Step Inside Home Accessories Designer Joanna Buchanan's Bright and Modern Home
Home accessories designer Joanna Buchanan has her childhood in Hong Kong to thank for her lifelong devotion to ornaments. There, she learned to appreciate the opulence and highly decorated style so often used by Chinese artisans. Her world travels, too, informed her vision for bold color and pattern—an eclectic but luxurious aesthetic that is clearly seen in the Wilton house she shares with her husband and children. The family, relocating from New York City, had the vision to see potential in a lackluster property. “Everyone thought I was crazy—even the real estate agent. It was in such bad shape and so ugly inside: all carpet and dark wood,” says Buchanan. “No one could see what my husband and I saw. We loved the garden and the setting of the house.”
Once they closed on the property, Buchanan had two weeks to transform the house, which dates back to 1815. “We didn’t want to live in a work zone, so my husband, who is in construction, had me on a tight deadline!” says Buchanan. “I have a couple of houses in me, so it wasn’t a problem. You have to pick a lane and go for it.”
The first thing she did was coat the walls in white gloss to visibly brighten every room. “We like to have our feet in both worlds—old and new. There is character and charm in old houses, but you don’t have to decorate like it’s an old house,” says Buchanan. “Here, I wanted something happy and very personal; it was about cheerfulness and light. I appreciate other people’s moody aubergine walls, but I could not live in a house that did not feel upbeat and bright.”
In the family room, a bold orchid wallpaper sets the tone. Another daring move, in the form of a velvet stripe, makes for a statement ottoman. A green fireplace stands out but doesn’t overwhelm. “I am a lover of print,” says Buchanan. “I like colors that you wouldn’t traditionally put together; I am not trying to play it safe.” While Buchanan’s style is modern and bright, her husband tends toward midcentury and has a penchant for found objects. Case in point, a vintage brass lamp he found on the street is a perfect accessory for the eclectic yet cozy room. “Clearly, I am not a minimalist,” she says. “I believe in things that are decorated, and I don’t buy things for the sake of filling a space, I’d rather wait and find something that has a story.”
The house also serves as a lab for her eponymous home accessory line, which boasts a bold, colorful vibe. After years in the fashion retail business, Buchanan branched off two years ago and began creating whimsical baubles for holiday decorating—think bees, butterflies and ladybugs—that adorn trees or clip onto wreaths and garlands. “I work from home, so everything I design, I play with in the house. That way I know it works with what the brand is about: color and pattern and texture,” she says. The pieces have a traditional bent, but true to Buchanan’s style, the whimsical colors give them a decidedly modern vibe. “Christmas does not have to be about red and green,” she adds.
“Growing up, Christmas was a special time of unwrapping the same ornaments and admiring them year after year. I love the joy of unwrapping the same thing every year, and it still looks just as beautiful,” she explains. “No one has time to do anything any more, but decorating a Christmas tree is something we all still hope to do as a family. I started with ornaments because I wanted to create something with longevity.”
A version of this article appeared in the December 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Merry and Bright.