Burlington Interior Designer Juliet Palmer Improves Living Spaces with Abode VT | Interior design | Seven days
The front door opens into a bright and airy living room with gray and light blue furniture and a natural wood coffee table. Above, a shallow basket holds a small plant and an old cigar box that hides the TV remote. A stack of terrazzo coasters rests on top of a book titled Lake Champlain: Reflections on Our Past. A flap wall behind the sofa adds visual interest while camouflaging a door that hides storage space. Vintage wooden milking stools serve as side tables. The artwork on the wall features designs of owls and hummingbirds.
Juliet Palmer, owner of Burlington interior design firm Home VT, helped design the welcoming space in the city’s southern district. These particular clients wanted to transform the 800-square-foot apartment on the second floor above their home into an Airbnb called the Aviary, with a bird theme and decor that nods to its surroundings of Green. Mountain.
The eaves of the house’s dormer posed a particular challenge: a steeply sloped ceiling. Palmer applied glossy white paint to the walls, ceiling, and moldings, giving the room a feeling of openness. She used the otherwise wasted space of the skylight nooks: “We put a little desk in one and a little plant in one, just to make it more intentional,” she said.
Longtime restaurant manager Palmer founded Abode VT on April 3 last year – 4-3-2-1, she pointed out, because she has a soft spot for numbers as well as a keen eye atmospheric appeal. In July, it took its design services to the next level by opening a showroom in the Vermont Innovation Center.
Visitors will barely notice that it’s in an oddly shaped former credit union office. Large windows overlooking Lakeside Avenue highlight Palmer’s style, which focuses on clean, understated spaces and comfortable materials — an alpaca throw, a woven leather bench, a rattan hutch. In the showroom, she sells a handful of old and vintage pieces as well as new modern furniture – a green velvet sofa, a round glass dining table, a small pouf with an abstract print.
Finishing touches include ceramic vases, kilim pillows and candles made by a University of Vermont student who created Abode VT’s signature scents: Peony Rain and Peony Gardenia.
“Livable spaces are what I’m looking for, and that’s what I want people to experience here,” Palmer, 37, said in a recent interview as he sat on a leather West sofa. Elm caramel color.
Function is Palmer’s key. “I’m so committed to the intent of the space and who it serves, who it should work for,” she said.
Palmer has no formal certification in interior design and does not have access to direct trade orders at discount prices from furniture manufacturers. She sources the products herself for the client spaces, applying her skills as a savvy shopper and committing to finding deals to suit all budgets. But Abode VT customers have no obligation to buy anything when they redo their rooms.
“If you have things you can use and pieces you like, that’s what we’re going to work with,” Palmer said.
Abode VT offers four levels of service. Palmer charges $150 for a one-hour style discovery session at her studio, which includes shopping assistance and access to exclusive inventory. A home consultation costs $250. “I’ll help you move your furniture,” she said. “I’ll bring paint samples.”
For Palmer to create a design board, which offers layout suggestions and links to products to buy, customers pay an average of $1,250 per room. The full “Abode Designed” service – including project management, installation, and styling oversight – ranges from around $3,000 to $8,000, with furniture priced separately. For these jobs, Palmer has items shipped to her house, then she delivers them to the customer and sets everything up.
When she started the business, Palmer heard people say they could never afford an interior designer. It is aimed at these customers.
“I want it to be accessible,” she said. “Everyone deserves a space that they love and can enjoy, that nurtures them and feels good in, no matter what they look like and no matter what their budget.”
Palmer’s target client is a working parent like her who may have emerged from the pandemic with a house in shambles, having set up desks for work and school in the dining room or bedroom. Now these customers are looking to reclaim the space and make it their own.
“You know you want it to be better,” Palmer said. “You know there are improvements that can be made, but you don’t know how.”
Palmer does not use computer-aided design or digital presentations. “I can just look at a space and see if something will work. I don’t need it displayed on a computer screen.”
She added, “For me, it’s so much about being in space and feeling it and the energy and the flow.”
Bethany Vaillancourt and her husband had planned to take care of the aviary renovation themselves and were reluctant to pay for an interior designer, which seemed like a luxury, she said. After starting the project, Vaillancourt found herself stuck with certain decisions: the correct position of the refrigerator, the placement of the artwork, the elements to achieve the look she wanted.
“I really felt like I needed a partner to execute it well,” Vaillancourt said, adding that Palmer proved to be the perfect collaborator. “She helped bring the vision together.”
And the investment paid off, Vaillancourt said. The Aviary has enjoyed healthy bookings since opening in August, and rave reviews from guests consistently mention the decor.
Money was scarce in Palmer’s household while she was growing up in Lebanon, NH, she said. Her parents divorced when she was young, but each gave her a strong sense of style. Her mother liked to outfit a room or set a nice table, Palmer said. His father was a chef at restaurants, most notably at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, but after a triple bypass he turned to collecting and selling antiques at flea markets. One of his father’s treasured pieces, a rustic white-painted chest of drawers, takes pride of place at the entrance to the Abode VT showroom.
Palmer also had instincts of her own. Although she doesn’t remember it, her mother often told Palmer that she would rearrange her bedroom furniture from the age of 4, she said.
His predilection for design had not emerged as a career choice by the time Palmer graduated from the University of Vermont. Working in restaurants since she was 14, she stayed in that business, taking a job with the defunct Three Tomatoes Trattoria. It was there that she met her husband, and they later joined the Farmhouse Group, which owns four restaurants in the Burlington area. Palmer managed the lunch service at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill on Bank Street, and her husband became the group’s chief operating officer. He has since left to work in property management.
When restaurants temporarily closed in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Palmer decided to stay home and focus on her son and daughter, now ages 6 and 9. But full-time parenthood wasn’t for her, she said. She started a house-cleaning business and quickly filled her schedule, getting to know her neighbors while earning an income, but it was too physically taxing to maintain, she said.
She and her family moved into their South Burlington home in June 2020. “What kept me going during the pandemic was planning how I was going to design our home,” she said.
One day last year, Palmer and his daughter were watching one of their favorite TV shows, “Dream Home Makeover,” and his daughter said, “Mom, you could do this.”
The next day she taped Abode VT. She intends to keep the business “hyperlocal,” she said. Most of his clients live in or near Burlington.
One exception — a recent job she undertook to renovate a yurt in the middle of the woods in Granville — allowed Palmer to get creative. Previous tenants had trashed the place, she said, and the owners wanted a revamp with all new furniture.
“I try to stay true to the spaces themselves,” she said of the rooms she chose for the earthen yurt. “We’re sort of going for a Robert Frost-type writer’s retreat.”