole family. From a 1,200-square-foot shop with just three employees, Country Willow has grown into a stunning 35,000-square-foot post-and-beam construction showroom with a staff of 30.

 

Madame X Coffee Table in Monte Carlo 

Leather Fulton Chair in Tampa Basil   

Bluestone End Table                             

Especially Fresh for Fall

The chaise lounge. And if you have the room and someone you love, a double chaise for two is the ultimate in comfort and coziness. Check out the Kensie design, which lets you lie opposite one another. “It’s great for relaxing, reading, napping, and creating romance!”

Consider…

Custom furniture. “Getting exactly what you need in the right width, depth, height, and finish—like a demilune table to fit between a window and door—often costs far less than you would think.” And because it is furniture and not a built-in, it can be moved in the future.

The Country Willow showroom

Trends With Legs

Transitional styling with a curated look. Family-friendly design. “Gone are the days of furniture you just look at. Live in it, on it, all over it, and love it. Fluff it, wipe it, and it’s back to beautiful.” American-made, sustainable, and healthy materials.

Top 3 Design Tips

1. Don’t forget the artwork. “Artwork should invoke something inside of us that wakes up our minds and spirit.” And it’s a great way to bring in a contrast or surprise color.” 
2. Plants and flowers, including dried flowers or high-quality faux botanicals or plants, bring life to any room. “Many of the better faux options today look so real you can be inches away and still not know they aren’t.”
3. Lighting and shadows create moods that can be easily changed with the flip of a switch. Consider lamps and wall washers for a softer look and stunning chandeliers from Currey, Regina Andrew, and Visual Comfort. Mirrors also open up a space and reflect light. 

 

 

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