Wit and whimsy

Home + Garden Style

March 31, 2021



Traci Zeller designs a “gossip room” with 3-D birds and butterflies and Parisian accents.

by Cathy Martin  •  photographs by Stephen Karlisch

Traci Zeller had the design community all aflutter last fall with her butterfly-themed “gossip room” at the prestigious Kips Bay Decorator Show House in Dallas.

“The room was labeled ‘vestibule’ on the home’s floor plans, but a vestibule certainly isn’t exciting, and it also leaves the space without a true function,” says Zeller, who also designed the adjacent powder room. A brainstorming session with a close friend led to the clever new moniker for the space.

So what exactly is a “gossip” room? Zeller explains.

“I’m more of an introverted personality, and if I need a little break from a party, I’ll often excuse myself for a quiet moment — I’m especially delighted if there’s a lounge area adjacent to the restrooms. Plus, we all know girlfriends travel to the restroom together, especially at social events. That’s our chance to catch up without people within earshot!” 

For the walls, Zeller chose Bassett McNab’s “Birds and Butterfly” fabric, hung as a wallcovering and embellished with butterflies, birds and flowers embroidered by Charlotte artist Stephen Wilson and his team, creating a unique 3-D effect. 

“Stephen already creates art installations using beautifully detailed embroidered butterflies, and it occurred to me that I could treat the entire room as a canvas for one of those installations — plus birds and flowers, of course,” the interior designer says. The project was such a success, Zeller and Wilson are now contemplating a 3-D wallpaper collaboration.

Sitting atop the tassel fringe-trimmed banquette are pillows in a bold graffiti  fabric hand-painted by N.A.S.T.Y., a Paris-based artist. “I love the juxtaposition between the old and slightly crusty nature of antiques and the youthful insouciance of graffiti,” Zeller says. The gold cocktail table with an acrylic shadow-box top from Tommy Mitchell is filled with more butterflies. Zeller found the oversized intaglios at a French antiques fair, then had them framed at Art Aspects. The table lamp and vanity mirror are crafted of rock crystal by a small lighting studio in Paris.

The showhouse fundraiser, which benefits the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club of New York, was started in New York City in 1973 and has since expanded to Palm Beach and, in 2020, Dallas. Participating designers are selected from across the country and assigned rooms by lottery. “Designing a room in a Kips Bay showhouse is a career highlight for any designer,” Zeller says. “While I may have had the smallest space in the house, I think it packed a big punch.”  SP

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