This collector masterfully mixes old and new in her Raleigh home. See how her travels, work, and family influenced her eclectic style.

By Katy Kiick Condon Brie Williams and Jennifer Berno Decleene
June 19, 2019

Jessica Swaney has always been a collector at heart, but it was her years as a home-goods buyer that taught her the power of one-of-a-kind treasures. In her Raleigh, NC, home, each room started with one standout find and evolved from there.

The home's outdoor space was a big selling point for Jessica and Ben Swaney. It adds precious living space to their 1,700-square-foot house, so Jessica worked hard to make it feel like an extension of the inside. She started with bistro chairs from Serena and Lily that reflect the interior’s recurring blue-and-white palette, then she gave the natural wood a floor-to-ceiling glossy white paint job—another parallel with the inside.

“I had to have a leather sofa,” Jessica says. “We have a huge standard poodle and a cat who likes to pick at furniture. Leather just looks better over time, so I don’t stress about scratches or spills.” Above it, a framed piece of Indian embroidery echoes the sofa’s scale and warm tone. It’s one of a series of patterned textiles on throw pillows, a re-covered vintage chair, and a side table draped in fabric from Istanbul. “You don’t need a seamstress; it’s OK if it hangs a little long or short in some areas. That’s what makes it effortless.”

A console table features a stack of folded fabric—a sort of album from Jessica’s travels. “Textiles are easy to pack and easy to store, so I always bring a piece home. Whenever I have a new upholstery project, I have these great fabrics on hand.”

Jessica cast aside traditional rooms for more functional spaces. “We didn’t use the dining room often, so arranging books and accents on the table is a way I could use the space and show off my collections.” More fun fabrics carry the textile motif throughout the home.

When they moved in, the first thing they bought was a large painting by local artist Sally King Benedict. “What better way to celebrate the start of a chapter and a new house than with a piece of art?” Jessica says. Blue tones from the portrait appear throughout the house.

Before moving in, they decided that every room in the house needed a paint job. Jessica used Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White throughout. “It was hard to choose paint when the design was so unsettled. I am clearly drawn to pattern and color and a mix of textiles, so I figured with white the eye is at least able to rest between the layers,” she says. She also chose white support pieces like curtains, lampshades, and frames, and even painted some vintage finds like the wicker screen in the sunroom.

Not all antiques were transformed though. “I’ve collected some traditional pieces of classic brown furniture. For a while, everyone was painting it, but I love that these are timeless and can grow with me. I try to use them in a new way instead of changing their look,” she says, noting the secretary that displays photos and travel mementos.

Jessica used vintage blue-and-white fabric from her collection to cover the headboard. “This is the only room we painted a color. I love blues and greens together. It’s super calming,” she says. The blue quilt is new but looks vintage. “The dog naps here, so this is an extra layer I can easily strip to wash.”

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