Location: West Village, Manhattan
Size: 2,000 square feet, 3-bedroom house
Years lived in: 10 years
Ann lives amidst Afghan, Uzbek, Turkmen and Indian textiles — to name a few of the things she has carried home over the past 20 years — from around the world. For the past ten years, she's been assembling them in a mid-19th century, 4-story home in the West Village.
Ann has shaped and sculpted her home, more than renovated it to her specifications. With the help of a conceptual artist/sculptor/carpenter, and a metalworker Ann retained much of the original old-world feel of the house by using as many natural and salvaged natural materials as possible (no dry-wall). Ann says, that in its original state, the house was a "working man's house" replete with soft wood floors and utilitarian fittings. The prior owner made major structural changes, so Ann worked within existing parameters. To be respectful, Ann filled her house with furniture that would have been contemporary at the time the building was constructed. But to make sure it wasn't stifling in its uniformity, she added some modernist pieces.
When one enters the home, the sense of adventure is palpable. The artifacts, textiles, and extractions of history from many foreign lands pervade the space.
It helps that Ann has the patience to seek and find. Rather than sit at her computer searching craigslist, her writing and her adventurous spirit take her to great objects in their native habitat. And when that isn't enough, she heads to Montreal where antiques in need of tender loving care abound at bargain rates.
Ann knows that sourcing imaginatively makes all the difference in creating a home that feels alive. And while, on paper, it could read like a preserved museum space, visually and viscerally, and to all the people who have been on the receiving end of her endless hospitality and party hosting, it is a very real, accessible, vibrant and inspiring home.
Apartment Therapy Survey
Style: Highly eclectic.
Inspiration: My inspirations have ranged from classic modernism — more honored in the breach — to my friend Giada’s family castle in Piemonte, lovingly restored by her parents. I have been obsessed with castles ever since I was a small child, and my house is a bit like one of those tiny keeps you see in Europe, just one room per floor. Karl Leitgeb, the Austrian artist who did the carpentry work in the house and served as unofficial project manager, believes in letting the structure show, and he convinced me in many places that my desire for a more finished surface was mistaken. He imbued the house with a sort of punk rock artisanship.
Favorite Element: I think that has to be the 1790s French copper bathtub that I picked up in Montreal. It’s beautiful and retains heat much better than ceramic.
Biggest Challenge: Earning the money to pay for it all.
What Friends Say: At first, I got the reaction that things were too cluttered and busy, so I’ve listened to my friends who have recommended various moderating steps!
Biggest Embarrassment: I’d like to forget the orange paint I tried out in the kitchen at first.
Proudest DIY: Using fragments of 19th century dishes found in my backyard for a sort of mosaic trim in the kitchen.
Biggest Indulgence: Early 19th century tile from Italy, bought at La Galleria del Tempo in Capranica, outside Viterbo, Italy.
Best Advice: Don’t use an architect unless you have to file with your municipality. Most of them have little knowledge of materials and will try to push the latest trends on you. Then you will end up with the same stainless steel kitchen as everyone else. Vulgar and quickly dated! Don’t renovate before you move it. Live in the house awhile before you begin work, that will teach you how things should go, from which room gets sun when to where you naturally want to spend time. Don’t buy new when you can find old. My bronze kitchen sink cost $60 on eBay and another $100 or so for Eric Cuper (see below in Sources) to straighten it. Why pay hundreds of dollars for a mass-produced, over-designed copy of a vintage item when you can usually get the real thing for less and re-tool it with the aid of a good craftsman? Finally, custom work is often cheaper than off-the-rack, especially for items like metal. I got metal doorknobs custom-made for less than the price of high end off-the-rack.
Karl Leitgeb lives in Vienna and will work on renovations and fine custom furniture in Europe.
My best sources have been mainly in Montreal:
Meubles Campagnolo woodworkers (6256 Henri-Julien) for extra-thick mahogany
Gigi’s store at 361 Van Horne West and Nick’s store opposite that for the salvaged bathtub, doors and stove plates
Sputnik (2120 Amherst) Cocktails (2668 rue Notre-Dame Ouest) and Couleurs (3901 rue Saint-Denis) specializing in mid-century modern with the odd eccentric Quebec artisan piece thrown in.
Market at La Chute between Ottawa and Montreal for those who wish to buy in quantity. This is a huge farmer’s market where you can also buy horses and saddles, but it has absurdly cheap country and local Quebec antiques in the early morning. I was buying artisanal pottery there for $1 a vase.
Karl Leitgeb now lives in Vienna, but Eric Cuper, who did almost all the metal work in the house, lives in Pennsylvania and will work in Manhattan.
Images: Jill Slater
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