Name: Suzy Ultman
Location: Old Worthington — Worthington, Ohio
Size: 1,700 square feet
Years lived in: 2 — owned
If you're familiar with Suzy Ultman's work, you know her for her playful designs depicting a world populated by grinning apples, thick-eyelashed owls and rosy-cheeked matryoshka dolls, figures rendered with simple details that pack a mega punch of personality. For that reason, you may well envision her home as a bright, modern space with a healthy salting of mid-century style. What you'll find, should you be lucky enough to make a visit, is all that and more.
As an artist, Suzy's work melds retro sensibilities with those of Japanese and Scandinavian design. In her home, Suzy, a longtime Apartment Therapy favorite, strikes a balance between aesthetically pleasing décor and that which is necessitated by the day-to-day demands of a live/workspace shared with two rambunctious school-age sons. Floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate her ranch-style home during the daytime and provide her a view into a cozy backyard frequently visited by birds, squirrels, rabbits and sometimes even deer. Elsewhere in the home, a wood-paneled "man room" gives Suzy's sons room to play freely with their enviable collection of Lego figures, G.I. Joes and art supplies. In her small office, Suzy keeps a bulletin board of inspiring images that span both decades and continents; ever-present among them are pieces of art from The Netherlands (as an adult, Suzy spent three years in Amsterdam and fell in love with the country's folk art style). It is in this room where a visitor can also find a small stash of the digital prints Suzy sells on Etsy; the fabrics she designed for Robert Kaufman; and some of the paper products she created for Chronicle Books.
Suzy grew up with parents who collected art and classic pieces of design such as Marimekko linens and Dansk housewares; now she does the same, populating her home with smartly curated collections of items such as Scandinavian enamelware and vintage ephemera. The years have witnessed her collect art, too. Suzy counts many of the artists whose work is on display in her home as friends (including that of fellow Worthington designer Little Alouette), and she's not shy about including her own digital prints, proofs and crafts among theirs. (Suzy's charming line of linens designed for the Land of Nod pop up in her sons' room; a windmill-shaped pillow that was also a part of the line sits on the Nelson-style bench in her entry.) As you travel from room to room, collection to collection, it quickly becomes apparent that, like the fantasy worlds she's committed to fabric, paper and other media, the world that Suzy has designed for herself is fun and warm; a kid-friendly (but far from childish) place where creativity flourishes.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: whimsical mid-century modern
Inspiration: (1) MY PARENTS. I grew up in a house filled with Scandinavian furniture, Dansk homewares, Marimekko linens and Breuer Chairs. (My mom recently told me the story of when she bought her first Marimekko yardage at the original Crate&Barrel shop on Wells Street in Chicago.) My parents also started collecting art when they were newlyweds: not as an investment but because they were drawn to certain pieces. It always seemed "normal" to me to put aside money to buy art. I started my collection by purchasing art from friends :)
(2) MY KIDS. I am a single mom with 2 boys so I try to strike a balance between my design taste, their boy taste and my lack of time to clean. I've concentrated my collections of breakables to certain spaces in the house to decrease the likelihood of accidents. We've also named the very cool, paneled back room "the man room". The boys keep all of their toys in this room, and there are very few rules except one big tidy-up per week. I try to keep things simple but fun.
(3) MY PERSONALITY. Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed collecting (from snoopy stickers to friendship pins). I curate little spots of collectibles throughout the house. I rotate through objects depending on what's inspiring me at the time.
Favorite Element: The floor to ceiling windows that line the back of the house. They flood the "great room" with gorgeous light, and provide a view of all of the birdies, squirrels, bunnies and occasional deer that inhabit our back yard.
Biggest Challenge: Juggling the priorities of projects. I bought the house knowing it would need the unglamourous work first: roof, gutters, HVAC, driveway. I'd MUCH rather redo the bathrooms & kitchen, but I have to be practical. By the way, would you like a tour of my brand new furnace?
What Friends Say: "Modern but cozy, with every nook filled with perfect arrangements of art & collectibles."
Biggest Embarrassment: The bathrooms
Proudest DIY: My sewing projects
Biggest Indulgence: Eames chair
Best Advice: Live in a house for at least a year before you start any big renovation projects. Take the time to get to know the space. Also, nothing is permanent. You can always repaint a wall or spackle over a nail hole.
Dream Sources: I don't think I have a dream source. I'm just as happy browsing through the DWR catalog as I am shopping Etsy's vintage marketplace or digging through a haphazard Goodwill store.
Resources of Note:
LIVING ROOM & DINING ROOM
• Eames Chair & Bookcase
• Herman Miller Table
• Vintage Shell Chairs
• Jonathan Adler Vases
• Jonathan Adler Apple Pillow
• Alexander Girard for Urban Outfitters Pillow
• Marimekko Pillows
• Flos Glo Ball Floor Lamp
• Black Bear, Dick Bruna Book Collections
• Art Wall: Vintage Posters, Ed Emberley Print, Lisa Dejohn Flowers, Lisa Congdon Trees, Julia Rothman Bird Watching, Susie Ghahremani Bird, Matte Stephens Bird, Seona Hong "loose lips", Sheila Lamb Print. Also pieces by Scott Patt and Mati Rose McDonough
• Misc: Vintage Stoneware Head Vase, Walter Bosse Hedgehog Ashtray, Alexander Girard Wooden Dolls, Vintage Yellow Owl Bank, Figgjo Flint mother & son salt & pepper, Cathrineholm bowls
• Finel Enamel Heart Bowl
• MOMA Japan Collection Sugar Bowl
• Finel Enamel Mushroom Bowl,
• Nintje (a.k.a. Miffy) Bunny Bank
• Vintage Dazor Lamp
• Art Wall: Joanna Ramage Name Photo Collages, Brian Flynn Space Posters, Laura Berger Octopus Character, Matte Stephens Sea Monkey, Scott Patt Robot
• Jonisk Floor/Table Lamp
• Vintage Mushroom Lamp
• Bedding: Suzy Ultman for Land of Nod (Dream On Bedding)
• Room and Board Loft Bed
• Land of Nod Woodgrain Rug
• House Numbers: These are an amazing find! They run about $5 apiece at Home Depot and look VERY similar to DWR's Neutra House Numbers which cost $48 apiece.
(Images: Jennifer Wray)
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