Writing yet another book is all in a day's work for Long Island native Tricia Foley, an interior designer. Her 10th design book, "Lifestyle: Elegant Simplicity at Home" (Rizzoli, $45), chronicles the 13-year renovation and decorating of her home, once a ramshackle 19th century farmhouse in Yaphank. The book tops off Foley's previous hardcover titles on ways to blend classic elements with favorite furnishings to create a genteel personal environment.
The first-person account, illustrated with 200 stunning photos, makes for an inspiring read as Foley revisits the pitfalls, triumphs and "how to's" of dusting off the house's old bones and bringing it back to life as an inviting, functional and chic domain. "But basically it's all about my style," she says, as she serves tea in white porcelain cups complete with snowy linen napkins, the silver spoons adding rare splashes of color in her all-white country kitchen.
Perhaps the essence of Foley's style is best explored in the book's insightful foreword by her friend and fellow Long Islander, actress and model Isabella Rossellini, whose tribute reads, in part: "Let me free-associate words that come to mind with the name 'Tricia Foley.' White, orderly, clean, calm, comforting, serene, simple, inclusive, warm. . . . Trish has found a way to communicate her observations, emotions and thoughts in whispers, in kind of a restrained visual language. I find this language of simplicity very poetic."
An entire chapter is devoted to Foley's passion for the color white, the whys and hows of its use on everything from washable canvas slipcovers to enameled tabletops. "White is what makes this house my home," she says. And the house works hard; it helps her live, work, entertain, host photo shoots and meetings, while any of its parts, like moldings, cabinets and doors were refinished and recycled into the renovation.
In charming anecdotes, Foley confesses her love for old houses and her ambivalence about buying the rundown property on the Carmans River in 2002. "One early foggy morning I walked to the edge of the river when a pair of beautiful swans swam out of the mist to look me over. That did it; I had to have this place," she writes.
Such bits of nostalgia along with savvy advice and tales of the minefields that popped up at every turn make Foley's memories a page-turner. "I camped out in a small bedroom for the duration," she says. "It was relatively undamaged but even then I woke up one morning to find birds flying in and out." Incidents like when the rickety stairs collapsed underfoot, leaving her hanging until a work crew came to her rescue and when the dining room ceiling bulged ominously under a leaky upstairs bathtub are recalled with a touch of wry humor.
Foley's multifaceted career has taken her beyond her roster of A-list clients to consulting gigs with Colonial Williamsburg and The Gettysburg Foundation plus editorial stints for House Beautiful, Victoria and Country Home magazines. As historian for the Yaphank Historical Society, she was a key player as the group earned listings for three houses on the National Register of Historic Places.
The book is packed with tips on what to look for when an older house seems like a bargain, the joy of working at home, organizing storage spaces, casual entertaining, decluttering without guilt; Foley has been there, done that and tells it all.