Black, White, & Luxe
This article was written by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans and was featured in our May issue of Home By Design magazine. Photography by Sean Litchfield from www.seanlitchfield.com. To visit the original Home By Design article, click here.
COOL CALIFORNIA SENSIBILITY IN CLASICALLY LEANING PENNSYLVANIA
That old adage about the “first pancake” being inedible didn’t apply to designer Brittany Hakimfar’s first house, which—thanks to her fervent efforts—looked straight out of the pages of a magazine, even before it graced these actual magazine pages. “This was my husband and my first home,” says Hakimfar, the designer behind Far Studio, which she runs with her husband Benjamin Hakimfar as co-owners and partners. “We bought it when I had a six-month-old girl and I was pregnant with my son, so we knew it had to be something that was family friendly but also really beautiful.”
Before they bought the 1960s Philadelphia-area abode (which they’ve since sold), the couple were living the big city life in Los Angeles. “We moved to Pennsylvania to raise our kids and give them more space to run around,” says Hakimfar. “I had reservations about my kids growing up in LA and my family was in Pennsylvania; we wanted them to have that East Coast upbringing.” But that didn’t mean they couldn’t bring a bit of SoCal’s cool factor along with them. “We try to bring this West Coast eclectic vibe to the East Coast,” says Hakimfar. “Our area is known to be very traditional, with lots of buttoned-up plaid and toile. But with COVID, a lot of younger people are moving out here.”
There was just one problem: the house they purchased wasn’t exactly ready for its turn in the sunny spotlight. “When we moved into this house it was initially done by a builder, and he redid the old house in ways most people would find unappealing, choosing not the nicest finishes, blue paint colors, and giving the wood floors a reddish tone,” recalls Hakimfar. “The house sat on the market for a while, but I immediately saw potential because the bones were there.”
To give the property an instant upgrade worthy of a La-La Land starlet, they began by stripping all the floors to their white oak finish. “We left them in their natural state, then sealed them with Bona NaturalSeal to protect them and keep their original color.” Then, because Hakimfar loves an airy feel in her interiors, they painted nearly every single wall Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore. “It makes the home feel more cohesive, and I like things to feel bright and light,” she says. “[The paint color] brightened up the whole space.”
For their cookspace, Hakimfar wanted to create a Pinterest-worthy look. “I had envisioned a really clean white kitchen that had this white subway tile with dark grout; I put it on my vision board and really loved it,” she says. They salvaged the existing cabinets but transformed the room’s appearance by replacing the counters and backsplash, continuing the tile up around the doorway and opposing wall so the whole room was tiled—a timeless choice that gives the space the aura of a Downton Abbey-era scullery. But the designer’s favorite part might just be the open shelving made from reclaimed pine wood. “Those were shelves we actually saw on an auction website and purchased for around $200 prior to even buying the home, and all the sudden we measured and it was a perfect fit—the exact dimensions we needed,” says Hakimfar. The farmhouse craze produced a lot of faux, but these open shelves are likely from an actual farm. “In Pennsylvania, a lot of these auctions have older things from barns, so we’re guessing it came from something like that.” The brackets they came with were tarnished, so they simply spray-painted them black for a fresh look.
The couple also added necessary detail throughout the home with new millwork, which emits a “been here forever” feel. Says Hakimfar, “In little niche areas where we could have easily put furniture or a cabinet, when you do something that is custom designed from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, it adds something furniture can’t do.” The final result? “Adding all those pieces gave more dimension to the house, taking it away from builder grade to really feeling like home.”
|IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS
|How Far Studio used tiny touches to transform their house into a layered masterwork.
SMART ART. “My husband loves collecting artwork—he’s really passionate about it,” says Hakimfar (one treasured piece: a five-foot-tall abstract by Canadian artist Thrush Holmes). “You have to design a home that can continually evolve, so all of the artwork could easily be moved into other spaces every few months when you get the itch to restyle it.”
TEXTURE TIME. “It’s very easy to [move art around] because of neutral fabric furniture and white walls,” says the designer. “I like to blend textures rather than patterns, using linen, boucle, and mohair to bring depth rather than specific patterns or bright colors.”
MIX MASTER. “A lot of pieces of furniture are one of a kind,” says Hakimfar, such as cane-back Jeanneret chairs in the living room and a Saarinen tulip table by Knoll. “But then we also have a black Ikea rug in the office—it’s a great mix of high and low.”