Interior Designer Mona Ross Berman’s Project Makes “House Beautiful”

Her ’60s surfer-chic makeover of Skirt owner Maureen Doron’s Strathmere beach retreat (plus: a “lady office”)

My Philly Mag lifestyle editor gig means I get to meet a lot of inspiring, stylish people and see a lot of inspiring, stylish spaces. One of these people is Mona Ross Berman, and one of these spaces is the “lady office” she designed for Skirt owner Maureen Doron.

Over iced coffees at Du Jour in Haverford, Berman dished to me about her aesthetic (colorful, a bit funky, yet still classic), her favorite clients (Doron is one of them), and whether or not Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators is how it really works in the world of interior design (yes, the problems portrayed in the show really do creep up, but—as is de riguer with reality shows—they’ve clearly been amped for dramatic effect). Plus, I suspect you’re more likely to encounter bad behavior when you’re working with, say, the eternally divalicious Elton John rather than someone like down-to-earth Doron, who sweetly called me from her sandy perch on the Strathmere beach to talk about the latest feather in Berman’s ever-fashionable cap: An eight-page spread in September’s House Beautiful, featuring the beach house Berman designed for Doron. The splashy photos of the bright “sixties surfer chic” house showcase what we knew about Berman all along: This girl is good. We got the inside scoop on how the shoot went down, what didn’t make it into the mag, and what the women think about the final result.

What was the shoot like?
Mona Ross Berman: It was really genuinely a lot of fun. It took place over three days last September, and it was really a pretty small shoot; there were only four people from the magazine. I had a great amount of confidence in [the house], but I thought, maybe they’re going to arrive with a big truck of accessories and switch everything out. But they didn’t! They showed up with flowers and fresh fruit and some very small dinner accessories. They really used what we had, which was nice.

What’s your favorite piece in the house?
MRB: The dining room table, which you see on the opening page of the feature. It’s based on a vintage table I saw in Miami years ago. And I thought, who’s going to let me paint a chevron pattern on this table? And [Doron] loved it. That set the tone for the color palette and the feel of the house; it was a launching pad for the rest of the design.

Maureen Doron: I do like the painted floors in the master bedroom. I just had to have it. They were brand new, beautiful quality wood floors. And I said, ‘I want to paint them.’ And everyone looked at me like I was crazy, except Mona. It’s kind of unexpected, and you either love it or hate it. And I love it.

Were there any shots that didn’t make it in?
MRB: There was one shot that they didn’t use, the foyer, which might be one of my favorite rooms in the house.

The house is so colorful, and fashion-y.
MD: One fabric in particular that I love is a Trina Turk fabric [Trina Turk for Schumacher Pisces pattern, seen on the chair in the dining room], because we carry her in the store. I actually loved [the fabric] so much that when I opened the Stone Harbor Skirt store, I used that fabric as the awning and in the dressing rooms. It went from the clothing I sold into my beach house and back into my store.

And the orange barn doors are amazing.
MD: The barn doors were our builder’s idea [Michael Donahue Builders of Avalon, NJ], and he did an amazing job. We would give him our biggest praise ever.

So what are you going to do with your copy of House Beautiful?
MD: Maybe we’ll put it on the coffee table. I do think it will be something cool to look at years from now when the kids have destroyed the house totally. It will be fun to look at it and see how perfect it looked for that first summer we lived in it.

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