Lighten up

Story and photograph by Mary Shustack

Just as we switch up our wardrobes when the warmer weather arrives, our homes can benefit from a seasonal revamp.

Antoinette and Louise Lombardi, a mother-daughter design team based in Thornwood,

know well how just a few simple moves can keep things looking cool as the days get hot.

On a recent afternoon, the Lombardi ladies took WAG on an informal tour through their well-appointed showroom, Rug & Home Gallery + Design.

Taking note of the ready examples stylishly filling three full floors, we came away with a treasure trove of ideas on how to shake off those lingering vestiges of winter and get our surroundings springing back into shape.

“It’s just like if you have a black suit and you put on a different pair of earrings or a pin,” Antoinette says, “you change the look.”

Use the same approach when addressing your living space, Louise adds.

“With a few little switches around, you can change the room.”

With more than 25 years in the business, Antoinette – also known as “The Rug Lady” – has a keen perspective on what people really want, teaming up with her daughter to meet clients’ decorating needs, from a single rug to an entire home. Over time, the company has grown to specialize in fine rugs and home furnishings along with design services, custom window treatments, room makeovers and rug restoration and cleaning.

But back to the task at hand. Transitioning a home into the warmer months is a refreshing exercise that doesn’t require a major investment of time or funds as a ready example shows.

A mirrored tray, one that could easily be pictured weighed down with holiday treats or a bowl filled with evergreens, is today sitting on an oversize ottoman to create a casually chic coffee table of sorts. Louise says that Antoinette has been playing with the tray since its arrival.

“Everywhere she puts it, it changes the look,” she says. “And it’s just a ‘silly’ tray.”

But, as Antoinette notes, it’s a great example of how versatile the simplest of things can really be.

“Some things work in a lot of different places,” she says. “That’s really the trend of everything, the more transitional.”

From windows

to carpets

When it comes to windows, the ladies offer everything from fabric to trim to hardware.

Most people won’t replace an elaborate window treatment, more of a year-round design element, but there is always the opportunity for a simple update.

There is a wide selection of bamboo and solar shades along with blinds, plantation shutters and more.

Even creating a treatment for a neglected window can be a style boost.

“It’s a lovely way to frame the room, to bring the outside in,” Louise says, adding that for many homeowners, “less is more now.”

Linen, she notes, is also “quite popular.”

And don’t forget to look down. Rugs are a great way to mix things up, whether buying a new throw rug or simply maximizing the effect of an heirloom piece.

Take a traditional Persian rug. In the winter, it’s a reassuringly classic touch. Rust and dark charcoal pillows might decorate an adjacent sofa, tying it all together.

Come spring, draw out another hue, perhaps with a mustard, turquoise or ivory pillow.

“Pull out a different color. Absolutely,” Louise says.

Suddenly, it’s a lively focal point that calls to mind a vibrant marketplace on a summer afternoon. As Louise says, “That’s the beauty of having rugs with different colors.”

And rugs are also a way to start a home’s summery transition with flair.

“Change your entrance rug to something springtime and bright,” Louise says.

It’s “not a lot of commitment,” she adds, yet can create a light-and-airy first impression.

Accents away

It can be the smallest touch that makes all the difference, too.

Louise points to a pair of simply framed canvases filled with bold graphics, an example of what she calls “fun, bright art” – and a way to add instant interest.

“There may be a wall people always ignored,” Louise notes.

Certain design elements have been coming on strong.

“We’re doing a lot of texture – shag rugs, vinyl,” Louise continues.

Vinyl-covered items featuring nail-head accents offer an industrial-chic look, while a floor covering featuring an animal-print theme adds both drama and Hollywood glamour.

Embodying a vaguely seaside air while adding a certain lightness are mother-of-pearl accents and items of Mercury glass, from vases to candlesticks.

It’s all about capturing that glimmer of light.

“Hanging a mirror is nice,” Antoinette adds. “You can bring the natural light to your house.”

Color is always a way to lighten things up. Simply changing out a vase from a heavy brass orb to a fanciful porcelain piece in tangerine can bring a dose of sunshine. Many people, Antoinette notes, will also change their bedding to reflect the seasonal change, a practical move than can also offer another chance for a fresher feel.

A mahogany end table might be moved to the attic for a few months, replaced with one crafted out of acrylic and glass. Perhaps you bring out the more whimsical lampshade for summer as well.

These accents often transition within several surroundings, as Louise notes many clients are selecting options for multiple residences.

“People go to their summer homes,” she says.

Throughout, it’s all about the approach – and the attitude.

“I love mixing,” Louise says. “I love to bring in a splash of color in one item because it really makes an impact.”

A particularly striking vignette features a charming array of plum shades. It’s a little gem of an alcove by Louise, who says she follows trends but refuses to be dictated by them. It’s the way she also deals with clients, ready with options but making sure the end result is what they want.

After all, that is what the best designers do – help clients create environments that meet their needs but also reflect their personal taste and style.

As the Rug & Home Gallery’s tagline says, “Love your home from top to bottom.”

Thanks to the tips shared by the Lombardi ladies, that can be accomplished in a most stylish manner, no matter the season.

For more on the Rug & Home Gallery + Design, at 722 Commerce St. in Thornwood, call (914) 741-2486 or visit

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