Timelessly Transitional

Layer and scale drive the design decisions in this elegant, comfortable condo.

By Jamie Siebrase
Photography by Anne Matheis


A faceted mirror from Brody’s and two sparking glass obelisks shine above a simple wood chest with clean, contemporary lines. “The entry gives you an idea of what you’re in for,” says Colleen Ertl, Vice President of Design at Diane Breckenridge Interiors. She’s referring to a transitional interior distinguished by its elegance, simplicity and brazen nod to the past, too. 

“We had a very, very traditional home prior to purchasing our condo,” explains the homeowner. When she and her husband downsized to a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom space, they were looking for something fresh, clean and comfortable — a whole new look, essentially, that Ertl delivered with a scheme built on two enduring design principles: layer and scale.

Take the living room, where Ertl established depth by rolling charcoal carpet over hardwood. “Lighter furniture sits on that,” she says, pointing to a solid Pearson chenille sofa, chairs with patterns of varying sizes and shapes and a modern leather recliner — because, Ertl says, “Everyone needs a recliner.” Dark throw pillows supply the next layer; petite additions, though, are overlain by sprawling built-ins that add personality while allowing the homeowners to showcase their accessories. 

Bookcases are tricky business. “With a large wall of shelving, it’s best to use a few big pieces, and break them up with books,” Ertl says, advising homeowners to resist the urge to shove everything on their shelves. “Design,” Ertl reiterates, “is all about finding the right scale.” 

In the dining room, proportionality meant swallowing up a large, blank wall with a massive piece of contemporary art from a local gallery. That, in turn, called for subtle furniture: a straightforward wood table and sand-colored velvet chairs upholstered in a six-sided geo fabric with topstitching. Those chairs continue the whole-house palette, a gray motif perpetuated by Benjamin Moore Indian River walls; nickel finish fixtures – a chandelier plus pendants in the kitchen and sconces in the master bathroom – complement a warm, livable hue.  

Transitional deviates from traditional, true, but the genre can still feel timeless. The master bathroom – a total renovation – is utterly classic, with Carrera tile bridging the gap between periods. In the adjacent bedroom you’ll notice a stunning secretary from the owners’ previous home. The couple found the desk in New York on a vacation with their daughter, and wouldn’t dream of discarding it. The armless chair, too, was a keeper. “And, we repurposed the headboard,” adds Ertl, explaining, “It’s fine to bring pieces with you that are sentimental, even when they don’t scream contemporary. I think it’s a shame to give up some of your history for a new design look.”   

Designer: Colleen Ertl, Diane Breckenridge Interiors, 314-727-2323
Entry Lamp: Brody's Lamp & Shade, 314-647-3318