A Bright Future

After learning from a legacy, designer Elena Phillips is making her own

When you grow up with Albert Hadley as a family friend, a career in the design field seems like a safe bet. At least it was for Elena Phillips of Elena Phillips Interiors in Rowayton. “I always knew I wanted to be creative,” she says. After Phillips finished college, the renowned Parish Hadley designer encouraged her to enroll in the New York School of Interior Design and even set her up with her first drafting table. 

Before starting her own firm, Phillips went to work for a Parish Hadley alum, David Kleinberg, and then went on to join the team at Cullman & Kravis. “They helped to lay the foundation that is Elena Phillips Design: artwork, pops of color, layered elements,” says Phillips of the juggernaut designers on her resume. 

Now, Phillips is enjoying making it on her own. “I love being able to do everything, even the paperwork,” she laughs. “So much can happen, and it’s all on me to make it happen, but that’s what’s exciting.”

The designer describes her style as “new traditional.” It’s all about classic design with the element of surprise. “It could be a piece of artwork in an unexpected color, or an accessory you wouldn't think belongs on a shelf or tabletop. Every room needs a modern twist to keep it fresh,” Phillips explains.

For the holidays, that element can be decorations. “You can have a lot of fun with it. Pick a theme and the challenge begins,” Phillips says. She loves sparkle, and for her New Canaan Holiday House Tour project, opted for the combination of greenery and metallics. But when January comes and it’s time to take down those gold spray-painted magnolia leaves, the designer says there’s a need to freshen your space and fill the void the decorations left behind. “Fresh flowers, new frames with holiday pictures, coffee table books. Liven it up!”

Barely into 2014, the Elena Phillips Design calendar is already booked with a wide array of projects including a Greenwich Tudor Revival, a New York City apartment and a weekend home in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Whether refreshing an existing space or working on a complete renovation (like her collaboration with a modernist architect in NYC), Phillips prefers a mix of hues and textures. “Leather is a great material, for example,” she explains. “It can withstand race cars and you can kick your feet up on it. The more it weathers, the better the patina.” She’s also noticing that clients have been asking for bolder, richer colors and patterns. “They’re moving away from yesterday’s safe beiges and tans, and I welcome that.”

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