Museum Quality

An unexpected collection transforms the decor of a Barrington home


When Liz Flitter bought her mother’s home in Barrington more than 20 years ago, she knew she’d love making the place her own. She had no idea it would later function much like a personal art gallery.

“We all love its proximity to the beach and the nice quiet neighborhood,” says Flitter, whose mother’s originally purchased the home in 1983.

Last year, Flitter helped her aunt move to Rhode Island from Tuscon, Arizona. Over the 47 years her aunt had lived in the Southwest, she amassed an extensive collection of beautiful pottery, agate, crystals, gemstones and fossils.

“We… put as much as we could fit in her assisted living apartment, but there were a lot of pieces left over, so I was happy to be their caretaker and she can come over and still see them,” says Flitter. The only challenge was piece ranged from small gemstones to large pottery pieces and Flitter had a long and narrow living room. The highlight of her collection was the many pieces of amazing Mata Ortiz pottery. Also known as Casas Grandes pottery, Mata Ortiz pottery is considered one of the finest ceramics in the world. The handmade coiled pots, or ollas, are made using centuries-old methods and are imprinted with recreations of ancestral symbols shared by Southwest and Native American cultures. “I needed a place to display them all safely, and the house was in need of updating anyway, so I looked for an interior designer to help me with ideas, color choices and furniture selection.” As far as an aesthetic, Flitter says she was looking for something modern and fun that would highlight the collection. After interviewing a number of local designers, Flitter chose Jae Wyllie Willard of Barrington.

“She had many great ideas and was open to my ideas,” says Flitter. “She was enthusiastic and energetic. I really liked her positive attitude and her willingness to try different things.”

Willard says her solution was to make a gallery wall spanning the entire length of the living room, including having the shelving going up and over the entrance to the dining room.

Micah Shapiro of Shapiro Carpentry in Little Compton created the unique bookcase for the pieces. “[He] did a fantastic job,” says Flitter. “It was a complicated job and he nailed it.” For the furniture, Willard and Flitter selected a feminine color palette in the living room, using ruched blush velvet chairs and soft white textured roman shades. “This allowed the client's amazing collection to pop against the custom dark teal/peacock paint and lightly white washed wood of the shelving unit,” explains Willard.

To marry the stone pieces in the collection with the space, Willard gave the fireplace a facelift with a natural stone Travertine and mantle made from reclaimed wood. An artist herself, Willard made custom tie backs for the new drapes out of slices of agate. When it came to the family room, Willard wanted it “to really be a space Liz could relax in, but also make her happy just being in it,” she says. Willard juxtaposed a funky, multi-colored rug with a classic camel colored leather sofa from West Elm in Wayland Square. Today, the family room is a sanctuary for Flitter. “It’s a wonderful, bright and colorful room that is perfect to come home and relax in after a long day,” she says.

Because you walk from the living room and through the dining room to get to the family room, it was important for Willard and Flitter that all three rooms have a sense of cohesion. “To achieve this, all three rooms were painted with a bright off white I created with a pink hue,” says Willard. “Then we combined the two custom colors in the dining room using the dark teal on the bottom half of a chair rail.”

Today, Flitter is able to enjoy her art and reinvented home. “It came out exactly as I hoped and is really a show stopper,” she says. “Everyone who comes in now just stops and admires all the beautiful artwork. People say it’s like a museum you can relax in!” 

Jae Willard Designs