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The Nature of Home
Martha Stewart editorial director Gael Towey and her designer husband, Stephen Doyle, create a family home with loads of personal touches in New York City.
In the living room of the West Village town house, under an antique French concrete faux-bois mirror frame, a faux-bois table made by Stephen straddles a vintage radiator.
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Stephen Doyle and Gael Towey chose a streamlined 1960s light fixture by Danish designer Poul Henningsen to offset the classical patterns of restored Victorian moldings. The low-slung sofa and bench, adaptations of 1950s modern classics, help the room seem loftier and offer plenty of seating for party guests.
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Stephen and Gael with their son, August, and daughter, Maud.
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Objects placed asymmetrically around the living room mantel keep this space from feeling overly formal. When clustered, the small cases of butterflies at left not only invite comparison of the specimens, they visually balance the single large photograph of a peregrine falcon by Victor Schrager at right. Light reflected by the mirror over the fireplace brightens the whole room. The coffee table, designed by Abel Sorrenson, is actually two removable trays atop a webbed bench.
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A wall hanging of handmade botanical wallpaper by Joan Nelson echoes the theme of the living room rug.
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Light and Dark
The original back parlor has become the library (foreground), which doubles as a dining room when Gael and Stephen entertain. They ebonized the oak floorboards to anchor the pale walls, but gave the floors a sheen that bounces natural light into the windowless space from the adjoining living room and from a rear studio (background). In the studio, part of a 1930s two-story addition, an ethereal sculpture of Stephen's, a book, is suspended, page by page, on bookbinding thread and glass capillary tubes.
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Outfitting the tiny bathroom with just one material -- Carrara marble -- keeps it from feeling cramped or cluttered; a frosted glass door with transom admits sunlight from the backyard.
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Off the studio, a compact but bright pantry and bar with a deep farmer's sink and milk glass cabinets, is convenient for entertaining; the painting on the counter is one of Maud's.
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A living-room "still life" is a tongue-in-cheek take on the nature themes that run through the house: a papier-mache log from the 1930s; a pair of Andre Cazenave rock lamps made in the 1960s; and a boulder scored from a Monty Python set.
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On the desk rests a bronze gourd by friend Amy Goldman; one of August's wooden sculptures; a wooden box of Japanese tea bowls; a framed drawing by friend Holton Rower; one of Stephen's sculptures, Book at Rest; butterfly specimens; a snake skeleton and bird leg bone; and a French medical model of the human eye.
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The library's ash-wood wall unit, designed by Stephen, has a platinum glaze with a soft shimmer that contrasts with high-shine, stainless steel supports. "The stainless steel makes the unit appear to be light, almost floating, even though it's actually massive," says Gael. These cabinets hold everything from household files and arts-and-crafts supplies to wrapping paper and table linens, making the library an indispensable resource for everyday life. Above the fold-down desktops, a shelf displays artwork and curiosities, made or collected by family and friends.
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In the garden-floor family room, Gael and Stephen struck a casual note "with more dramatic shapes and colors, and fun, '50s and '60s furniture," Gael says. Durable, olive-toned fabric covers a sofa designed by Jens Risom. The coffee table consists of a flea market metal base with a wooden top painted to match a 1950s enameled-metal table and chairs near the window; vinyl beanbag chairs are stylish yet comfortable.
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August and Maud, sitting on Eero Saarinen Womb chairs, go head-to-head at virtual billiards in the family room. Limed-oak cabinets, designed by Gael and Stephen, house a television, stereo, video games, and movies. The speakers are concealed behind fabric panels above the television. Pocket doors slide out to hide the TV when it's not in use.
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In the guest room, twin beds can be locked together. The iron-and-birch desk and lamp came from a Paris flea market. A pair of felt-lined curtain panels slide on top of each other to become a wall hanging; moved over the two windows, they block light and street noise.
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Matching limed-oak cabinets warm the palette in the garden-floor kitchen, which receives limited daylight. The gently reflective stainless-steel countertop and backsplash also brighten the room; the dents and dings that come with use actually improve their looks. The painting propped up behind the clock is a Paris flea market find. Black-iron stools are covered in a green vinyl that's tough enough for the after-school crowd.
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A view of the home from the back patio.
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The family transforms the formal living room into a massive dining room for holiday entertaining.