Designing an Open-Concept Space
Q & A with Designer, Marcye Philbrook
When a couple wanted to downsize from their NYC apartment and settle into a coastal pied-à-terre in New Hampshire, they sold everything, except their Moser furniture. We sat down with their designer, Marcye Philbrook of Marcye Philbrook Design Studio. We asked her how she artfully designed and integrated elements of their existing Moser pieces to create a contemporary home.
Tell us a little about the space when you joined the project.
Marcye: The apartment was a big blank page; there was nothing but a cement floor and metal studs. We needed to carve out space and define specific sections, the dining, living, and kitchen. We first worked on defining a kitchen space. By incorporating an island, we gave the room a bit of visual intrigue and definition. The homeowners have an incredible collection of handblown glass, and we wanted a space to help showcase that and create a comfortable and intimate seating area near the fireplace. Working with the owners, we designed the fireplace to incorporate recessed shelving to display the glass and create a more modern framing around the fireplace.
What Elements of the Moser furniture inspired your design?
Marcye: The homeowners wanted to maintain a light and airy aesthetic while incorporating various wood species. Two walls are full of windows, so we needed to work with this beautiful ambient light. The homeowners wanted a modern contemporary design, and Moser has a contemporary and versatile enough line to fit their desires to a tee. The Wing Chairs are made of cherry and are covered in a neutral fabric. Both chairs have developed this incredibly rich patina and had ripples of dark mineral deposits. Seeing these chairs and drawing on elements from their American Bungalow Bed, Minimus Table, and Bowback Glove Table– all in cherry, they set the stage for the color palette throughout the home as well as the aesthetic. Every piece has this incredible curvature to them- the look, shape, and feel of their Moser wood furniture was where we drew the inspiration. The beauty is in the mix.
How did you make the space feel cohesive and balanced?
Marcye: We looked to hues within their cherry furniture and did not use more than three wood species throughout the home. From there, we moved to the floors. This is a huge space, and because the light is coming from just two sides of the room, we wanted it to fill the space. We decided to install a light-colored wooden floor capturing the lighter, honeyed highlights in the cherry furniture and the cream upholstery. Incorporating the light flooring helped maintain an airiness to the room, even after the furniture was added. The homeowners didn’t want to use red-hued woods in the kitchen or floor. This enabled us to use walnut for the cabinetry throughout the home, contrasting the lighter floors. Each wood species we used had a richness, and the floors’ warmth tied the look together and complemented the other. No one species washes the other out or competes with the other.
What are some words of advice for open-concept design?
Create some breathing room.
It’s essential to carve out defined areas within a large space. If you have an open concept living space, consider different seating areas, kitchen, and dining. Define these distinct groupings with a rug but allow plenty of traffic areas and breathing areas. It may be tempting to add a plant or a side table to fill in the space, but your mantra should be: Don’t be afraid to have empty space.
Limit your color palette.
To create a cohesive look, you have to limit your color choices and wood species. To create a unified look in this space, we used walnut or white cabinets throughout the home, and the light flooring offers a warm and neutral canvas to reflect the light from the windows, and the furniture is a beautiful aged cherry. The pops of color and accents in this room come from their stunning glass collection and a few throw pillows. The upholstery on the larger pieces in their place is neutral to allow for these playful moments throughout the space.
Have a focal point.
In this large room, the fireplace and the recessed shelving that houses their glass collection naturally draw people over. Each area is defined by a centralized rug that pulls all furniture together, creates a designated area, and anchors the room.
Any Final Thoughts?
Marcye: When the homeowners first were in touch with me, I was going to help with a few build-ins, but it transformed into designing the whole unit. The homeowners were wonderful to work with and willingly accepted my ideas and suggestions. Best of all, they were willing clients who had a vision and furniture they knew needed to be included in the design—those key components made working on this project an absolute dream.
What is striking in Marcye’s design is how she drew upon the essence of our furniture- clean lines, warm wood tones, and natural materials- transforming a cold and sterile cement room with steel beams into a warm and inviting contemporary home. Her light-wood flooring and neutral colors allow the ambient light to fill the space, showcasing the homeowner’s warm cherry furniture and exquisite glass collection. The room has space, it breathes, and it makes us feel right at home.