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BY DEBRA SCOTT
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERIC STRIFFLER | August 14, 2011 | Culture
The chaise, surrounded by a pair of jardinières, is the sanctuary to which Charlotte escapes to read, look out into the garden and talk on the phone.
Ferns and stone elements atop an iron-based table form an intimate space
For her pampered guests, Moss provides a splendid apartment over the garage
Variegated boxwood “clouds” lead to the pool area
A rose arbor leads to a bench at the end of the rose garden.
Wisteria hangs from a pergola and clouds of boxwood frame the back terrace.
Miniature sundials, part of a small collection
Embroidered place mats and napkins from Italy, antique silver-on-oystershell salt cellars, other silver-covered shells and place cards by Cassegrain on a pullout of the linen cabinet
A table of myrtle, bay and rosemary topiaries resides on the screened in porch. Tomorrow they may be in the foyer. “I rotate my plants around the house,” says Moss. “I get bored; I assume they do, too
Among the shelves of gardening books are Moss’ favorites, tomes by David Hicks, Russell Page, Beverley Nichols and Constance Spry.
The categorized china and collected objects lining the shelves in the flower room include blue and white, pewter, white ceramic, baskets, tolle and Venetian glass.
A hammock hangs between two oaks, each embraced by 20-year-old climbing hydrangea and Euonymus fortunei vines
On a recent summer weekend, decorator Charlotte Moss has just returned from a book tour promoting her seventh book, Charlotte Moss Decorates: The Art of Creating Elegant and Inspired Rooms, during which she delivered lectures to 2,700 people in 11 cities and logged 14,000 miles. Yet she is getting ready for a luncheon to be held in her Georgica house that day, picking lemon verbena from her garden (to be dried and sipped in tea all winter), taking botanical photos for her blog C’est Inspiré, preparing for a trip to France (St-Tropez, Eden Roc, Antibes, the Dordogne and Paris) and giving a tour of her property. It is no wonder she and husband Barry Friedberg have had to reschedule their afternoon plans.
Reclining on a painted rattan chair in her “refuge,” the screened-in porch—the most-used room in her house—Moss props up her legs on a white canvas ottoman and pets her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Oscar, curled nearby. While nibbling on figs, she holds forth on both Charlotte Moss the woman and Charlotte Moss the brand—having magically found a way to relax into the moment. It is only slightly surprising that, when asked to describe her house in one word, she says in her lilting Southern cadence, “Easy.”
In this home she feels grounded, connected. “Everything flows from indoors to outdoors,” she says, looking out at the back garden with its majestic rose towers, canopy of lemon trees, pear tree allée and espaliered apple trees that wall off the pool. Fittingly, a simple hammock shaded by climbing hydrangea beckons. “Look,” she says with awe, pointing to a puff of sea mist floating among the roses and boxwood that populate the landscape (and why not—the house is called Boxwood Terrace). “If you had to describe my garden,” says Moss, a New Yorker by way of Virginia, “it’s not so much about parterres and sweeping vistas, but about intimate gestures, small rooms, gardens within gardens.”
A dynamo of restrained energy, Moss rises daily at dawn and takes her two dogs for a walk. The consummate gardener, she then “pokes around” in her flower beds, cleaning up the roses or cutting flowers and greenery for the many groupings displayed throughout the house. She calls her garden room, where she experiments with her arrangements, her therapy room. “You select individual items that resonate, then marry them in a creative process to tell a story,” she says.
Moss also spends “me time” in the downstairs media room, where she sits on an oversize velvet club chair watching TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences. “Everyone knows not to disturb me when I’m in there,” she says. Making collages is an art form she compares to painting or drawing. “By nature,” she writes in Charlotte Moss Decorates, “I am a hunter, a collector, a cataloger, a stylist.” She advises her readers to dedicate a collage to each room in the house and fill it with images torn from shelter and fashion magazines, allowing the scraps to reveal a personal sensibility.
Hers is a world of romantic elegance: European antiques, Italian painted furniture, columns and urns found throughout, without a nod to contemporary style. For that she does not apologize. “You must stay true to who you are,” says Moss. “You can’t go from Regency to Lucite.”
After a lifetime of decorating others’ homes, last year Moss decided to temporarily stop working with clients to focus on her licensing business, an empire that includes home fragrances, fabrics, wall coverings, bedding, carpets, case goods, china and scenic mural wallpaper. “It was time to listen to myself and set priorities,” she says. One of those priorities is to build a total home lifestyle brand. As a decorator, she has spent her career building interiors around her clients’ lives, taking into consideration “what they eat, read, how they entertain, and even how they dress,” Moss says. “Once you design a house for someone, you want them to look good in it.”