Judie and Bennett Weinstock, designers both have developed a loyal following of clients who seek out their comfortable and traditional interiors. Bennett who met Judie as a U. of Penn student nearly half a century ago gave up his career as a divorce lawyer early in the marriage to join Judie in her interior design business. Their devotion to each other left me feeling quite sentimental, as did their home, a beautiful example of the kind of exquisite decorating we see less and less as times change.
Now how long have you two been together?
Judie: Forty-six years.
Bennett: And we dated five years before that. We met in Paris, if you can believe it. More miraculously, we lived in Philadelphia, walking distance from one another and never knew each other. Our parents knew one other, but we didn’t. And, a week after we met in Paris, we met two weeks later, fortuitously in the Sistine Chapel and three weeks after that, we met again by chance at the Prado Museum, where I blew my budget and took her to a wonderful restaurant. We took our children to that restaurant for our 35th wedding anniversary.
The floors of the apartment’s main hall were faux painted by James Alan Smith. The wallpaper is by Zuber.
A chinoiserie grandfather clock from London dealer, Ross Hamilton stands by the front door in the foyer. The blue-and-white ginger jars belonged to Judie’s parents.
Peeking into the kitchen with its checkerboard painted wood floors.
Looking out from the kitchen, a contrast in color and pattern.
A set of blue-and-yellow Dutch ginger jars play off of the yellow and blue kitchen wallpaper from Brunschwig & Fils.
A group of Dutch Delftware from Bardith hangs on a wall above the burl elm breakfast table.
Formal china sets, which belonged to Bennett’s mother, are displayed behind the custom glass-fronted cabinets. Tea and pastries are set out for us.
Stunning Dutch Makkum tiles cover the counter, backsplash and stove fan in the kitchen.
More views of the kitchen
So it was meant to be. That’s pretty amazing.
Bennett: I believe in serendipity.
Do you? Tell me about that. Tell me about serendipity and you changing your career from a divorce lawyer to becoming an interior designer. I think it’s very funny because you probably use that [skill] with your clients.
Bennett: And I’m an amateur psychiatrist … my father was the eldest of ten children and he was very bright but could never go to college because he had to support his siblings. His desire was for me to have a career that he never could have, so that was being a doctor or lawyer. I come from the generation that wanted to please their parents all the time, and I don’t regret it because I think it made me a better designer, but I knew from the time I was little I wanted to be a men’s fashion designer, an architect or an interior designer.
How long did you actually practice law?
Bennett: Thirteen years. But when I was in law school and in college, I did my apartment from the Salvation Army and thrift shops. I used bathing suit fabric to make draperies. And when we first got married, people would say, “Help us with our apartment,” and we would help people as a favor.
In the master bedroom, a pair of paper-maché portraits from H.M. Luther hang above a French bed from Howard Kaplan.
Petit-point pillows top a patchwork quilt sewn by Judie.
The French bed is covered in silk fabric from Old World Weavers.
Looking across the master bedroom . A pair of Paris porcelain lamps with custom shades from Blanch Field flank the bed. The walls are covered in Zuber.
A photograph of Bennett’s mother stands near carefully arranged Limoges boxes.
A small ‘bonheur du jour’ satinwood desk from Hyde Park antiques is flanked by a pair of balloon back chairs purchased in New Hope, PA.
A collection of Delft shoes from Bardith stand atop a pair of small shelves purchased in London. The inkwell was a gift from David Duncan.
One of a pair of appliqué and watercolor portraits hang below the small shelves in the bedroom.
An oversized armoire camouflages the master bedroom TV.
French Bergère chairs from the Marché aux Puces are upholstered by DeAngelis in Old World Weavers fabric.
A silver shaving set stands atop a small mahogany chest in Bennnett’s bath. The wall and floor tiles are from Country Floors, the wallpaper is from Clarence House
A French tole dry sink opens up to the bath’s actual enamel sink.
A view into the master bedroom from Bennett’s bath.
What didn’t you like about the law?
Bennett: When I went into the law I thought it was virtuous and moral profession—but a lot of it was not. I was always more creative. We had a wonderful man on our side, who was Judie’s father who was like a father to me. He was a very elegant and respected lawyer and when I went to tell him I thought he would be shocked and disparaging but he said that whatever is going to make you and my daughter happy, I want you to do.
What is it like working together all these years? I think you are the only decorators I have interviewed who have been married for this long, have children and worked together for this long. It’s unique.
Judie: We’re very compatible … in everything. We work well together. He’s more the people person. I do a lot of the legwork.
Bennett: We have no division of responsibility. There is no such thing as a male and female role. We both took care of the kids. Judie is a great cook but I am a good dishwasher.
Judie’s bath and dressing room was created by combining a maid’s room with the hall bath. needlepoint pelmet with striped silk balloon curtains play off of the soft pink and green tones of the wallpaper and tiles.
Cabinet doors from a hand-painted French screen are set into a wall of tiles from French Country Floors. The small French chair was purchased at Douglas Martin Antiques in Philadelphia.
The doors of the base cabinet were painted by artist Margaret Shay to match the closet doors, which were originally part of a painted French screen.
Gilt shower fixtures from P.E. Guerin dress up the shower and bath. The flower wallpaper is from Rose Cumming.
A French vanity set from an antique store on Pine Street in Philadelphia is arranged in front of a photo of Judie and Bennett’s daughter in her wedding gown.
Judie’s bath and dressing room bring spring inside throughout the year.
There must have been times when you thought it was too much, working together ...
Judie: No. I never thought that way.
It’s interesting because for families, it must be appealing to have a couple designing their home.
Bennett: I will say that so many of our closest friends today are people we’ve met as total strangers, working with them—and I use the word ‘with’ not ‘for’ because we’ve never worked ‘for’ someone. We’ve had more than one client say, “You’ve not only decorated my home, but you’ve decorated my life.” One of the things with the woman I’m going to Paris with next week … not only are we looking for furniture but she expects me to spend a couple of hours with her going clothes shopping.
I knew you were going to say that! Do you like doing that?
Bennett: I love doing that.
Judie and Bennett’s cozy den sometimes doubles as guest room. A scene from Napoleon’s battle at Waterloo hangs above the sofa.
Needlepoint pillows in Armorial patterns top an Avery Boardman convertible sofa covered in Old World Weaver fabric.
Judie and Bennett’s cozy library is a mix of patterns and colors that skillfully and seamlessly work together.
A group of shields from different clubs in England hangs above a screen Bennett found at a ‘junk sale’ in Philadelphia.
Family photos share space with bibelots and vintage war metals.
Above: Colored enamel boxes are arranged next to a bronze lamp from Judie’s parents..
Right: The Art of the Chair.
A quirky miniature military hat was found in Campden Passage in London.
You’re known for a more traditional design, but do you have any idea when you look at the stuff now, what is going to have staying power? Unfortunately because of the economy, people are buying [cheaper] stuff for the moment.
Bennett: When we first got married we had a lot of Dunbar furniture and Vladimir Kagan. Judie was a little ahead of her time that way. So we mixed that with things—and those pieces are very collectible now. We have a lot of dear friends who are English antique dealers and they’re really suffering today.
People are living much more casually.
Bennett: Look at the dress code.
Judie: No question. And standards are different. Nobody wants silver and good china. They don’t entertain like that anymore.
Bennett: It has almost nothing to do with a person’s finances. They don’t want fragile things like that. They’ll spend the money for a costly painting. In many cases it’s not even because they fall in love with it—it’s what all their friends are buying.
An eight-paneled screen with a faux book front from Keith Skeel in London fills a dining room wall.
A Russian chandelier is suspended over a Georgian rent table and painted Sheraton chairs from Kentshire Antiques.
The needlepoint fabric for seat cushions was found at the Black Angus Market in Lancaster, PA.
Looking across the dining room with its lively hand-painted floor pattern. The muffin table is filled with porcelain and opaline plates.
One of a pair of Regency bookcases found on the Lower East Side is filled with antique portraits and photo albums.
People want everything to be open plan and they don’t want formal dining rooms.
Bennett: And they want flat screen televisions on every wall. We do not have a television, in any of our rooms, exposed.
That used to be the old way, that you would hide your television.
Judie: Actually, we had a cabinet maker ask one day if an armoire was a religious piece of furniture. We said, “Why do you ask?” And he said because every Jewish family has an armoire with a television in it! [Laughs]
That is so funny! Do you find that with all this media and casual living that the art of conversation is dying?
Judie: Down the drain.
Bennett: I mean you can go to a dinner party and find people texting during dinner. It’s outrageous. Judie gets upset with me because I’m a slave to my cell phone.
Judie: I say to him you are not in a life and death business. You’re not a brain surgeon.
A view across the living room into the dining room. The walls are wrapped in a rose-colored damask silk from Cowtan and Tout.
English Crown Porcelain urns stand atop a Hepplewhite satinwood china cabinet on the south wall of the living room.
An Italian portrait of a young girl formerly hung in the offices of Baker furniture.
The living room curtains, in silk Scalamandré fabric, were made by the Miller Parisian Workshop in Philadelphia.
A pair of Sheraton chairs from M. Turpin in London are covered in a Scalamandré stripe.
Looking into a corner of the living room a 19th century miniature chaise from Alexander Gallery stands below an anonymous portrait of a young girl.
A green tole tray table from Kentshire is set with an antique Meissen porcelain tea set.
Standing atop the exquisitely carved pine mantel is a French clock with a portrait of Empress Marie-Louise. The Sheraton chairs are from M. Turpin antiques in London.
A English églomisé mirror from Kentshire hangs above the carved pine fireplace mantel.
A group of porcelain objects and boxes is arranged atop a japanned table from Kentshire. The Chinese Export lamp is from Marvin Alexander.
Delicate Chelsea porcelain perfume bottles are displayed atop a mahogany sofa table.
Looking into the foyer from the living room. The portrait of a young woman is by an anonymous American painter.
An early 19th century French needlepoint rug from Sotheby’s pulls together the living fabrics and furniture.
People don’t even realize it’s rude. There are no rules for technology. What did you do when you didn’t have a cell phone?
Judie: We managed! We still use a typewriter.
Bennett: That’s right. We have a computer but we still use the typewriter. I still light candles every night when I sit down to have a glass of wine before we go out for dinner. And Judie, before her back was bad, would iron the sheets on our bed every morning.
Both the top and the bottom?
Judie: Just the top.
Bennett: I used to tease people and say, that’s why I have no wrinkles ... because a couple of times she ironed me.