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In the bar, the wallpaper is by Fromental, the mirror is by Carlos Veas, and the rug is by the Rug Market.
ELLE DECOR: You’ve worked with these clients before. How was this project different?
RICHARD MISHAAN: I did two apartments for them in New York City. This house, the oldest parts of which date from 1870, is on a horse farm in rural Westchester County where a family with two kids and three dogs can relax and enjoy themselves.
ED: And what were your guiding design principles?
RM: We wanted to update the house without disrespecting what had already been there, so we layered the traditional and the contemporary to maintain the sense of a 19th-century farmhouse that had been added onto over the years.
ED: What original features of the house survived?
RM: The wide-plank oak flooring is original, but we ebonized it, which brings it forward in time. Some of the wood beams are original and some moldings were replaced in a style that works with all the periods of the house.
ED: Is it fair to say that the living room is the most traditional room of the renovation?
RM: Yes, absolutely. But even though it looks traditional, almost everything in it is modern. There are nods to the past, like the American hooked rug from the New England Collection, but it’s up to date in its color and pattern.
ED: You chose readily available rugs, some very reasonably priced.
RM: I love that mix of high and low, and I’m very much about practicality and the way a house gets used. If they get damaged, many of these rugs can be replaced at no great cost. The media room rug is actually two five-by-eight Soundwave rugs by CB2.
ED: Tell us about the design of the media room.
RM: This is a high-tech room, so it’s more modern than traditional, yet I wanted it to be extremely comfortable. I’ve found over the years that for the best video projection you want dark color on the walls, so here I used what is, essentially, an Ultrasuede fabric. It very nicely hides the built-in surround-sound components, and it acts like a speaker cover. I used the gilded Phillip Jeffries paper on the ceiling to reflect light, which visually raises the ceiling.
ED: The kitchen is huge, but why isn’t there a dining room?
RM: They wanted one big space that would accommodate all their needs: family breakfasts, lunch for the grooms who work on the farm, entertaining friends. There used to be a formal dining room, but it’s the media room now.
ED: When do you decide that you need to design your own furniture for a room?
RM: In the world of contemporary furniture in particular, most manufacturers don’t want to customize things. The way furniture feels in a room has to do with scale and proportion. In the kitchen we wanted a long, narrow table and couldn’t find one, so I designed one myself.
ED: Why did you use two colors of leather on the seating?
RM: Partly for visual interest, partly to keep with our theme of then and now. The banquette’s tobacco color is more traditional, and the orange on the chairs is more modern. The plaid wing chair from Jerry Pair was inspired by a shirt the homeowner saw in a magazine.
ED: So why no color in the bath?
RM: Over the years I’ve come to think that bathrooms should be almost clinical, spalike. The windows here obviously root the house in the past, but it’s a modern bathroom. I guess you could say the freestanding bathtub is a nod to history, to the days before indoor plumbing, but it’s a contemporary Philippe Starck design. The Moroccan side table is just the kind of accent piece I like to use to give a room an unexpected little twist.
ED: Of all the rooms, the bar seems the least like the rest of the house. Why is that?
RM: Clients sometimes say things as a joke. Mine said something like, Wouldn’t it be funny to have a kind of urban, adult room for cocktails when our city friends come up? So I thought, Why not? The wallpaper, from Fromental in England, was perfect for this space, and we bought the signed Pierre Cardin sideboard on 1stdibs. I painted the fireplace black with gold on the carved details, which was a risk, but when it was done, I thought it looked like old Wedgwood.
ED: What would be your most important piece of advice to any client?
RM: Know how you live, and make your house serve you. You don’t have to have the rooms other people think you should have. You aren’t stuck with the function that has been assigned to a space by someone else. If you want a huge kitchen or a funky bar, have it. That’s what will make you happy in your home.
This article first appeared in ELLE DECOR. Interview by Michael Lassell. Photography by William Waldron. Produced by Anita Sarsidi.