The One Room Lilse McKenna Will Never Forget

Large city apartment with blue classic furniture.

Read McKendree/JBSA 

Interior designers and other experts in the home industry work on an impressive number of spaces throughout their careers. But even if some of the makeovers and redesigns start to blend together after a few years, there are some rooms that are just truly unforgettable. 

So, to give designers a chance to revisit their favorite projects—and to bring you plenty of inspiration for your own home—we’re sharing the one room these pros will remember forever. For some, there’s a sentimental connection, for others, there was an obstacle they never thought they’d overcome. But no matter what, these rooms are worth remembering.

Known for her traditional interior style and love of grand millennial touches, Lilse McKenna was well-equipped to infuse classic charm into a modern Manhattan living room.

“Most of the homes I work on are traditional in style on the inside and the outside, and this apartment is a reflective glass tower surrounded by skyscrapers,” McKenna explains. “I’ll never forget the puzzle of working within those very modern architectural bones, balancing the elements of the space, and incorporating my clients’ more traditional taste.” 

This room is full of my favorite elements: a mix of modern and traditional shapes, shades of blue, and beautiful woven fabrics.

Because McKenna’s clients wanted to honor their unit’s more contemporary features while outfitting the space in a preppy palette, balance was key. “Juxtaposition made the project exciting,” McKenna adds. 

Large mirror on top of white console table.

Read McKendree/JBSA 

As one room within a small space, the living room needed to serve multiple purposes, simultaneously functioning as a TV area, dining space, and home office. McKenna says that its shape—specifically, the angled wall—provided a few challenges.

“This project definitely taught me to trust the furniture plan,” she reflects. “I spent a lot of time worrying that because of the odd shape of the room, some piece of the puzzle wouldn’t fit just right. But of course, in the end, everything worked in the space just as it did on paper.” 

Desk with patterned chair next to large window.

Read McKendree/JBSA 

Beautiful blue textiles and eye-catching furniture finds shine throughout the space. “We made some beautiful custom pieces for this room, but my favorite pieces are actually vintage,” McKenna says, citing a pair of Milo Baughman swivel chairs that were upholstered in a traditional woven pattern, and a pair of vintage French plaster lamps styled on either side of the sofa. “Both are pieces that are modern in shape but made with traditional materials.” 

McKenna’s favorite aspect of the room? Several areas stand out. For one, McKenna loves the lacquered blue paint on the walls and cabinetry. “Painting the cabinetry the same color made the kitchen and living area visually cohesive, and the lacquer finish gives the whole space polish,” she says.

McKenna recalls visiting the apartment the day the painters were finishing up the lacquer on the walls and cabinetry. “I was so thrilled with the way it changed the room,” she reflects. “Suggesting something like lacquer for such a large room can be risky since there is so much labor involved, but the texture and depth of it make it all worth it.” 

Blue kitchen cabinets with patterned barstools.

Read McKendree/JBSA 

The dining area is also a standout. “The banquette is biscuit tufted to mimic the grid-like patterns of the windows on the surrounding buildings, and the chenille fabric looks like clouds in the sky that surrounds you when you are standing in the room,” McKenna adds. 

Dining banquette with marble table.

Read McKendree/JBSA 

It’s safe to say McKenna herself wouldn’t mind kicking back in this multi-functional space. She notes, “It’s so hard to define your own style as a designer, but this room is full of my favorite elements: a mix of modern and traditional shapes, shades of blue, and beautiful woven fabrics."

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