In Full Color
Prints and patterns play well together in Leandra Fremont-Smith’s smartly designed and fully-saturated interiors
When Leandra Fremont-Smith was a child, her parents took her to the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston to visit a special collection. “We would go in for a private viewings of the Elizabeth Day McCormick textile collection,” she remembers. You see, Fremont-Smith is McCormick’s great-great-niece. “We got to go behind the curtain with our white gloves, I marveled at the fine embroidery, the intricate stitching, some were from the Tudor era,” she says. While she hasn’t gone to see the collection recently, she says it left an impression on her young mind: “I think it was the layering of detail that trained my eye.”
Fremont-Smith comes from a family that appreciates design, making it no great surprise that she grew up to become an interior designer with a sharp sense of detail and an affinity for mixing patterns and matching colors. She grew up in the Massachusetts town of Essex, a “hub for antiques.” In addition to visiting the family collection—McCormick donated some 6,000 items (including an outstanding glass collection) to the museum between 1943 and 1953—Fremont-Smith spent her childhood trawling antique shops with her parents every Sunday. “My father restored historic buildings in Boston, and my mother had a background in continental antiques and an antique store on Charles Street,” she explains. “I thought I’d never go into this profession because it was so much a part of my life.”
And yet, sometimes these early exposures imprint on us more than we know. Over the years, Fremont-Smith picked up a lot of useful knowledge about interiors and decorative arts, styling and fabrics. But instead of creating replicas of earlier eras, Fremont-Smith has used this knowledge to develop her own sense of style, one that infuses a dose of modernity into the vivid colors and cheerful patterns of classic New England prep. “When I design an interior, I want it to last. I have a deep appreciation for the traditional, I love to mix it with contemporary accents and color,” she explains.
Of course, like all designers, Fremont-Smith tailors her work to suit her clients. “If someone came to me and wanted a California-style house, I would give them one,” she says. Fortunately, she tends to work with like-minded clients. Her East Coast sensibility and eye for bringing just the right amount of color is reflected strongly in her portfolio. “While I’ve done some midcentury homes recently, most of my clients like the blend of modern and traditional.” Sometimes, it takes a “bit of a nudge” on her part to push the client into more bold decisions—like, say, lacquering a den, library, or pantry in all one hue— yet even these rooms show a certain New England restraint.
This, perhaps, is Fremont-Smith’s greatest strength as a designer. She’s able to pull together a variety of patterns in a way that doesn’t feel cluttered or chaotic. Inside a spacious shingle-style summer home (known by the owners as “Hedgefield”), she brought together geometric-printed wallpaper, ikat upholstery, luxurious Schumacher roman shades, and playful rag rugs. The kitchen features electric blue cabinets, a plaid backsplash, red hanging lanterns, and bohemian woven chairs. “I have a deep connection with the home, I designed it for one of my best friends from growing up, her husband, and their three sons,” reveals Fremont-Smith. The blue and green prints and patterns are pulled from the colors in the sea and mixed with punches of colors like vivid blues, pops of red, and citrus accents. The pallet works to create a peaceful and youthful backdrop for the family’s activities.
This house is a sharp contrast to one she did on Prouts Neck, which is far quieter yet still layered with texture—think textured agate wallpapers, herringbone tile floors, and a refined natural palette. “We like to pay attention to the history of a home—if it’s a traditional Maine cottage, that will speak volumes for what we’re going to do—but we also want to know how the house will be used, what they like, what they don’t like.” One of the first things she addresses is color. “You find out quickly if you’re working with a blue person or a green person,” she says. “I like everything to have a fresh, vibrant feel to it.” As for herself, Fremont-Smith admits that, while she appreciates a good green, she’s probably a blue person at heart. “I’m always reading, I’m always looking,” she says. Lately, she’s felt herself drawn more and more to lavender and citron, and finds herself hoping for the chance to do a purple kitchen or emerald green pantry. “I think we need to bring a bit more personality into our kitchens, and I love seeing appliances that come in all these fun colors,” she enthuses. “That’s what excites me. I love to see color.”