This story began back in 2000 when I answered the phone at the Gramercy Park apartment where I worked in New York City. I had been hired as designer Tom Scheerer’s assistant and was his only employee at the time. Rather than an office, we then worked out of his perfectly designed and well-published apartment, and I was only a few months into my six-year tenure with Tom. On the other end of the telephone line was a woman who was seeking help designing a few rooms in her 11-room Shaker Heights, Ohio home. She was a fan of Tom and wondered if he would consider decorating her living and dining room. As we only handled larger jobs, I had to let her know that Tom would not be able to assist her, but I suggested that I could, as long as it did not interfere with my primary responsibilities. As well as giving me a chance to hone my design skills, she felt the project was a good fit for her needs.
She and I became fast friends and collaborators. (Fortunately, she was design-savvy and had a good eye for discovering unique pieces. She had long been a fan of not only my current boss Tom but also my previous boss Jeffrey Bilhuber.) Together, over the next few years we tackled her entire home, room-by-room. During this time when I lived in NYC–her hometown–we visited often whenever she visited the city. Years later when I had my first baby, she gave me expert guidance, because of her profession and also because she had become a mother before me. Ours was a treasured friendship and long-time creative collaboration.
Time marched on, and when her kids moved to college she decamped to a condo in Philadelphia to downsize. By then I was running a successful design firm in my hometown of Austin. Again, she reached out and this time we began a more formal designer/client relationship in order to design and curate her new home. At this point our designer, Allison Beyer was brought in to be the lead project manager, and the three of us quickly jelled into a cohesive team! It was a magical match.
The opportunity arose for our client to take a new position in Philadelphia, and she let us know that she was purchasing a four-story townhouse in Society Hill with a basement, solarium and back patio. The home was built in 1811 and was in great condition, considering its age. It boasted a cobblestone street out front and the view of an historic church just out the front door. Walls were already sheathed in a cream and bone damask pattern wallpaper in the mail line areas, and the front formal living room had elaborate draperies on its 11-foot windows. We chose to keep and work with those elements, along with a fully mirrored powder room that the client originally intended to renovate, but which we thought was terrific! The home has four fireplaces and lovely built-ins throughout that are original, as well a fully finished basement that was more recently updated.
Our approach was methodical and thoughtful. Our goal was not to remove anything that worked, but to incorporate layers of charm and interest without sacrificing any of the house’s integrity. Over the many years we had worked together many antique and vintage pieces as well as contemporary pieces had been collected. While some of the pieces were new, others were old, but they all represented a love of practical pieces, inexpensive finds, and quirky pieces that had character.
As we both loved Tom and Jeffrey’s work, we referred back to it often, and with Allison’s input along with her experience in textiles, she brought fresh and thoughtful contributions that added a whole new level of interest and excitement to the spaces..
By year 20 of working together we had achieved a lot, and it was time to document our endeavors. The AWCo team flew to Philly and had the space photographed with Bill Abranowicz, one of the greats in the interior photography world. During our days of shooting, it became clear how special this project was, and that the interiors had a magical quality which we wanted to continue to capture. We then decide to proceed with a few new areas of renovation and decoration, including the fourth floor finish out with fabric walls and custom beds, the addition of ceiling paper in one of the bedrooms to really make the space sing, new lighting locations and selection, and a grand primary bathroom renovation that we are just beginning to tackle and will likely take us all the way into year 22 of our collaboration.
As you can see in these photos, the homeowner shares our passion for texture. It was our goal to select a curtain fabric for the primary bedroom. The Pierre Frey embroidery with a large organic stripe pattern was nearly overlooked because it came as a small 6×6″ swatch. But thanks to a beam of light shining through the window at just the right time, a large graphic pattern appeared, visually connecting it to existing furnishings, an inherited rug, and the home’s history.
We chose the fuzziest fabric for the living room sofa. We just had to use it! An elaborate wooden twig mirror is positioned above the fireplace in the sitting room. The client had previously discovered it in a local antique shop around the corner.
The existing finishes, fireplace tiles, a brick wall, the metal solarium frame, inspired the color options. We also considered previous layers from earlier owners, along with a few colorful area rugs the previous homeowner left behind. Key fabric selections help determine our paint colors, the fuzzy sitting room sofa and the mustard Ligne Roset Michel Ducaroy’s TOGO sofa in the basement.
The dining room rug is a handmade abaca fiber rug with a fan pattern that fits the dining room perfectly.