Living with Style, People, Places & Spaces, The Newport Diary

Newport Tastemaker: Eileen Marcuvitz

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As a full-time designer for over thirty years and owner of Plum Interiors, Eileen Marcuvitz ‘s impressive project list includes spaces both public (the restaurant at the Boston Public Library) and private (Alec Baldwin’s Tribeca loft.)  Add Florence, Italy (an enviably large, full-floor apartment in an ancient palazzo) to the venues of Boston, Newport, New York and Palm Beach  and you realize the breadth of her accomplishments.

Eileen is a full-time Newport resident and friend of many years, with whom I’ve shared experiences from home-building (we had the same contractor) to bemoaning the temperamental periwinkle in our gardens.

Hales IMG_6617A true sophisticate, who personifies her own definition of glamour (“a man or woman dressing with a simple elegance in style and attitude”) whether she’s leaving a Pilates class or off to a black-tie wedding, Eileen’s philosophy is simple but compelling… “to create beautiful places for my clients to live in, spaces that they will not tire of. Their environment should give them a sense of peacefulness, of having left the world behind.”

Eileen, who  has offices in Boston, Newport and New York, has an affinity for interpreting the classical aesthetic. . . “neo-classical reinvented,” in her own words. In that tradition, her rooms are purposefully uncluttered, for if a space is properly balanced then rooms can be minimally furnished and allowed to breathe, providing a taste of contemporary panache.

“My goal is to create beautiful places for my clients to live in, spaces that they will not tire of.”

Signature pieces of furniture–some antique, some new, some of her own design– are chosen with an unerring eye for line and scale as well as the contribution each will make to a room. The sculptural quality that can be provided is evidenced by the dining room table, a favorite of Eileen’s. “I had seen a picture of this piece, designed by renowned  Art Deco designer Emile Ruhlmann, auctioned at Christie’s,” she relates. “It’s so graceful yet makes a big statement, with its base that cups and wraps. I had a French furniture maker in New York replicate it for me. It really can be combined with any period.”

The nearly 600 sq.ft. library’s grand, lofty space is capped with a deeply trussed ceiling  and impressive full-height solid limestone fireplace. Scrumptious textures–velvet, chenille, leather, mohair, suede—are imbued with the warm color palette; a custom-designed Tibetan silk and wool rug in silvery olive announces that this is the room where the family gathers most often.

She graciously opened her Newport home for a 13 page spread (a sample below) which is featured in my latest book, Living Newport: Houses, People, Style.

The Emile Ruhlmann-inspired mahogany dining table.

The Emile Ruhlmann-inspired mahogany dining table. Photography by Michael Partenio. © Meredith Corporation.
Photography by Michael Partenio. © Meredith Corporation.

Full blocks of limestone create the impressively tall fireplace in the 600 sq.’ octagonal-shaped library.

Full blocks of limestone create the impressively tall fireplace in the 600 sq.’ octagonal-shaped library.

Below, a three dimensional-designed limestone and slate floor in the entry hall.
Eileen’s personal design for a lace-backed chair.
Overlooking the library, an “aerie” for afternoon naps and coffee in the morning.

But for me an additional fascination with this property is Eileen’s re-design of her front garden. Classic motifs, a hallmark of her interiors, are here recalled with balled boxwoods of graduated size, artfully worked into the curves of the front entrance hillside. This design detail has transformed her original landscape plan and given her garden a signature unlike any other in Newport. Just in time to be inspired for spring!

An Interview with Eileen Marcuvitz

Here, Eileen answers my questions about design, style, travel and what makes her original.

EM with BP Book

What is the best design advice you’ve received?
Vincente Wolfe who told me, “Keep your eyes wide open. Your greatest inspiration in your work and life will come from the world around you.”

What do you come back with when you travel?
Objects, bought or found in nature, that inspire me or remind me of the experience.

What’s one thing that drives you crazy?
Clutter. Life shouldn’t be about stuff but more about experiences. I’m a firm believer in life enhancing minimalism.

What do you always find time for?
On Sundays, to watch Bill Cunningham’s NY Times “Fashion of the Times” video. (He’s the social chronicler of stylish people as seen on the streets and at parties in New York.) So entertaining!

The top city for design is
New York or Paris.

When traveling, I’ve been most inspired by
A color in the sky, or on a building, or just the way someone has put themselves together with the colors and clothes they’re wearing.

One way I try to stay original is to
Not look too closely at what everyone else is doing especially in design. I try to adhere to the logic of Oscar Wilde “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

What does Newport mean to you?
For me, Newport represents the perfect blending of classical  grandeur with our more contemporary way of life. The old world of Newport that once enjoyed – and now the new world continues to enjoy – sun and picnics on sandy beaches, evening lawn soirees and the culture of tennis and sailing that still enchants us all.

A gorgeous portfolio of Eileen’s work can be found at

Photography by Mick Hales and Sandy Nesbitt unless otherwise noted.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

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