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How a Williamsburg couple finally got their home décor personal and pulled together

  • Pieces, such as this table in the living room, were carefully selected to fit the couple’s tastes. No more impulse buys or mistake purchases, says Marshall. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Room between the kitchen and upstairs deck at the home of Douglas McVey and Jennifer Marshall in Williamsburg, designed by Keith Woodruff, owner of KW Home in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Room between the kitchen and upstairs deck at the home of Douglas McVey and Jennifer Marshall in Williamsburg, designed by Keith Woodruff, owner of KW Home in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Living room at the home of Douglas McVey and Jennifer Marshall in Williamsburg, designed by Keith Woodruff, owner of KW Home in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pillows and throw in a room between the kitchen and upstairs deck at the home of Douglas McVey and Jennifer Marshall in Williamsburg, designed by Keith Woodruff, owner of KW Home in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jennifer Marshall in a room between the kitchen and upstairs deck at the home of Douglas McVey and Jennifer Marshall in Williamsburg, designed by Keith Woodruff, owner of KW Home in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jennifer Marshall in a room between the kitchen and upstairs deck at the home of Douglas McVey and Jennifer Marshall in Williamsburg, designed by Keith Woodruff, owner of KW Home in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jennifer Marshall in a room between the kitchen and upstairs deck at the home of Douglas McVey and Jennifer Marshall in Williamsburg, designed by Keith Woodruff, owner of KW Home in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Keith Woodruff, owner of KW Home in Easthampton, helped Jennifer Marshall and her husband, Douglas McVey, redesign the interior of their Williamsburg home room by room. Above, Woodruff and Marshall talk in a room between the kitchen and upstairs deck that was redone. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS PHOTOS



For the Gazette
Thursday, July 26, 2018

Before Jennifer Marshall and Douglas McVey reclaimed their house from their cats, it was almost as if their two Maine Coons owned the place and not the other way around. To keep the animals entertained and out of trouble, Marshall explains, “We had every cat toy on the planet, and they still destroyed everything. They even chewed all the paint off the knobs of our kitchen island.”

The couple had resigned themselves to rooms full of random furniture they expected to be shredded because they just couldn’t see an alternative.

Like many people with full-time jobs, pets and children — a 10-year-old daughter, Lucy, and 13-year old twin boys, Reid and John — Marshall and McVey’s pursuit of a personal, pulled-together home had slid to the non-urgent middle of a someday, maybe to-do list. The couple viewed their home, a 1799 Federal Colonial right in Williamsburg, as a lifetime project.

After purchasing the place in 2003, “we promptly had three kids,” and stuck to the most pressing projects, like heating, plumbing, and revamping the avocado-green kitchen, says Marshall, 46, a literary agent. But at night, she would pore over decorating magazines, intent on achieving polished interiors. But when? And how? she wondered. “I was intermittently trying to make my house look nice and failing,” she says. “I thought I could never have a beautiful home.”

Then, she was at the house of a friend who also had pets and kids the same age, yet the friend’s place “looked like Country Home meets House Beautiful.” It turns out her friend had a secret weapon: Easthampton interior designer Keith Woodruff of KW Home.

“I assumed only super-rich people hired designers, and that’s not true. I never thought it was something regular people do.”

She hired Woodruff, who charges $150 for an initial consult and follow-up presentation in his showroom, to come take a look at their challenges. She says it was the best money she ever spent, because Woodruff offered dozens of smart ideas, and helped her see the potential in her underutilized rooms.

They decided to start with just one space — a sunroom off the kitchen, which she says was filled with “a hodgepodge of mistake furniture and a 7-foot-high cat-scratching post in the middle of the room.” Woodruff, who bases subsequent fees on the scope of each project, recommended a gorgeous velvet-like fabric that he said the cats would ignore, and so she took a leap of faith on a down-stuffed blue sofa covered in the life-changing textile. The family went out of town for a week, and when they came home, Woodruff had transformed the space with new pieces, re-upholstered old pieces, a handsome desk, and an antique chest McVey’s grandfather had made, which had been tucked away in a forgotten spot in another room.

Marshall intended the project as an anniversary present for Douglas, 48, the chief financial officer of SystemOne in Springfield, and they were both so stunned and delighted by the results, they asked Woodruff to perform the same magic on the rest of the house, working with them room by room.

Next they collaborated on a den, an unused space that has always functioned as little more than a pass through. “We were missing comfortable hang-out spots, and as my kids enter their teens, I don’t want to miss having a hang out spot,” Marshall explains. Woodruff made room for acres of Marshall’s beloved books, camouflaged an unsightly cat door, and brought in a deep sectional made for popcorn and movie nights. Now, the room has become a favorite family gathering place and the sectional, she notes, can accommodate eight of her children’s friends.

“Usually a new item of upholstered furniture is a siren call for our cats to ‘come and rip me up with your claws — right now!’ But they haven’t scratched Keith’s couches even once — and we’ve had the blue one for a year now. These rooms look like how I dreamed they might look.” she says. Beyond just looking good, the rooms became functional for the first time.

The thing that impressed Marshall was Woodruff’s attitude throughout the process. “If a man can be diplomatic about a giant cat-scratching post, he can handle anything,” she says laughing, “I tell everyone about Keith.” Several of her friends — with tastes ranging from super-modern to rustic — have called him to realize their own unique and dreamy rooms. “Working with him has been such a time and money saver,” Marshall says.

“I used to spend hours obsessing about things online —giant chairs, giant dining tables— that seemed like a good idea in isolation but didn’t end up looking the way I thought they would. I don’t make mistake purchases anymore for my house and I don’t make impulse buys anymore. You can’t overstate how much a beautiful house can do for your mood, and getting there is much harder than it sounds.”

Katy McColl Lukens can be reached at katymccollwork@gmail.com.