Demure blue-greens and subtle pinks for the walls. Muted animal-print fabrics and rugs. Wall art full of playful florals. Delicate, gilt-trimmed lighting. All these elements figure in prominently in a mood board rife with what designer Rasheeda Gray calls "#softlife" inspiration. Designer Gray, the Philadelphia-based founder behind Gray Space Interiors, set to work transforming a bedroom and accompanying sitting room into the House Beautiful Whole Home’s ladies’ suite. A veritable refuge of quiet comfort designed with a very particular client in mind — whom Gray calls “a career-driven woman who has decided to be intentional about her lifestyle, and works smarter, not harder” — the refined space is also perhaps the most restorative one in all of the showhouse.
'Soft life' means… having the ability to control light and darkness easily with window treatments.
It’s a fitting theme for a space within the larger Whole Home project, which, this year and for the first time ever, featured an all-female design and build team. Gray was joined by other interior design world darlings including Hema Persad, Isabel Ladd, Laura McCroskey and Leann Lynn. “The ladies' suite is a retreat,” Gray explains of her composition of rooms. “It includes an entry hall, salon-parlor and bedroom. With the ‘POV’ of divine feminine energy, the suite is now a #softlife sanctuary where you will find a space to unwind, connect, and indulge in moments of quiet camaraderie.”
But what does designing for the “soft life” entail, exactly? “‘Soft life’ means to live a life of optimal relaxation, embody an anti-hustle spirit and live intentionally,” she says. When it comes to specific design choices, “That means selecting fabrics that are performance based and easy to care for, that feel tactically pleasant, with colors that are calming and that you enjoy, and having the ability to control light and darkness easily with window treatments,” shares Gray, who has completed over 100 residential and commercial projects throughout the Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Delaware areas, as well as nationally.
In the sitting room, the Vignette shades are perfection, because they provide both a window to the beautiful landscaped grounds below when opened, and restful shade when closed.
For the ladies’ suite, Gray used Vignette® Modern Roman Shades from Hunter Douglas in the sitting room to accomplish a two-fold design goal: frame the picturesque view beyond when the shades are open, and provide privacy and respite when they are shut. “In the sitting room, the Vignette shades are perfection, because they provide both a window to the beautiful landscaped grounds below when opened, and restful shade when closed,” she notes.
There were some space-related challenges for the designer behind the House Beautiful Next Wave Design Firm.The expansive mansion, which spans a whopping 13,000 square feet in Hinsdale, Illinois, dates to the 1900s, and was designed by noted architect David Adler. Crucially, the property has remained mostly unaltered, signifying the growing inclination of the local community to preserve historic residences rather than demolish them. The home’s historic architecture and, in turn, its signature, smaller-sized rooms, presented design hurdles but also made good grounds for Gray’s expertise in space planning.
“I believe that you can both embrace your personal design style and the home's original beauty, equally,” she says of her approach in infusing modernity and comfort within the limits of the site’s existing bones. “This home is a turn of the century, traditional mansion, but we've leaned into our contemporary chic design style to create a modern-day ladies' suite. Also, proper planning can solve all challenges in small spaces.”
Gray’s approach is one that fits with the larger aim of the Whole Home project: to inspire homeowners to live well in their homes, new builds and historic properties alike. As Carisha Swanson, Director of Editorial Special Projects at House Beautiful noted, “When homeowners choose a house, whether historic or brand new, they often wonder what elements to keep and what’s worth updating. Our goal this year is to empower our audience with big ideas and smart takeaways that give them the confidence to transform their home into a place they’ll love for decades to come.” One glance at the recently reimagined ladies’ suite is bound to ignite a wealth of inspiration in any serenity-seeking homeowner.
Experience Rasheeda Gray’s rooms for yourself on HouseBeautiful.com and in the November/December 2023 Renovation Issue, on newsstands November 28.