'True Prep' author Lisa Birnbach's tips for preppy decorating

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prep decor, just like the clothing, is all about accessories.

Thank goodness I got "The Official Preppy Handbook" before I married into the Eastern Establishment. You see, I was part of the Eastern European establishment.

My husband's Mummy went to boarding school in Greenwich and wore battered Bass Weejuns into her 80s. My mother-in-law was not so sure, even though I owned multiple Lacoste shirts and always stocked Triscuits, that I could provide a suitably decorated home with enough monogrammed silver for her son. For an engagement gift, she presented me with a set of starched cocktail napkins hand-embroidered in Madeira with a Gypsy motif. She once commented that the living room her son and I had assembled "was decorated in the colors of the Lithuanian flag." We ended up inheriting her portrait that now hangs in our bedroom and a collection of her large ashtrays.

But enough about me. I spoke to Lisa Birnbach about the essentials of prep decorating (besides a bar stocked with Bombay Sapphire and Schweppes). Preppy residences are no longer dreary, dust-filled, granny-style cribs with faded Oriental rugs. In "True Prep," Birnbach offers a step-by-step guide to creating a proper family mudroom, accessorized with wellies, a potting table and an extra-large box of Goldfish from Costco.

We asked her for more suggestions for the preppy love shack of 2010.

Shag rugs. (Preppies love to dance and love to have sex.)

Stacks of the late, great Domino magazine.

"Keep Calm and Carry On" posters.

Philippe Starck's clear plastic Ghost Chairs for Kartell. (After all, they are modern versions of classic antiques.)

High-thread-count sheets. (They even sell them at Bed Bath & Beyond now. Don't forget, preppies are cheap.)

Stuff from thrift shops, preferably located in Old Guard towns such as Cos Cob or Chatham, where you'll find castoffs from the right people.

Ashes of ancestral dogs. Birnbach keeps the cremains of her late Yorkie, Archie, in a box. Says Birnbach, "A dead dog is a decorating must."

-- Jura Koncius

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