Ellice Condon: How to curate a room

Photography by Lauri Levenfeld
I am always in awe of those who can look at an empty room and immediately fill it (in their minds) with the perfect decor-intricately painted walls, the floors dressed with chic carpet, and the best in furniture selected and placed. Or the other person who goes to the flea market or bargain store and immediately finds the hidden gem. Ellice Condon of Velvet & Green not only finds her deepest inspiration in a blank slate-four empty walls, but she can also can strip down a 140-year old castle to its authentic being-glorifying its original detail and character, while restoring its whimsical presence with fresh ideas and modernity. We hunkered down at one of Condon’s latest projects- her beautiful, yet masculine chic apartment to talk life as a designer and how to become a curator of pretty things.
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What were you like as a child?

Around the age of 5, I began making homes for fairies to live in. The floors were lined with moss, crispy brown leaves for shade, sheets of mica to bring in some elegance, and quartz rocks for perching on after a long days work. Sound magical? It was.

I find a deep sense of satisfaction in creating a place someone can find solace and warmth in. To me, it isn’t a page out of a magazine where perfection is captured for the split second it exists; instead it’s crumpled bed sheets reminiscent of last night’s sleep, a collection of broken-in cowboy boots kicked off by the door. I like to see the rough edges of people’s lives, and I think others do too. A room with a story is one that draws you in and makes you want to stay a while. I thoroughly enjoy being comfortable, and I think it is evident in every space I design.


How did you become such a visionary and curator of pretty things?

I had lived in New England all of my life up until two years ago when my husband and I relocated to San Francisco. I grew up admiring antique homes, rustic barns and simplistic, classic interiors. I favor natural elements and use them as much as possible when designing a space. I love pairing worn and well-loved pieces with shiny and new. To me, the juxtaposition is what creates interest and warmth. It’s the equivalent of ripped jeans, a cashmere sweater, an arm full of Tiffany silver, and my favorite Frye boots.

When you designed your apartment, how did you get started? Did you develop concepts or style themes for each room?

Moving from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment had its obvious challenges. Being newlyweds, we had just been gifted beautiful new bedding, linens and dishes that would become the basis for the color scheme I designed our new home around. All we took for furniture was our antique king poster bed, my grandmother’s hope chest and some small accent pieces that had a well-loved feel. My goal was to design our apartment in a masculine chic vibe. Gray, blue, tan and white would be the main colors that would be carried throughout each room. It was important to me that my husband have a say in how our home is decorated. Luckily for us, we share the same taste on most things. Although, if I had my way, I would have preferred a charcoal velvet tufted Queen Ann to the down-filled leather sofa…You win some, you lose some!


One of the most common questions I get asked as a designer is: Where do you start?

The number one thing I can say is– Start with an inspiration. It can be a color or colors, a pillow, an heirloom set of china, your coveted leather sofa, or a piece of art. Beautiful balanced rooms are done in layers. Allow yourself time for the absolute best results. With the abundance of design blogs and pinterest, inspiration can be found just about anywhere. The key is finding something that speaks to you; that resonates with your personal style. Be realistic about what you have to work with (space, existing pieces and budget) this can help keep you from feeling defeated. When you fall in love with a $680 armchair that you can’t afford, it’s hard not to become discouraged. Instead, go into it knowing you have $75 for a vintage armchair. This keeps you in control and lets you exercise those amazing creative muscles. To me, this is the absolute best part—the hunt and find. I love working within a budget.

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My Five tips on creating a space on a budget:

1. Have a source of inspiration. A concrete image is extremely helpful.

2. Paint! For under $50 and some elbow grease, you cannot match this transformation. Don’t stop at walls—a fresh coat on old wood furniture is an excellent way to bring new life to something you already own. Add new knobs to bring it over the top.

3. Shop the house. Treat your house like a store. Be resourceful with what you already have and think about other ways things can be used.

4. Edit. Take everything away that you don’t love. One thing in the wrong place can throw a whole room off.

5. Have a color scheme. Repetition and consistency go a long way. Your eyeballs will thank you.

Who are some of your retail go-to’s? 

Vintage shops, flea markets and thrift stores are my best source of inspiration. I love incorporating something that has a history. Anthropologie is a feast of beauty for my eyes. Their aesthetic has so much life to it. All my bedding (at home and work) is from Pottery Barn or West Elm. It softens rather than wears with use. Homegoods and Tj Maxx can not be beat for small accessories—the prices are so reasonable and they have everything you need to furnish your home. I also have a major decorator crush on Joanna Gaines at Magnolia Homes I would take one of everything in her shop! 


That incredible 140-year old castle coming soon!

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