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By Diane di Costanzo — COTTAGES & GARDENS
Photographs by Tom McWilliam


Olive. Peach. Raspberry. Cream. When Debbie Fields describes a room she’s decorated it sounds deliciously edible. In fact, the Greenwich-based interior designer uses color in the same way a master chef blends flavors and textures: A satiny sweetness balances a jolt of spice while a rich, savory note offsets a bite of citrus.

The effect of Fields’s palette is best seen in her own home, where she says she feels compelled to go bold. “I’m a designer. I use my home to show clients it’s okay to be a few steps out of the box with color,” says Fields, who was born and bred in New York and moved to her first home outside of Manhattan just three years ago, about the time she launched her business, Designs by Deborah. Newly married, she and husband Howard Fields acquired a picturesque Connecticut classic—an early 1900s side hall Colonial with wide, welcoming porches and a white picket fence lined with yellow roses.

Inside, though, the style moves from quintessentially Colonial toward a look “between traditional and modern,” says the designer, who chose a mix of classically constructed furnishings from Swaim, Baker and Henredon along with European antiques and streamlined Danish pieces. But no matter whose home she finds herself working in, she insists on rooms that work. “I’m so over form taking precedent over function,” Fields says firmly.

She points to an elegant settee covered in a glossy, diamond-pattern satin embellished with velvet details—a deceptively rigid-looking piece with durable fabric and a deep, comfortable seat. “You could cuddle with a child on this,” she says. “A good designer can make a space that functions but still looks formal.”

Fields relies on color to both style a home and establish a flow among its various rooms. “All the rooms need to speak to each other,” she says. “Styles can shift but there has to be a visual flow.” The walls in her dining room are painted a deep olive, for example, a color that’s repeated in the curved velvet sofa in the living room and the stripe in the Brunschwig & Fils Roman shades. The sofa is tossed with pillows in gorgeous, complimentary colors—copper, peach and gold tones—with one a deep sapphire that corresponds with the blue in the kitchen.

Throughout the house, Fields’s passion for textiles is on display. “Certain pieces have been with me for years,” she says, admitting she is a serial re-upholsterer who changes the look of her furniture to reflect new moods or moments in her life. For instance, a dramatic China-red love seat was countrified when Fields moved it from her New York apartment to her Greenwich kitchen, where it now sits covered in blue gingham.

Likewise, curtains are a Field specialty, though she frowns upon voluminously swagged windows that look like an entire fabric store hangs around their frames.

Fields’s windows are tailored with the fine taste of a bespoke suit, with crisp and precise lengths of good silk constructed with dressmakers’ details. However, they’re not so decorous that they go unnoticed. In her own home, for instance, she uses buttercup yellow and a raspberry rose.

Fields admits that she returns to favorite colors when decorating her own spaces. For instance, she loves French blue in a bedroom—her headboard is covered in blue leather and she prizes a pair of painted urns detailed with the same shade—but for clients she’s willing to work in almost any color. “Almost,” she says with a smile.

An avid art collector, Fields has amassed a trove of paintings that are also all about color. One favorite depicts a simple bowl of lemons; another Charleston, S.C.’s Rainbow Row of townhouses, famous for their many-hued facades. Admiring them, she says, “I simply don’t view the world in black and white.”