house tour: the living room
Welcome to my living room, the final frontier of my 1880's farmhouse renovation – an epic three year journey of demolition, construction and re-construction, involving a squirrel-infested wall, a few jackhammers and a turn-of-the-century fire in the kitchen requiring the complete removal of that end of the house – but I won't get into that right now.
Because I want to give a very loud shout-out to all the people that helped me create this beautiful space and share how I got from a gallery-sterile white room to the uber-abundance of coolness it is now. Because this is not the work of myself alone. Not by a long shot.
I need to start by outing myself: I am not an interior designer by any stretch of the imagination. I design and print patterns for pillows (like the black and white dash pillow and gray geometric pillow on the couch) which is a very different skill-set than conceptualizing the look of a home. What I have on my side is an opinionated idea of what is cool and what is ugly. Which is why I came up with my own design principles for creating my dream home:
- Everything in my home has to be something that I love – because life is too short to be surrounded by ugly.
- I must strive to fill my home with objects that have associations with people that I like/love, respect or who inspire me.
- Every room must have at least one item that I have made or designed as a reminder that I, too, am fueled by creativity.
Because there is a major flaw in my design theory: just because I like everything in my home doesn't mean it will look good when it's all put together. In fact, it's just as likely that it will wind up looking all hodgepodge and ugly. Because it's one thing to have cool furniture, but quite another to make a beautiful home.
The truth is I needed help. So here is who helped me and how it all went down.
By mere chance and miraculous luck I ended up with Kathryn Whitman as my architect, design consultant and now friend. I like to believe that our work together was a collaboration, that the finished design was a meeting of our combined creative minds, although truthfully most of the time Kathryn came up with a brilliant design idea while simultaneously having to reel me in from some crazy idea. Like how I wanted a collection of antique metal dentures above my bed, or a display of vintage photographs of hunters (or dead animals) for the dining room. They seemed like good ideas at the time, or about as good as getting a tattoo across my chest of an ex's name written in cursive with a heart as the dot over the "i." Kathryn saved me from those kinds of regrets.
We started the living room design with the gorgeous butterfly painting by my step(ish)-mother Leslie Parke. Leslie helped raise me when she moved in with my self-proclaimed "crazy German Dad" when I was five, and she was there when we didn't have enough money for heat so the water in our toilet-bowl froze – an interesting problem that I like to be reminded of in the warm comfort of my current home since, as of yet, no toilet-bowls have frozen.
Anyhow, as the room's centerpiece, every design decision followed the question "does it go with the painting?" And this led to ideas about grids, science, collections and maybe more bright orange.
Through a series of conversations (a euphemism for me suggesting something like bright green walls and Kathryn gently saying "I don't think so...") we landed on bringing in a gritty urban feeling to the room. Thus the vintage gray rug and the grainy tile wallpaper made by English designer Deborah Bowness.
And then something miraculous happened: my mother offered up her George Nelson couch that she "didn't really need." It had been gifted to my grandfather in the '70s, and had been barely used since – except for the few times my mother claims she slept on it, which was followed by an awkward silence because I don't like imagining my mother crashing on couches or knowing the circumstances surrounding said couch crashing...
Anyhow, as any good daughter would, I selflessly offered to take the couch off her hands.
But we now had mid-century chrome and leather to contend with. So I brought in my friend and designer Joseph Foglia for a second opinion on how to bring the mid-century furniture together. Because what goes with a mid-century leather and chrome couch besides more mid-century leather and chrome? And then it would feel like some mid-century den of chromie-ness and leatheriness. Which was not what I was after. At. All. My feeble vegan heart would break into a thousand pieces with all that leather.
So Joseph geared me towards adding wood chairs to counteract the coldness of the gray, leather and chrome – ever reminding me of the valuable design lesson that "armchairs should have arms."
With this in mind, I followed up by sending Joseph and Kathryn obsessive chair lists, compiled during insomniac hours when I was convinced my life could not continue until I found the perfect chair. And finally, after an accumulative week of lost sleep, I found the mid-century remakes of Ib Kofod-Larsen on etsy and we all agreed I should pull the trigger.
Then Joseph generously traded me his Barcelona coffee table, which was a perfect match for the Nelson couch, without going overboard on the chrome. Plus, the glass top didn't cover up the amazing rug design.
The room was starting to look pretty darn cool with just a few minor gaps to fill in.
Which was when I decided to make something of my own (see principle #3), which ended up being a hand-painted, monochromatic triangle design on the tall cabinet doors. It only took me two days and five thousand feet of tape to finish the obsessive triangle project, but I'm pretty proud of how it came out.
Because nothing beats having something made by my own hands for my own home.
Except unfrozen toilet-bowl water.