House Tour with Life Lessons: Tom Fallon’s Shelter Island Cottage

Over the years, we’ve learned A LOT of lessons about home design from our friend Tom Fallon. Having worked for most of his life in fashion,  he was always obsessed with interiors. We’d marvel as, over a single weekend, he’d transform his NYC apartment or his Shelter Island house, and at the sage advice he gave us for fixing up our modest digs for little money.

His spaces were always appearing in shelter and style magazines —from World of Interiors to The NY Times Home Section — the latest being Hamptons Cottages & Gardens; it recently featured his two-story, three-bedroom Shelter Island cottage built in 1875 as part of a Methodist Church vacation camp.

Photograph by Jason Penney

Jason Penney

The article’s images illustrate just a few of the lessons we learned. Perhaps the biggest is that retirement doesn’t mean “it’s over”. When he left the fashion world, Tom slid effortlessly into home design and has been having a ball ever since, “tinkering” to achieve stylish comfortable spaces for his clients and friends. He keeps his business “a one-man operation” by choice so he can be hands-on and do even minor fixes if he choses.

The very practical lessons we learned from Tom include:

…the virtues of linen slipcovers; they can be washed when soiled so stay enduringly good-looking. The secret: wash the linen BEFORE making the slipcovers so the fabric will be already shrunk.

…painting a dark space a basic linen white, which opens it up, lets light bounce around and makes it seem bigger.

Jason Penney

Jason Penney

Tom likes to mix things up by using quirky, unexpected paint colors. At Shelter Island, Tom painted  most of the ceilings the traditional blue often seen on Victorian porches. He also boldly painted vintage wood armoires white to make them blend in with the room while serving as essential closets.

Photograph by Jason Penney

Jason Penney

We also learned to appreciate quirky artwork and primitive paintings, Russell Christoffersen‘s above…

…and that we didn’t have to use something in the way it was intended. Tom repurposed striped sheets from Ralph Lauren Home to cover a daybed, above.

This hallway is a lesson in the simple stylishness of primitive paintings and vintage rag rugs.

Photograph by Jason Penney

Jason Penney

While he’s pretty precise in styling the INSIDE of his cottage, he purposely cultivates an overgrown garden, to balance and add mystery to the Victorian gingerbread.

Photograph by Jason Penney

Jason Penney

Of his personal style, Tom says:  The only interesting rooms are eclectic ones, so I like to mix things up.” 

via Cottages & Gardens; photographys by Jason Penney

2 Responses to House Tour with Life Lessons: Tom Fallon’s Shelter Island Cottage

  1. lynn krugman 07.29.2014 at 7:33pm #

    My question:
    How does one order linen slipcovers “pre-washed”, if ordering from a catalog type store?
    I have owned many slipcovered couches and chairs, all of which I choose machine washable linen type covers, because of our large dog traffic.

  2. Sally 07.29.2014 at 10:25pm #

    Sorry, I should have clarified. This is only if you are making them yourself OR are having them made. I did it years ago: bought some wonderfully striped linen (similar to Tom’s) and washed and ironed it. THEN I started draping it on the sofa with the seamstress to fashion a slipcover with fabric that pooled a bit on the floor in parts, like a dress. It was wonderful. I could wash it and when I put it back on the sofa, it fit like a glove. And lasted for a good 15 years before I gave it away.

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