Correction to This Article
This article and captions misspelled the last name of designer Jill Sorensen.

Open House: Design tips from Marmalade Interiors

Jill Sorenson of Marmalade Interiors shares the decor secrets of her Mediterranean-style home in McLean, Va.
By Holly E. Thomas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 14, 2010

Interior designers have their own quirky preferences, challenging spaces and limited budgets. Three local stylists share the strategies they use at home.

A former Ford model and art-school graduate who launched a full-time interior design business a year ago, Jill Sorenson is not afraid of color. After a divorce five years ago, Sorenson, who is in her 40s, bought a Mediterranean-style house in McLean and began revamping its French country aesthetic: painting the walls glowing peach, sunny yellow and Tiffany blue, and incorporating graphic rugs and animal hides. "I don't think there are any colors that don't go together -- if you have two you think don't go, add a third one, and suddenly it'll work, " she says.

Sorenson is launching an online company to offer design ideas by theme ("Glamour Girl" or "Modern Bachelor") and sell corresponding products. "I like the idea of defining interiors to suit a personality," she says.

Sorenson's home, which she shares with her 9-year-old son, is filled with salvaged and repurposed items, ranging from antique chairs reupholstered in modern fabrics to a $5 thrift-store lamp painted bright turquoise. The designer scours charity resale shops, thrift stores, yard sales and Craigslist, searching for gently used pieces that she can reimagine. Her favorite spot? Joseph's Coat Resale Shop in Falls Church, which supports victims of domestic violence. "I look at the shape and the sturdiness of a piece," she says. "I love buying something and giving it a complete makeover. There's so much that you can do if you allow yourself to be creative and not stick to what's expected."


1. A fan of Kelly Wearstler, Sorenson found herself with a surplus of one of the celeb designer's fabrics. To avoid an overdose of the same pattern, Sorenson covered one chair with the material right-side out, then used the material wrong-side out on a second chair. "A lot of times I look at a fabric and like the back of it better," Sorenson says. The result is pieces that feel complementary, yet not overly coordinated. Visit to browse Kelly Wearstler fabrics.

2. "If you go through your home, I guarantee there are pieces from the past that you don't like, that don't fit in the design anymore," Sorenson says. "Think of ways you can re-create that chair or that chest of drawers, and think outside the box -- who says the frame of the chair can't be orange?" In the master bedroom, an antique desk looks fresh with a coat of glossy persimmon-orange lacquer, while an ornate chair in the sitting room is boutique-hotel-worthy, thanks to new cushions in a black-and-white graphic print.

3. Sorenson revived old Pottery Barn pillows by having a seamstress add contrasting grosgrain ribbon in a Greek key pattern. "Just get some ribbon, and you can make any pattern," she says, "and you can find a seamstress anywhere -- it doesn't have to be through an upholstery shop." Sorenson used the same design trick on the curtains, adding black ribbon to the ivory panels in her living room. For ideas and supplies, she regularly peruses the Web site for M&J Trimming, the New York decorative trim mecca (

PHOTO GALLERY: See photos of Jill Sorenson's home

PLUS: More interior design tips from Regan Ruiz Interiors and Chad Alan Designs

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