Wendy Lipsey was living with parents Susan and Richard Lipsey — as she recovered from liver and kidney transplant surgery this past March — when she quickly realized there was no way she was going to be able to transform her new house into a home. So, she called up best friend Ellen Sager and mutual interior designer friend Aimée Walker and did something she rarely does — ask for help.
A call to Sager and the wheels were turning.
The only directions from Lipsey were that they incorporate the new rug she had purchased for her living room, that she wanted a fuzzy rug to step on first thing every morning, a “squishy” comforter for her bed that she could “get lost in” and a surprise in every corner.
“I told Aimée to do all the things she’d wanted to do but that her other clients were afraid to let her,” says Lipsey. “I told her I wanted turquoise, lime green, orange — fun, bright colors.”
Lipsey, who first had a liver transplant in 2009, bought the house last summer for her and 16-year-old son Luke Shiroda shortly after her divorce. But, before she could even unpack all the boxes, she began to get sick. “I didn’t have the emotional or physical ability to make this a home,” she explains. “It was a house, not a home.”
Lipsey was diagnosed with hepatic encephalopathy, a deterioration of brain function that is a serious complication of liver disease. She received a liver and kidney transplant, but the surgery left her weak and unable to tackle the long put-off task of decorating her house.
With their marching orders from Lipsey and a “no budget” declaration from her dad, the two friends went to work.
“It was great,” Sager says. “We got to go shopping and spend someone else’s money.
“We did lots and lots of shopping,” she continues. “We sat in every chair, every sofa. We laid on mattresses. Even if I wasn’t officially shopping, I was always looking. There were a lot of pictures texted back and forth.”
“She (Lipsey) didn’t know anything,” says Walker of the design process. “I ran the big-ticket items by her, and we showed her fabric swatches and the tile for the bathroom, but that was it.”
The big reveal was a little over a month ago; they even videoed it. Lipsey, son Luke and her mom went screaming from room to room. It was everything she dreamed of and more.
“I was so excited, so happy,” says Lipsey. “I’d been waiting so long for this house to become a home.”
In the living room are a sofa and love seat in a deep turquoise. In a corner next to the fireplace is an ultra modern floor lamp. What had been a table runner Lipsey owned was snipped in half and framed to flank a large bookcase.
In the master bedroom, a fuzzy turquoise rug gives Lipsey her soft landing in the morning from a bed covered with an inviting comforter.
On each side of the bed are night stands that once belonged to Lipsey’s grandmother, the late Anna Lipsey. Walker had the legs cut down and topped them with marble.
“I’ve had them since I was 15,” says Lipsey. “I always loved them and knew I’d use them one day.”
“We tried to keep it as personal as we could, using as many pieces that she already had,” explains Walker. “The whole time we kept in mind, ‘Is this something Wendy will love? Will she want to relax and enjoy her home?’ We were looking to make a peaceful retreat that showed her fun, energetic personality.”
Walker and Sager were inspired by Lipsey’s favorite movie, “Moonraker,” when it came time to decorate the guest powder room. It’s tucked under the stairs and has a secret door.
“When we discovered it we both said, ‘James Bond!,’” recalls Walker.
The focal point is a customized painting by local artist Maria Boudreaux, who also did the two paintings hanging in the dining room. They match the print of the fabric used for the draperies, which match the mirrored front of the credenza in the foyer.
Putting the finishing touches on making the house a home was home organizer Amy Howe.
“She came in and got everything organized — the closet, Wendy’s jewelry, the pots and pans, the pantry. We purged everything and gave away bag after bag to Goodwill and local shelters,” says Walker. “She’s pretty much gone from not wanting to come to this house to not wanting to leave.”
So, what does Lipsey love most about her home?
“I love to cook, so I really like the kitchen, and my bedroom feels like a spa. It’s my retreat. Luke’s happy; he’s got the whole upstairs,” Lipsey says. “I’ve been here over a month now and I haven’t changed a thing.”