Photo: Sang An
In the past, though, she had to listen to other opinions. When she and her then husband, Conrad, built the house in the early 1980s, she asked designer Paul Siskin (now one of Cafritz's dearest friends and godfather to her 17-year-old son, Cooper) to help. "With couples it's always a compromise, sometimes successful, sometimes not," Siskin explained over the phone, recalling Conrad's taste for 19th-century French paintings. After her 1998 divorce, Cafritz began to fill the rooms with art of her own choosing. "It didn't have to be a joint decision," she says with a mischievous laugh. "The old girl could decide what she really loved."
On the main floor she made mostly cosmetic changes, including curtains and paint for the dining room. She turned an upstairs area into a game room, a place where she could relax with her two sons (the older one, Zachary, is 24). On one wall, she hung one of her favorite political statements, a painting of George W. Bush as a toy cowboy shooting up the environment. "The house is more reflective of my singular personality," she says. "Before, it was more reflective of my married personality."
Nowhere is that singular personality more apparent than in Cafritz's bedroom. When I ask to see it, she hesitates, then says, "Oh, o-kay," walking me up to the landing, where it is impossible to ignore a gigantic baby by Max Streicher and a painting of a woman in a Gauguin-like tropical landscape by Loren Holland. The minute we enter the bedroom, Cafritz flops onto the bed, a modernist rectangle chosen by Siskin. He helped her rethink the space, he told me, but mostly watched with admiration while Cafritz made her unpredictable choices. "I wanted a banquette, but that's not who Peggy is. Peggy is a woman of huge style. She picks her furniture like she picks her art. It's about the color, the shape. Everything works and nothing works. It's not about working. It's not about going together."
"I like mixing things up," Cafritz says. "What rules my head is my arrogant notion that I have a good eye." Lounging on her bed, bolstered by a profusion of cushions, she is in her element. The room is buttery with sunlight, the furnishings beyond quirky: There is a hanging bubble chair, a rug that looks as if there might be a goat beneath it, a chaise bought from an antiques dealer. While the downstairs has a dignified aspect, up here the mood is playful—as is Cafritz herself. "Everything is new," she says, "and now it's quite girly." She thinks about that. "Well, you might call it haute girly. It's my den of blank. But this is where I get most of my work done."
The master bathroom is her pride and joy, with its lovely mosaic tile, fabric art by Shinique Smith, and paintings on layered tulle by Irfan Önürmen. "This used to be two bathrooms," Cafritz says, "and I greedily made it into one"—including miles of closet space. She grins. "If I ever fall in love, I guess I could make this into two sinks…."
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