Designer Annie Selke updates her 1886 home with fresh color
She started it all by bleaching the oak floors in the front hall, study, and living room. “It instantly transformed them,” says designer Annie Selke, who last year decided to make major changes to the interior of her 1886 house.
Annie is the creative dervish behind three home-design firms—Pine Cone Hill, Dash & Albert Rug Company, and Potluck Studios—that she runs with her husband, Whitney. The bleach was the initial step in her chemistry experiment. She turned the couple’s barn-red shingled house, which is also home to daughter Charlotte and three Clumber spaniels, into a laboratory. She brightened the palette and remade many of the rooms by filling them with her own furniture, fabrics, and trims that she has just designed for Annie Selke Home (ASH) and which will be available from Vanguard Furniture and Calico Corners/Calico Home. The collection is appropriately named, since Annie is, in fact, living with her work at home.
Design: Annie Selke, The Annie Selke Companies, 125 Pecks Rd., Pittsfield, MA 01201; 800/442-8157, annieselke.com. The Annie Selke Companies include Pine Cone Hill, pineconehill.com; Dash & Albert Rug Co., dashandalbert.com; Potluck Studios, potluckstudios.com.
Photography: Steven Randazzo
Produced by Sabine Rothman
A mad scientist (or a madcap designer) is probably the only person who could pull this off. “You have to know your tolerance for change,” says Annie, who admits she has plenty. When the Selkes bought the house in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, seven years ago, they did extensive remodeling. This latest undertaking was different: Without physically altering space, Annie changed both the look and the tone of the house, yet preserved its emotional resonance. “This is a happy house. It’s not intimidating because it’s in the country and was built as a summer house. There’s an informality to it. I didn’t want anything heavy.”
A sunny palette with easy elegance has replaced a richer, heavier one. The living room now boasts colors of the sea, especially in the Farrow & Ball “Plain Stripe” wallpaper. A pair of Annie’s “Town Settees” face each other in front of the fireplace. A display of pillows adds color, comfort, and pizzazz to the bargello-like “Ila” pattern of the upholstery. The “Bamboo Cocktail” ottoman is covered in Vanguard’s “Delphine” fabric in clover.
The Selkes’ rambling Victorian house is painted red, which is particularly welcome during gray New England winters. In summertime, the deep wraparound porch is set with traditional wicker furniture, where everyone can relax and enjoy lush green views of the Berkshires.
The generous size of the cocktail table, designed for her Annie Selke Home line, suits the study, where the family likes to watch TV and listen to music. (Annie’s relaxed enough here that when her rambunctious puppy, Emmet, ate the wooden knot on the table’s stretcher, she didn’t flinch.)
“Eddie,” the leather club chair, was also designed for her furniture line. It manages to be both chic and relaxed as it cozies up to the “Bertram” sofa covered in Annie’s slate-colored “Sarala,” a classic print. The wooden legs are painted to lighten things up.
The public rooms and master bedroom—the remaining bedrooms will have to wait—are now a living showcase of the furniture and fabrics that have emerged from Annie’s imagination this last year for the collection: 85 pieces of furniture, ranging from beds and sofas to ottomans, tables, and chairs, as well as 40 fabrics, including eyelet, embroidery, and matelassé. “I was designing furniture, and some pieces were already in my house,” she says. “But the fabrics made me change the house. I’ve never had bolts and bolts before. I’m excited to live with it.”
Her glass-topped dining table with demilune extensions is chic and flexible. The circle-back side chairs echo the demilunes’ curves.
Her inspirations are as varied as the work itself. A radiator cover that was in her grandparents’ house has been reimagined as a dining-room console. “I drew on my favorite things,” Annie says. “Some are reproductions of antiques I’ve always loved, like spindle chairs.”
Annie thought about comfort as well as aesthetics. “I worked on the ‘ride’ of each chair,” she says. “When you’re sitting in a good one, you don’t think about it, but a bad one—wow.
“I want comfort, function, and—most important—good proportions,” Annie insists.
Annie based her design for the “O’Hara” chairs on treasured antiques.
Though Annie changed things on a grand scale, she advises others to start small. Begin with the overall feeling you want to create. A good place to start is choosing a palette or a rug. “Try paint. It’s cheap, and if you take a wrong turn, you can always fix it. Take a risk,” she advises. As for furniture, “Don’t get everything at once. Add pieces judiciously.”
Now that she’s had a taste of full-throttle furniture and fabric design, what’s next? “I haven’t done lamps yet, but I might,” she says. “What’s left? I know—a house!” She might be kidding, but don’t count on it.