Mizell kept the living room formal with neutral colors but livened it up with numerous textures.

A professional couple in their mid-fifties who had recently moved to a fourstory town house in Rittenhouse Square approached Ashli Mizell with an unusual request. For their new residence—a wellpreserved Federal Style building with original moldings, plank hardwood floors, handcarved banisters and marble fireplaces—they asked the interior designer to provide a décor that was suitable for a subdued entertaining experience. Big, bold gestures and bright colors and patterns held no interest for them. The challenge lay in the rooms themselves: generous in size, with the living room alone 17 feet wide and 25 feet long with 10-foot-high ceilings.

  Ashli Mizell in her clients’ third-floor master bedroom

“In the beginning of the design process, I showed them several different options for the living room, some of which included much more color and pattern,” says Mizell, a Tennessee native who worked in New York for nearly a decade before opening Ashli Mizell, Inc. in Philadelphia in 2002. “They were consistently drawn to a more soft, neutral palette. I don’t typically do rooms that are neutral to this degree. They were very trepidatious about the process of working with a designer. This is a couple who are avid travelers, who are active philanthropically and who support the arts. I wanted to create something luxurious and elegant for them. They are very warm people, so it was important to me that their rooms have an approachable luxury and not just be opulent-looking. ”

Introduced to Mizell by a mutual client, floral designer Michael Haschak at Pure Design, the couple was candid with her about the help they required. “They had collected pieces over the years and made a few design mistakes,” says Mizell. “When they moved into this home, they said, ‘We want to do it right. We don’t want to make expensive mistakes.’”

Beginning with the living room and a blank canvas, Mizell, known for her eclectic, tailored style, had a lot of space to fill. “Not a stick of their old furniture went into this room,” she says. “They have parties several times a year, so it was important to create spaces that flowed very easily, from one room to the next.” Mizell’s strategy emphasized a strong, functional foundation from which the design surprises and is pleasurable and sensory. Rather than place two separate seating clusters in the living room, an easy way to fill the space, Mizell says she chose the fireplace as the focal point and surrounded it with a subtle interplay of symmetry. Pairs of chairs, paintings, ottomans, tables and lamps all revolve around the hearth, and a massive six-foot table—formerly a Chinese bed—is placed in front of it.

Like what you're reading? Get it delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up now for our newsletters >>