MODERN AESTHETICS in the MIDWEST
I've been bothering my good friend Tom to let us take a tour of his home, as I've always been a fan of his taste in decorating. Needless to say, he has finally given in! I'm so excited to share our conversation about the themes and aesthetics of his spaces, and how he combines different pieces to create a classic look with edges of both modernism and rustic touches...
THE LIVING ROOM
DS: To kick things off here, what are three words you would use to describe the ideal personal space? TM: Clean, comfortable, and bright. DS: Can you tell us a bit about your own personal aesthetic?
TM: I like a more modern look. I’ve always been a fan of simplicity, and I think I would prefer to live a more minimalist lifestyle if I had the discipline. I also wanted to make sure my house was designed for relaxation and that all of the spaces felt comfortable.
DS: What were you looking at in terms of color palette when decorating your space? TM: I like lighter tones of white and grey, which is pretty evident in my house. I tend to steer away from earth tones - for some reason I’ve never liked warm colors. When I moved into my house, the walls were various shades of beige, brown, green and yellow....
TM (cont): I’ve since painted (and repainted) shades of white and grey in every room except the basement. I think I like those colors because I have a lot of artwork, and it kind of makes the walls fade away so that attention is drawn to the art. The house I grew up in was also predominantly shades of white and lighter tones, so it makes me feel immediately at home when I’m in a light and bright space. The one room where I was a little bolder was in the living room. The charcoal grey is much darker than anywhere else in the house, or any other place I’ve ever lived. I was worried that the color might be too dark and make it feel like a cave, but the room gets a lot of sunlight, so it doesn’t feel cavelike at all.
DS: Influences you've looked to that inspired the eventual outcome? TM: I really love mid-century modern furniture, and I remember being fascinated by it as a kid. Our local library was filled with various Harry Bertoia designs, and my favorite were the Diamond Lounge chairs. Last year, I was lucky enough to pick up Bertoia side chairs at a local vintage shop, and I had them refurbished. They now reside in my bedroom and living room. I also found an Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chair, which I hope to have refurbished someday as well. I think this also helped influence the other furniture that I selected in my house, but I’ve tried to avoid making it feel overwhelmingly mid-century modern. For instance, my dining table and the sofa in the loft are distinctly mid-century silhouettes, but I’ve used more traditional furniture with them for balance.
THE OFFICE & BEDROOM
DS: Where did you find yourself shopping the most for the items that made their way into your home?
TM: Room and Board is my favorite store, and several of the big furniture pieces in my house are from there. It’s modern without being too stark, and I’m willing to pay their prices since most of their products are made domestically (at the same time, the prices also help to deter me from over-buying). I have a few pieces from Restoration Hardware too - I worked there when I was in grad school, and the discount was pretty great.
I also enjoy taking photographs and picking up unique items in my travels to display in my house. For instance, I found a set of unique tiles in Morocco when I visited there a few years ago. They were seconds from a project the tile makers were working on, but I thought they were beautiful, so I snagged them at a great price and framed them when I got home. I like having these stories to share about some of the unique things in my home.
TM (cont): And my very favorite place to shop was at my parents’ house. I think my style is actually influenced a lot by them, and I have various pieces that I’ve collected from their house over the years. My coffee table is my parents’ old one that my dad and I refinished in walnut (they were originally a pecan stain). I also have two of their old cane-back dining chairs in my office that my mom and I recovered, and a magazine table that my great-uncle hand-carved in the 1930s.
DS: What is your favorite room in your home and why?
TM: My favorite room in my home is the attic loft. It gets the best light in the house with windows on three sides. I let it sit empty for a long time so I could figure out how to best use the space. It’s the full length of the house, so there was a lot of space to work with, and in the end, I figured it would be best used as a lounge space. I really enjoy it as it is now - it’s a great place to come early in the morning with all the windows open while the neighborhood is really quiet, and read a book or enjoy a coffee. You can pretty much guarantee that when I’m at home relaxing, this is where I’ll be.
THE GAME ROOM
DS: What was the most challenging element of decorating your home that you didn't expect? TM: Oh geez - I’m consistently challenged by homeownership in general, but choosing paint colors and artwork have been the two hardest things for me.I don’t think I’ll ever figure out paint colors, so I won’t dwell on this. But I will say that almost every room in my house has been painted at least twice in the six years I’ve lived here (the attic loft and the kitchen have each been painted three times). And always in a different shade of white or grey.
TM (cont): Honestly, I think this is my Sisyphean task, and I expect the trend of painting and repainting will continue forever... Picking artwork has also been a challenge for me because I like things that are unique and personal. To that end, my favorite pieces are those that were created by family members. My prized possession is a pencil drawing from my great-uncle of the Italian village where he and my grandpa were sent for boarding school in the 1910s-1920s. He was an amazing artist and eventually studied at the Cooper Union. My goal is to someday see this village in person. I also have several drawings and watercolors from my mom (she studied at Parsons) and paintings and photographs from my two sisters. All of these hold a lot of meaning for me, and really make my house feel uniquely my own.