The Lavender Ghost: In the Hudson Valley, a Creative Couple’s Victorian Home with an Old Soul


When Amy Ilias began her search for a weekend home in the Hudson Valley, her husband, artist Jim Denney, had one request: “Just not an old Victorian with plaster moldings.”

Fair enough, she thought. So the couple, who back then counted Brooklyn as their home base, looked at industrial spaces instead, even though Amy had already fallen in love with a Zillow listing—of an old Victorian with plaster moldings, no less. “But out of respect for Jim, I let it go,” she recalls.

Fortunately, their broker intervened and insisted on showing them the house. The minute they stepped inside, Jim had a change of heart: “Can you imagine if it were painted white?” (She could.) And when they discovered that the home was owned by Brice and Helen Marden (a power couple in the New York art world), the deal was all but sealed.

“I had seen a feature on one of their homes in The World of Interiors in 2009 and was so taken with it that I saved it for years. We’re drawn to similar things—a very eclectic mix of modern and vintage, lots of pattern and indigenous textiles, and art. It almost felt predestined,” says Amy, who as executive vice president of art and design at ABC Carpet & Home, had her hands “in everything creative” at the storied New York City retail destination, from vintage and antique buying to restaurant and store design.

The couple purchased the house in 2017 and have since been steadily renovating it while taking care to keep its spirit intact—including its signature purple exterior. (The inside, per Jim’s original vision, has been painted all white.) “The Mardens chose the exterior color and painted the house. It’s an amazing choice—it often almost disappears against the sky,” says Amy, who documents the renovation on her Instagram account The Lavender Ghost.

Amy left her job recently, and the couple are now happy to be living full-time upstate. Let’s take a tour of The Lavender Ghost, a unique home that’s a little bit bohemian, a little bit punk rock, and always artful.

Photography by Amy Ilias.

Amy and Jim&#8
Above: Amy and Jim’s eclectic style—a mix of vintage and modern, street and hippie, all against a lot of white space—is apparent as soon as you cross the threshold. The walls, ceilings, and moldings are painted Benjamin Moore’s Super White. On the left is a painting by Jim, whose art is displayed throughout the home.
Three cats share the home with Amy and Jim. This is 3 (yes, his name) roaming the spacious living room, which is appointed with vintage and antique finds. The one new piece: a sectional by Saba, the couple&#8
Above: Three cats share the home with Amy and Jim. This is 3 (yes, his name) roaming the spacious living room, which is appointed with vintage and antique finds. The one new piece: a sectional by Saba, the couple’s only investment in furniture for this home.
The house gets amazing light through its many large windows. Here, a quiet corner next to the fireplace in the living room. &#8
Above: The house gets amazing light through its many large windows. Here, a quiet corner next to the fireplace in the living room. “Jim made the yin yang painting for me. We later used it as our wedding invitation. It hovers alone on a large wall like a protective planet,” Amy wrote on her Instagram.
On the other end of the floor, open to the living room, is this sitting area, anchored by a daybed/sectional. &#8
Above: On the other end of the floor, open to the living room, is this sitting area, anchored by a daybed/sectional. “We designed it. Jim made the base, and Cisco Brothers made the mattresses. I went to summer camp as a kid, and loved it. This was an homage, except that they have an organic fill, and they do not smell moldy,” says Amy.
The old Victorian cabinet is lined in blue velvet and holds some of Amy&#8
Above: The old Victorian cabinet is lined in blue velvet and holds some of Amy’s favorite treasures, including mother-of-pearl snuff boxes, antique textiles from Turkey and Japan, antique bowls from Vietnam, and abalone shells from her childhood.
The view from the sitting area to the rest of the living room. A statue of Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of mercy and compassion, watches over the scene. This open space is Amy&#8
Above: The view from the sitting area to the rest of the living room. A statue of Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of mercy and compassion, watches over the scene. This open space is Amy’s favorite room in the house: “It gets incredible light and has beautiful plaster work.”
&#8
Above: “The sofa [in the library] is Art Deco and belonged to my Great Aunt Susanne. I inherited it when she left everything to another aunt who did not want any of it,” says Amy. Today, the sofa is cocooned in a linen slip cover. The drawings between the windows are by Jim.
Billie Pilgrim, a calico, sits atop a cabinet from her childhood home. &#8
Above: Billie Pilgrim, a calico, sits atop a cabinet from her childhood home. “Most of our mid-century furniture was inherited from my parents. They were complete modernists and had a very minimal aesthetic. My collecting probably started as a form of rebellion,” says Amy. The wooden shutters are an eBay score: “Five sets for the price of one new set!”
The dining room and kitchen are housed in an extension that was added in 03. Unlike the rest of the home, the walls in this two-story addition are painted  gray. &#8
Above: The dining room and kitchen are housed in an extension that was added in 2003. Unlike the rest of the home, the walls in this two-story addition are painted  gray. “It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the house, so I’m running with that—I’d like to really clean it up and make it a modern, somewhat Brutalist glass box.”
Every piece has a story. Amy rescued the Eames chairs out of a dumpster in midtown Manhattan. &#8
Above: Every piece has a story. Amy rescued the Eames chairs out of a dumpster in midtown Manhattan. “Now they sit with other mid-century chairs covered in silk velvet by Jack Lenor Larsen, my parent’s dining room chandelier, and a table made by Jim from reclaimed wood and recycled steel,” she wrote on Instagram.
Adjacent to the dining room is the stainless steel kitchen, presided over by McCabe, a Maine Coon. The floors in this part of the home are made up of 3- by 7-foot porcelain tiles that resemble concrete.
Above: Adjacent to the dining room is the stainless steel kitchen, presided over by McCabe, a Maine Coon. The floors in this part of the home are made up of 3- by 7-foot porcelain tiles that resemble concrete.
Amy and Jim removed the wall that concealed the back stairs. In its place, a modern railing adorned with colorful textiles.  &#8
Above: Amy and Jim removed the wall that concealed the back stairs. In its place, a modern railing adorned with colorful textiles.  “I love mid-century glassware, Aesthetic Movement transfer ware, old scraps of fabric, Chinese embroideries, printed velvets, handmade rugs, handmade ceramics. I love patina, signs of life and history like fading and fraying.”
The second floor landing with both sets of stairs visible. The wood floors are all original to the home. Amy and Jim had them sanded, then &#8
Above: The second floor landing with both sets of stairs visible. The wood floors are all original to the home. Amy and Jim had them sanded, then “rubbed in a little white into the wood to knock down the warmth, and added a matte finish.”
In their bedroom, an Art Nouveau tooled leather-covered armoire, painted white by Amy more than  years ago, houses their television. The neon yellow art of the couple as a two-headed creature is by Jim.
Above: In their bedroom, an Art Nouveau tooled leather-covered armoire, painted white by Amy more than 20 years ago, houses their television. The neon yellow art of the couple as a two-headed creature is by Jim.
A Paul McCobb dresser, another mid-century hand-me-down from Amy&#8
Above: A Paul McCobb dresser, another mid-century hand-me-down from Amy’s parents, abuts the wall to the ensuite bathroom. On the other side of the pocket door is a cabinet from India, behind which is a stacked washer/dryer (the cabinet acts like a partition).
In Amy&#8
Above: In Amy’s office, an embroidered Chinese textile panel works as a makeshift curtain.
A peek of the lavender exterior. The couple continue to work on the home and plan to next focus on the outside. &#8
Above: A peek of the lavender exterior. The couple continue to work on the home and plan to next focus on the outside. “Our idea is the same inside and out: Keep and stabilize everything that is original and modernize what is dated and broken. All but one of the windows in the old part of the house are original,” says Amy.

For more inspired renovation and restoration projects in the Hudson Valley, see:



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Architects’ 12 Favorite Blush Pink Paints


One the eve of Valentine’s Day, we asked our experts from the Remodelista Architect and Designer Directory for their go-to “millennial pink” paints. Their picks range from sweet and subtle to downright seductive, and neutral enough to look at year-round. Here are their favorites.

Photography by Mel Walbridge.

(N.B.: Featured photograph, above, by Justine Hand for Remodelista, from Cape Cod Summer Bedrooms Refreshed with Farrow & Ball Paint.)

The full range of pinks.
Above: The full range of pinks.
 Kriste Michelini of California firm Kriste Michelini Interiors recommends Benjamin Moore&#8
Above: Kriste Michelini of California firm Kriste Michelini Interiors recommends Benjamin Moore’s Bridal Pink, with peachy tones.
For pink in &#8
Above: For pink in “subtle tones,” San Francisco–based Medium Plenty chooses Farrow & Ball’s Peignoir. (It’s also the color that Justine chose for her daughter’s bedroom; see picture at top.)
Santa Monica-based MLK Studio opts for Calamine from Farrow & Ball.
Above: Santa Monica-based MLK Studio opts for Calamine from Farrow & Ball.

Also recommended by Kriste Michelini: soft Touch of Pink by Benjamin Moore.
Above: Also recommended by Kriste Michelini: soft Touch of Pink by Benjamin Moore.
 Ellen Hamilton of Hamilton Design Associates prefers Wild Aster from Benjamin Moore.
Above: Ellen Hamilton of Hamilton Design Associates prefers Wild Aster from Benjamin Moore.
 Both LA-based Nickey Kehoe and Lauren Geremia of Bay Area–based Geremia Design named Farrow & Ball’s Pink Ground as their favorite go-to &#8
Above: Both LA-based Nickey Kehoe and Lauren Geremia of Bay Area–based Geremia Design named Farrow & Ball’s Pink Ground as their favorite go-to “millennial pink.”
Jayne Michaels of New York City–based firm
Above: Jayne Michaels of New York City–based firm 2 Michaels opts for Farrow & Ball’s Setting Plaster: “The pigments are earthy, smudgy, and warm, without a hint of sweetness,” she says.
 Brooklyn firm Made has devised a favorite custom pink: a coat of Seashell low-sheen paint by Australian company Sydney Harbour, topped with a coat of their French Wash, which creates a mottled patina look.
Above: Brooklyn firm Made has devised a favorite custom pink: a coat of Seashell low-sheen paint by Australian company Sydney Harbour, topped with a coat of their French Wash, which creates a mottled patina look.
Another, more rosy, choice from Medium Plenty: Cinder Rose by Farrow & Ball.
Above: Another, more rosy, choice from Medium Plenty: Cinder Rose by Farrow & Ball.

Jon Call of Mr. Call Designs in New York City likes Valspar’s Pale Satin Peach, adding, “Fresh pinks like this bring a flush to the face and warmth to a room.”
Above: Jon Call of Mr. Call Designs in New York City likes Valspar’s Pale Satin Peach, adding, “Fresh pinks like this bring a flush to the face and warmth to a room.”
Marysia Rybock of Scavullo Design recommends Benjamin Moore&#8
Above: Marysia Rybock of Scavullo Design recommends Benjamin Moore’s Southern Charm. “I actually used this in my own bedroom several years ago,” she says. “Soft pink with a beige undertone. Very classic looking.”

And finally, the brightest of the picks: Michael Howell of Howells Architecture & Design in Portland, Oregon, suggests Benjamin Moore’s Coral Reef. A little bit of this shade goes a long way; consider using it as an unexpected accent, rather than a full wall.
Above: And finally, the brightest of the picks: Michael Howell of Howells Architecture & Design in Portland, Oregon, suggests Benjamin Moore’s Coral Reef. A little bit of this shade goes a long way; consider using it as an unexpected accent, rather than a full wall.

Not pictured: Marie Fisher Interior Design uses Rose Pále from Les Couleurs’ Le Corbusier collection of pigments.

For more on our top paint picks, head to our Palette & Paints tag page. And for more pink palettes, see:



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A Rising-Star Architect Casts Her Own Brooklyn Townhouse in Pinks, Greens, and Grays


What happens when two young architects get to be their own clients? Budget constraints are, of course, a given–so things like learning how to hang wallpaper come into play. So does treating the house as a treasure hunt, and finding out what’s hiding under the carpets and painted mantels. And, of course, experimenting yourself with the transformative power of paint.

That’s but a sampling of what took place when, after a year of real estate hunting, Andrea Fisk and her partner, James Klauder, got to overhaul their own late-19th century townhouse in Brooklyn’s Bushwick. “The structure had been barely altered since it was built, which was very appealing to us,” says Andrea, pointing out its original plaster crown moldings, Eastlake-style door and window frames, and lavishly carved stair. But there was also much to do, including flipping the arrangement of the floors: to help pay their mortgage, the couple turned the garden level into a rental apartment. They restored the parlor floor as a living space—it had previously been divided into bedrooms—and reinstated bedrooms on the top floor.

Andrea is co-founder with Jess Thomas of Shapeless Studio, a rising Brooklyn firm with a focus on residential work, and James specializes transportation and aviation designs at Gensler. So Andrea took the lead on the project, and, as with Jess’s own place—see The Sentimental Minimalist—the results serve as a showcase for the work they can do. Come see.

Photography by Hagan Hinshaw of Blurry Hinge, courtesy of Shapeless Studio.

Above L: The couple tiled the entry in a pattern called Agadir from the Cement Tile Shop and painted the walls and door in Benjamin Moore Arctic Seal: “lighter colors make boundaries more visible, so going with a dark color in a small space can have the effect of dematerializing the volume of the room,” explains James. Above R: A glimpse of the living room.”During the construction, we found a funny foundation block signed ‘Sam, Mike, Mickey, 1891,’ so we think they were the builders,” says Andrea, adding “1891 makes sense because we have Eastlake Victorian details and also some touches of Arts & Crafts, and that year was right on the verge between those styles.”

“We were first-time homeowners and right after our closing, I went down a rabbit hole of trying to learn everything I could about our house’s history. It’s so much older than we are and has seen several generations of New Yorkers come and go; I felt as if we had to respect that. In the 1900 census, the house was owned by a husband and wife who had been born in Ireland; they had five adult daughters and a son living with them, all of whom worked as bookkeepers and dressmakers. By 1940, there was a different family of six, and the father was a watchman for WPA projects. We’re excited to be part of the house’s story.”

Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse living room, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above:  For Andrea the most magical moment of the renovation was “early on, when we stripped dozens of layers of paint from the three original fireplace mantels and a gorgeous green and pink slate emerged. This uncovered stone became the inspiration for our color palette: deep greens, dusty pinks, and cool grays.”

The room is painted Benjamin Moore Lost Locket—and note that that includes the ceiling and crown moldings for an immersive effect. For cohesion throughout, the window and door frames are called out in white. All of the house’s paints are from Benjamin Moore’s Color Stories collection from its Aura line

Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: The room is flooded with natural light thanks to its 7.6-foot-tall, 6-foot-wide window. “We wanted our furniture to have a very casual feeling; it gets constantly moved around depending on what we’re doing,” says Andrea. The Large Gray Round Pouf is by Ferm Living, and the Dune Sofa is from Industry West. The shelving is CB2’s Stairway Bookcase.

Above L: The nuanced color of the slate mantels and their plant motifs served as inspiration for the whole remodel. Above R: The sofa is upholstered in green velvet.

Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse powder room, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: The aforementioned crash course in wallpapering was for the powder room, now cloaked in Cole & Son’s exuberant Singita pattern, one of the first elements selected for the house and an encapsulation of the colors used throughout. “Wallpapering is hard work,” says Andrea. “We would hang two panels and then stop for the day; I think it took us six weeks to finish.”

The “self-rimming” sink is the Yeni Klasik from Nameek’s, and the print is by Brooklyn street artist Pixote.

Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse TV room, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: Each room is painted a different color—”the palette all goes together, but each space has its own character,” explains Andrea. The dusky purple TV room, shown here, is in Benjamin Moore Soho Loft. Hanging above the made-for-lounging Gray Sofa is a screen print called Ellipsis by British artist Dan Hillier. The rug is the Walkabout by Lori Weitzner, a discontinued West Elm design.
Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse dining room, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: There’s also a proper dining room divided from the living rooms by pocket doors. “I’m a big fan of separating the dining area from the kitchen when possible,” says Andrea. “I don’t enjoy doing dishes, and I don’t want to look at them while I’m eating.”

This room is in Benjamin Moore Lilac Hush, “which seems to change from blue to pink depending on the lighting,” says Andrea. The rug is an over-dyed vintage Turkish design from Revival Rug in a dark green selected to”help the slate mantel pop, and to also tie the room to the living room’s emerald sofa,” explains Andrea. Ferm Living’s Mingle Table in charcoal linoleum—”we love linoleum”—and DWR’s Note Chairs were selected to ground the space.

Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse kitchen, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: The couple added a kitchen to the parlor floor, framed here by moldings painted Benjamin Moore’s Vanilla Milkshake, the color used throughout. They uncovered the pine subfloor by removing layers of vinyl, tile, and carpeting.
Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse kitchen, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: Shapeless Studio’s go-to millworker, James Harmon of Workshop Brooklyn, built the cabinets, which are painted Benjamin Moore Blacktop and have a soapstone counter and integrated soapstone sink. Andrea says she’s learned to leave the soapstone as is and allow it  to develop a patina—”but it’s taking some patience” (see our post Soapstone Counters: Are They Worth It?)

The pull-down faucet is the Delta Trinsic. The backsplash is Daltile’s Keystone Mosaics, a 2-by-4-inch porcelain tile with a slight texture that gets picked out in the light.

Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse kitchen, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: The couple saved by supplying Harmon with a detailed set of cabinet drawings, something he’d ordinarily do himself. “But it was risky because if we got a dimension wrong, it would have been our fault,” they say. “James installed them and then we took all of the doors off and painted them.”

The range is the Blomberg 30-inch Pro Style, and the vent, the Prestige Compact Insert, is built into the shelf that runs the length of the room.

Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse period stair, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: “The woodwork on the staircase was one of the reasons we fell in love with the house,” says Andrea. “I hadn’t ever seen a railing like this with all the horizontal pieces.” To highlight its detailing, they painted the walls, as they did the entry, in Benjamin Moore Arctic Seal.
Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse bedroom, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: The palette shifts to paler shades upstairs. The master bedroom, shown here, is  in Benjamin Moore Picket Fence. Says Andrea: “Benjamin Moore’s Aura colors have more pigment—they don’t use any straight white or black to lighten or darken, it’s all pigment, so there are really interesting undertones, especially in the lighter shades.”

Andrea’s father built the bedside tables. The Linen Duvet Cover is from Two Dawson.

Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse bedroom, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above:  The mantel is one of the three that they stripped of many layers of paint”using a horrible, noxious goo.” The pendant light was a Craigslist find.

The room is in the back of the house and overlooks the giant hemlock tree in the yard.

Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse bedroom, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: The dresser is West Elm’s Modernist Wood and Lacquer Three-Drawer design, currently available only in a pale wood.
Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse master bath, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: Like the entry, the bathroom has a black-and-white floor of Agadir Cement Tile: “If I could change one thing, I would instead go with large-honed slate tile,” Andrea tells us. “After finishing our project, I discovered a few slate companies in Upstate NY and Vermont that sell the exact same green splotchy slate that our fireplaces are made of.  That would have been so lovely, especially with the mix of white wall tiles. Sometimes it’s hard being an architect; I am constantly redesigning my surroundings in my mind.”
Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse master bath, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: The walls are tiled in Daltile’s Metro Collection squares in a mix of glossy whites. James Harmon fabricated the vanity to the couples’ design; it has a Corian sink by Grifform; all of the black plumbing fixtures are from California Faucets’ Tiburon collection.
Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse bedroom, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: The west-facing guest room initially served as Shapeless Studio’s office during the firm’s first year. The bed is the Nesttun frame and the shelf is the Fjalkinge, both from Ikea.
Shapeless Studio architect Andrea Fisk townhouse home office, Brooklyn. Hagan Hinshaw photo. Above: The small space off the bedroom—where Benjamin Moore Arctic Seal puts in another appearance—is now Andrea’s painting studio. The bedroom’s pale walls are in Benjamin Moore’s Grandma’s China, which, Andrea says, “really glows with orange undertones when the sun sets. On dark and rainy days, it looks a lot more greenish. I love living in a house that seems to experience the same moodiness I do.”

We recently featured a Shapeless Studio Kitchen Designed Around the Keywords ‘Socal’ and ‘Minimal but Warm.’

Here are more architects’ own quarters:

  • The Strange House in London
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Fabr Studio in East Williamsburg
  • Elizabeth Roberts at Home: The Architect’s Own Beach House in Bellport, NY
  • Two Young Architects Tackle a Townhouse for Themselves



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Outside In: A Multi-Generational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside


When architects Eric Walter and Steve Mongillo, principals at Seattle-based mwworks, were in the planning phase of this family retreat on Whidbey Island, they met often with the owners to go over their designs. Many times, the clients’ three adult children would attend—and, sometimes, even their teenage grandchildren.

Walter and Mongillo were unfazed by the unusual number of stakeholders who weighed in on their plans. The weekend home, after all, was to be for the entire family to use. And thankfully, there was consensus: What the family wanted was a design that was modest, low-impact, and respectful of the landscape outside its windows. Plus, of course, it had to accommodate their large group.

The two architects delivered with a series of three low structures that prioritize views of the forest on one side and a meadow on the other. The main building, which houses the public spaces (living, kitchen, and dining areas), is connected by a walkway to a wing of bedrooms; a separate bunkhouse for grandchildren and guests is just across a courtyard. (All told, the compound can sleep up to 20.)

“The project is designed to build memories and bonds for a large extended family for generations to come…. The senior owners set the project up so that regardless of what happens to them, the kids and their kids would always have the house to bring them together and continue building memories,” says Mongillo.

Let’s take a tour.

Photography by Kevin Scott, courtesy of mwworks.

mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Exterior Above: The view of the main building. In the forefront is the wing that houses the public living areas; the sleeping wing is on the far left. “The building footprint, as well as the construction process, took great care to preserve as many significant trees as possible, with foundation walls spanning and dodging critical roots so that the natural forest system would be preserved and allowed to thrive soon after construction was complete,” says Mongillo.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Living Room Above: The open-concept living space features a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. The deep oak window jambs conceal integrated rolling blinds.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Living Room Above: Views of the pond, red barn, and meadow where cattle (raised organically by the owners) graze, all on the owners’ 48-acre property. The custom windows are by Quantum.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Living Room Above: A portion of the stone fireplace rests on the deck just off the living room, blurring the line between indoors and out.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Deck Above: On the deck, the fireplace transitions into a stone wall. A cutout in the roof allows for more light.
Above: A slim kitchen is shimmied between the living and dining areas. Note that while the rest of the space features concrete flooring, here, wood planks are underfoot.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Kitchen Above: Aged western red cedar cladding defines the kitchen and dining areas.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Dining Above: Just beyond the dining area is the entryway, which also acts as a junction between the public and private quarters.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Mudroom Above: The entry. Note the carved wood panel on display in the mudroom area. “Several of the interior doors and wall art are carved solid cedar slabs crafted decades ago by the family patriarch as a young doctor filling his time between patients, instilling a meaningful connection between the family’s past and present,” says Mongillo.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Bedrom Above: One of the bedrooms, simply decorated.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Bathroom Above: Zen perfection in the bathroom, which features a shower with a view. “The bathroom is one of our favorite rooms in the home! The soft northeastern light washing across the lightly textured plaster walls gives the room a serene quality,” says Mongillo.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Bathroom Above: The floating vanity in the bathroom.
Above: Locally quarried basalt make up the courtyard wall and parts of the home’s exterior. This wood walkway leads visitors to the entryway.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Bunkhouse Above: The view from the bunkhouse to the main building. The bunkhouse sleeps up to 12 guests.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Exterior Above: The structure was designed to recede into the forest. At the owners’ request, great care was taken to protect the trees on the property, often at the expense of expediency.
mwworks' Whidbey Island Farmhouse, Outdoor Fire Pit Above: Just down the slope, near the pond, a fire pit for proper bonding by firelight.

This isn’t the first time we’ve featured a project by mwworks. Here’s another one: A Puget Sound Cabin That Rests Lightly on the Landscape.

For more family retreats we love, see:

  • The Nesting Instinct: A Cabin Retreat in Washington Inspired by a Bird
  • A Multigenerational Family’s Cabin Retreat, Unchanged by Time
  • Gesa Hansen’s Country Style: The Scandinavian-German Designer’s Family Quarters Outside of Paris



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Soft in the City: Mandy Lee’s Serene Apartment in Hong Kong


A serious home renovation, the kind that involves more than just a new paint color or a powder room refresh, is an exercise in keeping sane. The months-long disruption, the draining bank account, the incessant dust, the steady stream of strangers in boots—none of it is something that most homeowners want to go through again.

Mandy Lee, the blogger (Lady and Pups) and cookbook author (The Art of Escapism Cooking), lived through the down-to-the-studs ordeal twice…in nine years…in the same apartment.

The first overhaul was in 2010 when she and her husband moved from New York to Hong Kong for his job and bought the apartment. They gutted the space. “I was still clinging to the industrial/lofty aesthetics that we left New York with, and everything was distressed concrete, distressed woods, distressed metal and glass panels,” she says of that renovation. “The kitchen had a concrete wall finish with stainless steel cabinet doors, very ‘you can take the girl out of Brooklyn but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the girl’—[except that] I’ve never lived in Brooklyn.”

Nine years later, they gutted it again. In between, the couple had moved to Beijing for a few years before moving back to their Hong Kong apartment—and they’d grown up. “We did the first renovation in our late 20s, when our lifestyle and mentality were completely different from where we are in our late 30s,” she says. “The functions and layout no longer fit our current lifestyle.”

The latest redesign still shows an affinity for distressed wood, but everything else has been replaced. Gone is the hardness of concrete and steel; in their place, billowing curtains, soft colors, and textured walls.

Let’s take a tour. And be sure to check out Mandy’s characterful kitchen in our earlier post (Kitchen of the Week: The ‘Angry Food Blogger’ at Home in Hong Kong.)

Photography by Mandy Lee.

Mandy Lee Lady & Pups Hong Kong Apartment living Room Above: “The first design element I knew I wanted was a completely plastered interior, Venetian plaster to be exact.” says Mandy, who ultimately opted for Roman Clay by California company Portola Paints. “We couldn’t find a worker to properly apply it so we ended up doing it ourselves after moving in. It was us a total of six months to completely finish the apartment.”
Mandy Lee Lady & Pups Hong Kong Apartment living Room Above: Their third-floor apartment is in an old walk-up building in Happy Valley, a residential neighborhood in Hong Kong. “We prefer it to the new high-rises because the ceiling is slightly higher.” A small balcony is just off the living room. “It’s not much, but I love the corner where I planted an olive tree and some decorative plants to brighten it up.”
Mandy Lee Lady & Pups Hong Kong Apartment Dining Room Above: Mandy’s favorite part of her home. She sourced almost all the furniture and decorative details from Taobao, the Chinese version of Amazon.
Mandy Lee Lady & Pups Hong Kong Apartment Wooden Wall Above: “Due to budget, I used plywood for the wood wall that separates the master bedroom from the common area. I custom-stained it with oil and colors to fake a vintage”look and I’m quite happy how it turned out.”
Mandy Lee Lady & Pups Hong Kong Apartment Front Door Above: “The actual square footage of the apartment is about 1,050 square feet. The original design had two bedrooms with a study, which we turned into a one bedroom with two baths,” says Mandy. The door on the right leads to the guest bathroom.
Mandy Lee Lady & Pups Hong Kong Apartment Powder room Above: The guest bathroom has artful brooms hanging off a peg rail. Painted textured wallpaper lines the walls here. Mandy’s vision for the redesign was inspired by the patina-heavy, romantic style favored by Jersey Ice Cream Co., which she discovered on Instagram. “I want to give credit to Jersey Ice cream Co, whose aesthetic I literally copied from.”
Lady and the Pups Mandy Lee's Kitchen, Refrigerator Above: A glimpse of the moody green kitchen. Their dogs’ water bowl sits on the tiled palazzo floor. See Kitchen of the Week: The ‘Angry Food Blogger’ at Home in Hong Kong for more pictures of this room.
Mandy Lee Lady & Pups Hong Kong Apartment Bedroom Above: Entering the master bedroom, where Mandy’s love for distressed wood and aged materials continues.
Mandy Lee Lady & Pups Hong Kong Apartment Bedroom Above: Curtains conceal the walk-in closet. “I love a floor-to-ceiling curtain, because it creates the illusion of a higher ceiling. Plus it effectively divides the space when I need it to and does so very softly and warmly compared to actual panels. Last but not least, they’re a lot cheaper, too. I like to use natural linen-type materials with a certain level of translucency.”
Mandy Lee Lady & Pups Hong Kong Apartment Bedroom Above: An antique Chinese low table works as an artful breakfast tray.
Mandy Lee Lady & Pups Hong Kong Apartment Bathroom Above: The master bathroom.

For more on the homes of chefs and foodies, see:

  • Love in Danish: A Chef Couple’s Warm Scandinavian Apartment Above Their Michelin-Starred Restaurant
  • Kitchen of the Week: Seattle Cookbook Author Aran Goyoaga’s Under-Budget Kitchen Remodel
  • 5 Clever, Efficient Ideas to Steal from a Cookbook Author’s Home Kitchen



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A Rising Star’s Spirited London Home: ‘Every Room Should Sing!’


Interior designer Beata Heuman‘s London townhouse is a riot—in every sense of the word. It’s a riot of colors, a riot of textures, a riot of patterns. It scoffs at convention. And it’s just downright fun.

“Every room should sing!” the Swedish-born designer tells us. “In the course of a lifetime one gathers a multitude of views, experiences, and objects. The home should make it possible to take in all of these things.”

Such is the case with her own home, which she shares with her husband and two young daughters. “Growing up in Sweden, my childhood home was influenced by the simplicity of Scandinavian design, but also had quite theatrical touches and lots of character, which I think rings true in my work today,” says Heuman. “My parents had a real mix of items within the house—pieces from Ikea sat alongside precious antiques—and the combination of these items accumulated over time reflected the unique personality of our family.”

Indeed, from whole rooms to the tiniest nooks, her current home is nothing if not brimming with personality.

Photography courtesy of The Modern House. (Go to their site for more images.)

Beata Heuman London Living Room, Courtesy of The Modern House Above: Heuman rarely buys new furniture made by others; instead, if there’s a need for a specific piece, her studio designs it. The Wave Longue daybed, in a Josef Frank for Svenskt Tenn fabric, is one such product, available via her website.
Beata Heuman London Living Room, Courtesy of The Modern House Above: The view from the living room into the dining area. “I have nothing against an organized, refined aesthetic, but I love color and pattern too much to ever live in a completely pared-back environment,” says Heuman. The scalloped rattan chair is by Soane Britain. The bookshelves and Lire Cabinet (at right) are both Heuman designs.
Beata Heuman London Dining Room, Courtesy of The Modern House Above: “People often seem to see vibrant, eclectic interiors like the ones I design in direct opposition with minimalism, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case,” says Heuman. Case in point: the dining room, which feels at once visually rich and appealingly spare. Gemla chairs, upholstered in leather (note the zipper on the back), surround a vintage table. The Snowdrop Rise & Fall ceiling light is a Heuman creation.
Beata Heuman London Kitchen, Courtesy of The Modern House Above: Because the dining room is attached to the kitchen, Heuman disguised the refrigerator (at left) as a blue armoire. The kitchen is tiny but efficient and organized (note the hanging step ladder). “Although my interiors use print and color, we also think a lot about how to design an environment that is practical to live in, where items can be stored away and a sense of calm can be created.” The Dodo Egg pendant light is by Heuman.
Beata Heuman London Kids Room, Courtesy of The Modern House Above: Heuman with her baby in the whimsical bedroom of her older daughter, a toddler.
Beata Heuman London Kids Room, Courtesy of The Modern House Above: The mural in the room was inspired by Ludwig Bemelmans’s murals at New York City’s Carlyle hotel.
Beata Heuman London Master Bedoom, Courtesy of The Modern House Above: Heuman tidying up her bedroom. “Good storage is essential. I love organizing my home—I call it a ‘streamlining sesh’—and it’s so satisfying once everything has been put away. It lifts the whole environment,” she shares. (To learn more about how she keeps organized, read her tips in the NY Times.) A charming woven throw blanket by BFGF that she had framed in blue velvet makes up the headboard.
Beata Heuman London Guest Bedoom, Courtesy of The Modern House Above: In the guest room, sea-grass wallpaper covers both the walls and the ceiling.
Beata Heuman London Bathroom, Courtesy of The Modern House Above: Semicircle cutouts in the bathroom mirror accommodate sconces.
Beata Heuman London Garden Pavilion, Courtesy of The Modern House Above: The over-the-top but just-perfect garden pavilion.

For more images of Heuman’s inspired home, be sure to check out her interview with the The Modern House.

For more colorful interiors, see:

  • Daring Color Ideas to Steal from the Finn Juhl House in Copenhagen
  • Water Colors: 10 Favorite Bathrooms with Retro Colored Fixtures
  • True Colors: Historical Paint Expert Pedro da Costa Felgueiras’ Beautifully Idiosyncratic London Home



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