Chic Retreat: Springy Colors Welcome Empty Nesters to North Carolina

The decor in this couple’s Raleigh apartment was inspired by their art collection and fashion.
by Ayn-Monique Klahre | photography by Catherine Nguyen

The tone is set just as you cross the threshold: above a petite demilune table, there’s a photograph of a woman clad in flowing, lemon-yellow chiffon. It’s a hue that weaves itself through the apartment, and the spirit of the art was the jumping-off point for designer Martha Schneider of La Maison Atelier. “I love that yellow,” she says. “And it’s just a simple, gorgeous photograph.”

Schneider designed this space in The Carolinian on Glenwood Avenue as a home for recent empty-nesters. They’d just sent the last of their three children to college, and were also new North Carolinians, having moved South after living in the Boston area.

The couple wanted a space to suit both this new stage of life and their downsized square footage. So it’s well-appointed but unfussy, done in a mix of traditional styling and more modern pieces. “That’s sort of my style, a transitional look that blends the old and the new,” says Schneider.

While most of the furnishings were purchased for the apartment, the art came from the homeowners’ collection, much of it found at Jules Place Art & Consulting in Boston. Schneider pulled the color scheme from two Tess Atkinson photographs of dogwood trees that are hanging in the living room. “The wife said, if this can be an inspiration, let’s go for it!” laughs Schneider.

So Schneider worked in furnishings in grays and whites, with punches of black or gold here and there for contrast. She varied the materials throughout — from a soft velvet on the living room accent chairs to a buttery faux leather in the dining room seating — for contrast and interest. “I always do a mix of textures,” she says.

The narrow palette also helped the open-plan living and dining areas, which continue on to a patio and the kitchen, to work both together and as separate spaces. The couple loves to entertain — “And made a lot of friends really fast!” says Schneider — so flexibility and plenty of seating were musts.

An open settee between the living and dining areas, for example, can be used in either space, and the pair of curvy brass coffee tables can be easily shifted to make it easier to grab an appetizer.

In the two bedrooms, watercolor hues soften up the neutral colors. The guest room, which is most used by their youngest daughter, plays on the wife and daughter’s love of fashion.

“It’s a real passion point,” says Schneider. She wove the theme in through art — like the sculptural Ribbon by Angela Chrusciaki Blehm above the bed’s chenille headboard — as well as garment-inspired textures, like bedside lamps with pom-pom-esque details, and a satin and faux-fur accent pillow.

The primary bedroom pulls in lavender tones and a bold floral photography and mixed-media archival print by Christy Lee Rogers. Schneider wove it all together to create a classic, welcoming space for this couple to start their new stage of life in their new home state.   

A large fashion photograph in a gold frame hangs in the entryway, setting the tone for the apartment. Schneider accessorized with items from her retail store, La Maison in North Hills. The light gray velvet chairs are from Mr. Brown London. 

In the dining area, a blue velvet banquette and faux-leather upholstered chairs offer a comfortable place to linger around the tulip table.
The guest bedroom is done in pretty pastels, a nod to the taste of the couple’s youngest daughter, who recently left for college. It plays up a love of fashion through art: a black-and-white magazine photograph, the sculpture of a length of ribbon by Angela Chrusciaki Blehm and an abstracted portrait of a Chanel perfume bottle by Mark Andrews. 
 In the primary bedroom, an archival pigment print by Christy Lee Rogers sets the visual theme for the room.

This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.