Bernadette Léonore February 27, 2021 Home Design
Nestled down a country road, past oak trees, off the road and out of view from anyone passing by, sits a home built from the ground up, for and by homeowners and artists, Vivian and Walter Neill. Also on the large, wooded property is the blacksmith studio of homeowner Walter, a full chicken coop, and the art gallery that the Neill’s run together, Oxford Treehouse Gallery.
Betsy and Peter Olmsted share their home with their two boys Emmett (7) and Wells (4), as well as Winnie the mature-madam shepherd mix, Hank the French bulldog, and Archer the leopard gecko. Their home was originally a Victorian carriage house and barn that was used for three neighboring mansions, built in 1890 when it also had three deeds. The 5,400-square-foot home was created from the converted spaces in 2008, and the Olmsted family moved in and made it their own a year ago. The downstairs features an open plan, their den, and the attached stables that became The Betsy Olmsted Design Studio — Betsy’s namesake textile company, Betsy Olmsted, which features a line of printed vibrant watercolor infused textile housewares with her whimsically sophisticated illustrations (which are heavily inspired by animals and nature). Upstairs you’ll find more open spaces, three bedrooms and baths, a study, and even a screened-in sleeping porch.
An apartment in Helsinki, Finland houses this 300-year-old, restored “Könni” wall clock. It was handed down to Ulla-Maija by her mother’s family — still chiming every hour on the hour as it would centuries ago. She believes a home is made gradually over time through pieces that reveal one’s true past, present and future. “You add to it as you go, and little by little it becomes a reflection of who you are and where you’ve been.” Ulla-Maija’s decorative ideology is represented in a space full of meaningful family heirlooms, including a family tree gallery wall of portraits dating back to the 1800s.
Farah Malik lived in seven countries before landing in the United States. She admits to a penchant for heirlooms and admires their power to promote a pass-down-from-generation-to-generation culture. Having grown up in England, Farah keeps multiple pots for tea, including this Moroccan kettle handed down from an old friend’s grandmother in Marrakech. Other expressive pieces from Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Kenya, China, Pakistan, Zanzibar, Cyprus, and all over Europe — just to name a few — encourage a broad global awareness in her Brooklyn home.
While the bones of the home were heavenly (while sitting in the living room you can look up and see all the way through the cupola) the style felt a little more like a lodge than a home. So, the timbers and doors and windows were all painted white (Benjamin Moore “Linen White”), in a terrifying process using plywood sheets and ladders to reach the some 40 feet up. Iron balusters were updated with steel cable and tempered glass. In Betsy’s studio, she took the dark green former stables and painted everything white and added casements under the window to allow for more natural light in the somewhat cave-like space. The last vestige of the lodge feel for Betsy and Peter is their fireplace, and because of the scale, it will take a while for them to figure out what the perfect replacement will be. While the open spaces were something Betsy had dreamed of, and one of her favorite features, they do create the design challenge of being able to see everything from one end of the house to the other. Betsy had to make sure when she was designing the space that everything felt cohesive. Scale is also a key design element in their home — pieces that once felt huge in their last home were now dwarfed in the massive barn house.
Image above: Sarah put together her half of the office in a fit of energy over the course of one day. Since they can’t paint their apartment, Sarah relies on punches of color, such as the “Oh What Fun!” art she found at a thrift store. “It says how I feel about my work.” The desk was cobbled together with IKEA pieces. The chair was a gift.
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