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The interiors of this 1890s brownstone merge modern day design with the traditional, creating a home that is both comfortable and formal

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When designing within the historic and physical parameters of a period home, challenges can arise. Spaces may be small and awkward, and original materials such as wallcoverings can require more maintenance than their modern counterparts. However, as Martin Horner and Shea Soucie, from architectural and design firm Soucie Horner, have found, these can all work to add to the character of the home.

Soucie Horner was asked to renovate the interiors of this house to a style that was comfortable, but held a sense of formality. The original long and narrow architecture of the brownstone, with tall ceilings and multiple rooms running off from one another, was enhanced through the addition of modern elements, says Horner.

"The original walls are intact, as is the wainscoting in the foyer and the staircase, which accesses all levels. The white oak hardwood floors are original and have been refurbished. We used color, lighting and furniture to add a contemporary touch."

Each room in the house is mostly one color in a variety of shades, with another color adding accent. For the living room, which is accessed from the entry foyer, a neutral ivory is used for the walls and furniture, with highlights in gold. The room is small, with high ceilings. Soucie says the Italian light fixture sourced for the space lends a sense of scale.

"The proportion of the living and dining rooms is counterbalanced through ornate light fittings, which hang down overhead and become a feature of the room. The dining room fitting is a stripped-down chandelier by Niermann Weeks. This also adds a hint of formality to a room that is often used for entertaining guests."

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The homeowners have no children, so the designers were able to use fine fabrics and fragile antiques throughout the home, without the risk of wear and tear. Furniture was sourced by the designers, and includes a mixture of modern and antique pieces, says Horner.

"All the upholstery is new and most is custom-made. Case goods in the dining room, such as the buffets, side tables and shelving, are mostly antiques tracked down and purchased for the project."

A small den is located further down the hallway towards the kitchen. Similar to a library on the third floor, the walls of this room have been lined with wood paneling, which was created especially for the house.

"Wood paneling enhances the original architecture and lends a sense of warmth. Velvety brown couches, with red accents in the cushions and rug, create an intimate space," says Horner.

The second floor of the house is devoted to entertainment, office space, and guest bedrooms. The homeowners have a fondness for Asian design, which prompted color and material choices in the media room, says Soucie.

"A media room is going to be a dark place, so we wanted to capture something of the warm, den-like environments seen in Asian architecture. Deep plums, browns and reds were chosen, in fabrics that have shine and texture. A brown grasscloth is used for the walls, while chocolate-brown wool has been chosen for the drapery."

In a departure from the deep reds and browns of some of the downstairs spaces, the third floor, which is dedicated to the private areas of the homeowners, displays much softer shades.

"The master bedroom is very feminine, with powder blue and champagne gold the predominant colors. The master bathroom has an ornate fleur-de-lis wallpaper, which along with white Thassos tiles creates a sense of splendor and grandeur," says Soucie.

First published date: 28 February 2012

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Credit List

Interior designer Soucie Horner Ltd (Chicago, IL)
Living room seating French Club chair by Niermann Weeks, in Tahoe by Great Planes; couch by Interior Crafts, in Imperio by Nancy Cortine
Drapes Roman shades by Castec in Bahia
Dining table Georgian dining table by Dessin Fournir
Dining chairs Kerry Joyce by Luxford, in Carnelian Veronese, Charles Hassock ottoman, in Russell Grand Otto by Classic Cloth
Dining drapes Castec by Jim Thompson, in Congo
Dining chandelier Niermann Weeks
Media seating Sofa by A. Rudin, in Rivoli chenille
Media drapes Satin wool in aubergine
Media coffee table Iron Ball table by Formations
Media wallcovering Grasscloth #2 by Donghia
Master bed Custom headboard by Lords Upholstery
Decorative pillows Textures
Master bedroom seating Cambon bench by Niermann Weeks, in Andaman by Osborne & Little
Kitchen countertop Soapstone by Silkstone
Sink Custom carved farm sink in Jerusalem Gold
Bathtub Bathworks
Faucets Kallista in brushed nickel
Wallcoverings Scalamandre
Chair French Antique from Pavilion Antiques