The NYC designer infuses refined, modern style into a bedroom made for the book lover.
Though she works for one of the most legendary design firms in New York (McMillen Inc. was founded in 1924 by Mrs. Drury McMillen.), designer Elizabeth Pyne Singer has a knack for blending classicism with modern chic for spaces that feel timeless and pulled together for today’s lifestyle.
Joining the firm a decade ago after working at Sotheby’s as a specialist in the Old Masters Painting department, Pyne Singer has overseen design projects for McMillen in Chicago, New York City, and eastern Long Island. Her interiors have been featured in House & Garden, Traditional Home and House Beautiful which named her to their list of “Next Wave” Designers in 2015.
Describing her styles as “deliberate, tailored, and timeless”, Pyne Singer was introduced to good design at an early age, following her NYC decorator grandmother to antique shops and art fairs in and around the city. This provenance has given her the unique gift to seamlessly blend the old with the new, creating a narrative that feels fresh and has an equal balance of subtlety and surprise. Which brings us to a room we spotted on her feed.
For a bedroom in New York City’s Sutton Place neighborhood, Pyne Singer respected the past—the building was designed by McKim, Meade & White, pre-eminent architects at the turn of the 20th Century—while giving the dual purpose space a glam, librarian vibe (the client’s wanted a place to house their art books as well as a second bedroom). See how Pyne Singer pulled it off with the help of rich grasscloth and streamlined bedding.
If this bedroom had a name, what would it be?
"A Bookworm’s Escape.”
Was it all about the gorgeous built-in bookshelves here?
"The bookshelves definitely make the room. Their inclusion here, though, was born out of necessity. This was the only room whose architecture would allow for bookcases. It was a long and narrow space. We were able to take the depth from one end of the room—previously dead space—and fill it in with these bookcases.”
What are the other key design elements here?
"Because it’s a small room, we felt that all the walls and built-ins should be in the same color. If you have too many different colors in a small space the room can feel very disjointed. We embraced the natural darkness of the room—it faces an interior courtyard—and chose a dark blue grasscloth from Phillip Jeffries for the walls. For the bookcases, we mixed paint colors to create a perfect match for the grasscloth. The result is a cozy, cocoon-like bedroom.”
What do you think they bring to this space?
"The bed in this room is secondary to the bookcases. We chose a very low, simple bed so that it wouldn't compete with all the various patterns of the books. It's lightness and sleekness also serve a practical purpose: it makes it easier for our clients to manuever around it or if necessary, move the bed when they need to reach a book on the bookshelf."
How important are color and pattern here? How did you strike a balance?
"I think this room is successful because we restrained ourselves in our use of color and pattern. This room really just has three colors: blue, white and brown.”
Any bedroom design rules you like to follow or break?
"A bed in front of a bookcase is not very typical or practical...How are you supposed to access the books behind the bed? But in this case, the architecture of the room made it so that we had to break the rules in order to give our clients the room that they wanted.”
Can you share some of your ideas for recreating this look?
"Always think about the distribution of color around a room."
"In a small, dark space, it’s better to use dark colors.”
Go With It
"Don’t try to fight the room’s natural state. Make it look purposeful!”
Respect the Bones
"You have to get the architecture of the room right before you decorate. If you don’t take the architecture of the room into account, the room will never look right.”
“Don’t try to fight the room’s natural state. Make it look purposeful!”
Tell us a bit about the bedding you chose. Why was it right for this space?
"For this bedroom, I used Oberlin in Beech because it matches the modern style of the room. The wide tape makes the line masculine and simple. And the beige picks up the color in both the carpet and Roman shade. I use Matouk on almost every project because of the wonderful range of bedding. I also love Matouk’s “white.” I use white sheets in projects because they are the easiest to clean.”