Orna & Reid Willis’ Worldly Live-Work Loft

published Dec 14, 2010
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Name: Orna of Designs by Orna and Reid Willis with their daughter Nina and puppy Esther
Location: Northern Liberties — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Size: 2,950 square feet — 3 bedrooms
Years lived in: 6 — own

Being an artist certainly gives you an advantage in the realm of design. Artists already have an eye for design and color, so it’s only natural for their homes to be large pieces of art. Orna has been running Designs by Orna since 1994 and has traveled all over the world — her experience has definitely contributed to the aesthetic success of her Philadelphia loft.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Orna is a huge fan of color and that’s more than apparent in her home. As soon as you walk into the loft, the brightly colored living room furniture jumps out at you. The next thing you see is the bright and airy kitchen next to the large windows in the back drop of the dining area. As you walk down the hallway you find the TV area and you encounter the first traces of white — the couch. But don’t let that white couch fool you, it’s strategically placed next to a bright red chair and purple leather ottoman.

Our two favorite places in the loft are Orna’s daughter Nina’s room and Orna’s work space. Both rooms are filled to the bring with bright and inspirational colors and I seriously cannot get enough. Nina’s room is exactly how I wish our room was when I was young. I imagine waking up every morning is invigorating and very inspirational. Orna’s workspace is just as inspiring, not only because of the colors but because of the organization she was able to accomplish.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Our style is: bring in what you love and find beautiful, what has family memories and what you bring back from your travels. Its a perfect recipe for loving your home!

Inspiration: Color, Color, Color. I’m a color addict.

Favorite Element: A great deal of our artwork is by family. Our daughter, Shiri, (who lives with her husband in Brooklyn) is the biggest contributor to our art collection. Her paintings and drawings adorn our walls and show her work starting in her teenage years. We have a very artistic family on both sides and love the connection we feel when we look at their talent on our walls.

Biggest Challenge: Storage and intimacy. This summer we renovated our loft and tackled these two issues with much success. We placed new partial walls throughout the common areas in order to give a sense of privacy and intimacy to some areas of our open space. The criteria for the walls was that they had to come with storage solutions, either cabinets or shelving on one or both sides of the walls. Being a fiber artist and having a home business and studio, I needed to find a way to store and display my fibers. We had slatwalls built, framed and mounted in my studio. I am now able to display hundreds of skeins of hand dyed fibers. Now I can access my inspiration at a glance. We also built a partial wall that gives our small TV room the feeling of a cocoon. We placed a table in one corner of the room for board and card games which we love to play with Nina, our 9 year old. This is where we gather for movie watching, and where I love to sit and work on my fiber creations.

What Friends Say: They usually comment on how our spaces are big and yet still give a sense of coziness and warmth.

Biggest Embarrassment: We still can’t figure out why our bathroom makes weird, alien-like noises. Every so often, and all of a sudden, the pipes, toilet, bathtub, make the loudest, strangest gurgling sounds you’ve ever heard.

Proudest DIY: We love our Crate and Barrel tablecloth curtains which we hung in our daughter’s room. The other project we adore is one that the architect who planned our renovation came up with. He suggested Ikea wood countertops to line our new walls. The wood turns out to be the most economical and really very beautiful. And in a pinch, you can cut vegetables on your walls.

Biggest Indulgence: We tend not to indulge on single items, (although I would have to say our beautiful purple leather camelback sofa which we bought 18 years ago was quite decadent). Most recently we indulged in an induction cooktop and we absolutely love it! Our building is electric only, so we looked for a way to have the benefits of a gas cooktop without the gas. Induction cooktops are more expensive but are worth every penny! They are also more efficient and over time pay off. Initially we thought we would have to replace all our pots and pans, but in reality, if a magnet sticks to the bottom of a pan, it works for induction!

Best Advice: If you abide by the rule of only displaying what you love, regardless of it’s perceived compatibility with other items in your home, if you stick to that, you will have a home that is beautiful in your eyes. They are the only eyes that count!

Dream Sources: I’m a huge fan of Tricia Guild’s work. Her use of color, her simple furniture. I “travel” to her website often.

Other Inspiration: The aesthetic sense of far away places: India, Middle East, Scandinavia, Far East (with a special emphasis on Cambodia, where our daughter Nina was born).

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)





    • Living room: Purple leather camelback sofa: Ethan Allen, Leather armchairs: Crate and Barrel, (I painted one with leather paint and still need to decide if I like it and should paint the second one, Chartreuse Ultrasuede sofa: Garage Sale that I had reupholstered. Coffee tables: Ethan Allen (central one) and a resale store (side one). All wall art by Shiri Wolf, my talented daughter. The one behind the sofa was done by her when she was 16.
    • Dining Room: Dining table and chairs are all Ethan Allen which we had refinished and reupholstered.
    In studio: Kitchen counter tops and island units are all Ikea. Black chair: Herman Miller Aero chair. The purple chair was a $10 garage sale find which I had reupholstered (I won’t disclose how much that cost…) The slat walls are Home Depot and were framed with wood trim. All the computer tables are Ikea kitchen counters.
    • Kitchen: The entire kitchen is Ikea cabinets with some Ikea doors and some doors special ordered from Erectorsets in Philadelphia. The dark doors were painted with Benjamin Moore paint. The kitchen was pieced together by our architects, the Philadelphia firm Qb3. It came out looking very upscale at an Ikea price.
    • Nina’s bedroom: Her bed and double desk is from Ikea. The rug is by Susan Sargent and we love the birds.









(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks Orna!

Images: Kristen Lubbe

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