Name: Lori Weitzner, husband Mike and daughters Sophie and Emma
Location: Chelsea; New York, New York
Size: 2,200 square feet
Years lived in: 10 years owned
At first quick glance, it's all neutrals, classic choices and even a piece of oh-so-trendy typography. But spend more than a minute in the home of textile designer Lori Weitzner, her husband and two not-quite-teen daughters, and the fabrics and stories unfold, the plot thickens, and opposites definitely attract. And smack dab in the middle sits a most happy home for four.
It's a game of opposites: Modern, and not. Neutral and colorful. Old world and right now. Loft-like and homey. As curated as a museum, as collected as a magpie's nest. Everything has a counterpoint, everything has a story, and every story has at its root the kind of sentiment you'd normally only find in a Nicholas Sparks novel. While some wear their heart on their sleeve, the heart of Lori Weitzner's home is worn on shelf, chair, and through choice, gift, art and design.
That storytelling and the game of opposites start right past the front door. The entry is spare and showroom-y, with a quartet of hand-woven abaca banners in a space created and lit exactly for them, during a renovation that made the whole space specific but stopped short of "gut reno" ten years ago. So far, so serious.
But take a look back, to a scattering of magnetic letters on the door behind you, and a look ahead, to the carving that seems to sprout right from the dark rich floors, and you start to see this is a space where "family" is a serious business, too. "I love family trees of all kinds, and in the Philippines, they would do it actually as sculpture. I thought that was a nice way to then turn the corner and welcome you into our home, our ancestry." Suddenly, it seems no coincidence that there are those four banners, textile totems of sort in this home for four.
Past that buttoned-up entry, the main living space opens up with a sunny, highly livable exuberance, part downtown open-plan loft, part uptown classic enfilade.
At first, the space reads almost monochromatic. But that changes fast, with the light and the slightest attention. The colors shift like a chameleon strolling across sunlit river stones. "It moves as nature moves," says Lori of the earth-derived palette. "What may feel at first like a neutral is actually full of green and perhaps some yellow and other colors. Our colors are very nuanced and complex. They're not straightforward. I always say the best colors are the colors you can't name."
In the master bedroom, more hard-to-describe hues. "I call them whisper colors, and they're very much colors I want to be sleeping with. Very soothing, very calming, very quieting," says Lori, "and I want that in a bedroom."
The wall colors are hard to pin down, too, as they shift from ivory to the palest pistachio, just enough tint to take the white off the white box. Just don't ask Lori for the Benjamin Moore colors. All her colors were custom mixed. Lori uses a quick pour of Linen White, for example, to temper other ready-mixed colors. So, she says, the colors are "custom, but not custom-from-scratch scratch." It's no real surprise Lori is mixing her own colors. She began as a painting major and (like one of her professional textile counterparts, Pollack's Rachel Doriss), she changed her major to textile design. "I feel very lucky, because it's a commercial, viable design form that you can make a living doing, but it's very much related to fine arts."
Mike also gets credit for this palette that's hard to pick off a paint swatch. This Englishman in New York has brought his passion for antique maps to the table, literally, where part of his cartographic collection of his Cheshire homeland is displayed in the dining area. Their subtle and faded colors, misty and ethereal, fit right in to the grand scheme of things, with Lori's blessing, presented in a modern fashion. "I had to figure out how to incorporate what he loves about history and roots into a space that is contemporary, and get that push and pull there satisfied."
What Mike also loves, clearly, is Lori. On an early date, Lori told him of her grandfather's company, Weitzner Brothers Monuments, with the letters W and B the only remnants of the business lingering on its Second Avenue facade. "I told him about the W, but it wasn't a hint, it wasn't anything, it was just in conversation!" Three months later, it was presented to Lori for her birthday. In an act of romantic thievery, Mike pried the letter from the building under the cover of darkness, save for the headlights of the Jeep he had driven up on the curb. "So the W was stolen! But it was my grandfather's," she chuckles in justification, still taking obvious joy from this gift from her suitor-turned-husband. "So meaningful to me."
It's one of many objects that add depth and interest to this modern envelope. Throughout, upholstered pieces defy timestamp, like the pair of Wormley stools in a lichen-green textured fabric, or the angular tub chairs wearing a traditional-in-technique-only cut velvet. Says Lori of the larger-than-life asterisk design: "Because it's so large, and so neutral, it becomes very contemporary." Together, even just those two fabrics (both from Weitzner Limited) are a mini primer in how Lori brushes the dust of classic technique: play with scale, and use those mercurial, earthy colors. Underfoot, her rugs generally employ both tricks to accelerate age-old rug-making technique to contemporary art.
The sliding doors separating Mike's corner office-by-day, family media room by night are rarely closed, except perhaps during an especially animated game of Wii. Juxtaposed against those glass and aluminum doors is that piano, an ebonized and gilded folly that commands attention even silent. It's one of many pieces both personal and quirky, gifted or snared from auctions and antique shops. Or in this case, plucked from Lori's own family tree. It was Lori's grandmother's, passed to the youngest girl in the family. "I am a terrible piano player, and my kids are not looking to be too good, but it will never leave us, because," she says, "for me, it's sentimental and it's also beautiful."
The piano is definitely part of that running counterpoint between the desire to stay limited, lofty, curated and culled, and a collector's passions of a more ornate, layered aesthetic. Why the push and pull between minimalism and, well, maximalism?
"We came from an old house, turn-of-the-century, with nooks and crannies, and all of a sudden entered this big, high-ceilinged, light-infused loft." Like many designers who let the style of the construction help dictate its interior direction (John Eason's past tour comes to mind), Lori listened to the space. And this space, a modern conversion of a landmark building with 13-foot ceilings, told her it wanted to be modern.
"But I couldn't do totally modern cold. It needed to be warm." In the hands of Lori, there was no real risk of modern ever being cold. Bringing warmth and history to contemporary design is all in a day's work for her and her company that embraces exactly that philosophy. Says Lori, "My professional life is always related to something old but then done in a new way. And I think that's the way I wanted to approach my home."
"It feels familiar, something relevant from history, but fresh and new at the same time." She's talking about hand-tufted carpets and luxuriously woven and printed textiles, but it pretty much applies to just about everything in the lofty home of Lori Weitzner.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Timeless.
Inspiration: Old, new, calming, things that tell stories...
Favorite Element: The art.
Biggest Challenge: Carving out "individual" spaces for each of us that as a designer, I can still can like.
What Friends Say: Wow, nice!
Biggest Embarrassment: Kitchen cabinets don't stay up and bang our head every day.
Proudest DIY: Definitely incorporating my wall covering "Magnetism" into my girls' room. We decided to cover all of the walls with it and it provides this incredible surface that allows the girls to do it themselves...to decorate the way THEY want to and it can be constantly updated.
Biggest Indulgence: The Perla Krauze painting in the living room.
Best Advice: Design/decorate for you, not for what is in fashion. Keep it soulful.
Dream Sources: All painting and sculpture auctions at Christies and Sothebys!
Resources of Note:
PAINT & COLORS
• All custom colors, mixing usually Antique linen with a light color to take the "edge" off and neutralize. Benjamin Moore and some Donald Kaufmann.
• Antiques: Tama Gallery
• Sculpture: Phillipine family tree (they would carve them from wood).
• Chairs: Chelsea antique store
• Stools are original Ed Wormley bought at auction
• Coffee Table: Dennis Miller
• Table: Tama Gallery
• Chairs: B & B Italia
• Seat fabric: Weitzner Limited
• Painted Cabinet: ABC Carpet & Home
• Glass Lamps: Donghia
• Lamp Shades: Custom, from Weitzner "Tree Bark"
• Table: IKEA
(Images: Patrick J. Hamilton)
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