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Cabin Fever
Cosmopolitan(August 1997)


Here's how designing woman Alexandra Von Furstenberg restored a shabby old country cabin from eek to chic.

Spending time with the in-laws is probably not right at the top of most newlyweds' priority lists. But when your mother-in-law happens to be internationally famous fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg and owns a breathtaking 100-acre farm in Litchfield County, Connecticut, priorities change! Which is why 24-year-old Manhattan resident Alexandra Von Furstenberg had been seeing quite a bit of her mom-by-marriage lately: She recently renovated her current love nest--a 200-year-old one-bedroom shingle cottage on the sprawling estate.

The bond between the two women was further strengthened when Alexandra became creative director of Diane Von Furstenberg's new "Diane" clothing line. This month marks the launch of their brand-new collection of suits and dresses--including a '90s update of the bestselling '70s wrap dress--available exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue. And while Alexandra's workweeks are often hectic, her weekends are spent relaxing at her country cottage with her 27-year-old hedge-fund manager husband, Alexandra Von Furstenberg. "The place holds very special memories for me," explain Alexandra, "because my husband proposed to me on a rickety old bridge on the farm."

In its newly spruced-up state, it is hard to believe that the cottage was once just used as storage space. "The interior was burried in dust and looked really drab because the bookcases, cabinetry, and wall paneling were made of dark wood," recalls Alexandra. So the couple invaded the 1,000-square-foot space armed with 10 gallons of white paint and two crates of cleaning supplies. "The rooms were instantly brought to life," she says proudly. Instead of laboriously sanding and finishing the extremely damaged wood floors, Alexandra covered them in wall-to-wall sisal carpeting. "in the kitchen, though, we painted a red-and-blue diamond pattern on the floor that is so distracting, you don't even notice the flaws."

Alexandra's decorating strategy is as effortlessly practical as her chic clothing designs. "I wanted stylish yet affordable furnishing," she say admiring her first two purchases: a pair of Crate & Barrel sofas and a Pottery Barn coffee table. She picked up other pieces, including a bed and a small wood table, in the family attic and immediately repainted them white. Even the beside table was recycled. "It had seen better days," recalls Alexandra, "so I threw a tablecloth and a piece of antique lace over it."

The rooms are painted white or injected with accents of color: A living-room wall glows in a soft shade of peach, a kitchen corner is papered in a bold yellow-and-blue stripe, and off-white couches display multicolored throw pillows. And though Alexandra may come to the country to escape the crowds, countless framed photos of family and friends decorate walls and tabletops. "I'm a little sentimental," she says with a smile, eyeing her photographic entourage.

A room-atherapy: Extras That Make Scents

Miscellaneous Banana Republic accessories for putting together a cozy country feel:
Aromatic candles, $18.50
Incence burn sticks, $9.50
Scented stones in Beach
house scent, $ 18.50