When working on the design of a new build, the expert's brief is often to try to instill a sense of character. Instead, working on the Roman and Williams-designed Fitzroy in New York, designer Shawn Henderson already had plenty to play with with this house design - from the reclaimed oak parquet floor to the oak surrounding the doors and windows to the copper soaking tub in the bathroom.
‘It’s so unusual to walk into a newly developed building that has such a high level of detailing to it – it was very bespoke and a dream to work with,’ Shawn explains.
His own aesthetic, which combines beautifully crafted vintage pieces with modern contemporary, resulting in sophisticated, yet inviting schemes, amalgamated perfectly with the building. It also matched the tastes of the couple who wanted his help to personalize their new family home where they were settling with their two young boys.
Shawn took his design cues from the wife, who ‘is incredibly fashionably dressed and you can tell just loves to surround herself with beautiful things’. She was involved in the design process from the start. ‘It was such an exciting relationship, sending pictures back and forth and really pushing each other,’ he says.
One example was the dining room. While the rest of the three-bedroom apartment is painted in calm, chalky paint tones, Shawn wanted to do something different to the walls. ‘I suggested wood paneling or perhaps a lacquer, then we started talking about a wall mural and she found the amazing de Gournay wallpaper called Early Views of India that we ended up choosing. That was how we worked; it was so fun.’
Aside from this wallpaper, Shawn tends to work with sumptuous layers of texture, rather than pattern. The sitting room, for example, has a huge custom-made rug that grounds the space, in an off-white color that chimes with a Carl-Axel Acking daybed and the linen blinds.
Shawn has then layered warm mid-tone vintage wooden pieces, such as a 1950s Josef Frank table, and Ole Wanscher side tables besides a sofa that was designed by Swaine, a furniture company Shawn has with fellow interior designer Mike Rupp, covered in a warm mustard velvet to provide a pop of color.
One obvious omission from the sitting room is a television. ‘That’s a funny story,’ Shawn notes. ‘I was trying to find ways to hide the TV and had found a cabinet maker who could make a beautiful piece that would conceal it, when the wife said she just didn’t want it in there at all. But the husband wanted somewhere to watch TV.’
The solution was to turn a spare room into a luxurious but relaxed family den, complete with Pierre Frey-covered upholstery, a lightly textured linen wallcovering and a large television on the wall. ‘To be honest, I think its days are numbered, even in there,’ Shawn laughs.
The family room solution was made possible because the two boys share a room, with cork wallpaper and bespoke bunk beds made from the same mid-tone wood as the rest of the house, ensuring a glamorous retreat.
Shawn says, ‘They look so slick. I love how they feel really special and are pieces that the boys can continue to grow into.’ Shawn admits that children’s rooms are often his favorite spaces to design. ‘I live vicariously through these kids – I think they bring out my inner child.’
MEET THE DESIGNER
Shawn Henderson shares his style inspiration
Finish the sentence, 'I know I'm a creative because...'
...ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been obsessed with space.
How do you describe your style?
Context is important and I adapt my aesthetic to fit what is appropriate for the clients and architecture.
Can you share your go-to color for decorating?
Farrow & Ball Slipper Satin.
What one small change has a massive impact?
Getting proportions right is vital. It has to start at the beginning of a project.
Who is your ultimate design hero?
British architect John Pawson.
How do you find inspiration?
When I’m at my most relaxed and surrounded by nature, I get inspired.
What is your favorite museum?
Any New Year's resolutions this year?
Sleep more, get more rest – and stop scrolling Instagram.
Finish the sentence, 'home makes me feel...'
...safe and comfortable.
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Jessica Salter is an interiors writer who interviews the leading interior designers and tastemakers each month in Homes and Gardens about their inspiring, yet practical ways to instill a slice of high-end design nous in our own homes and lives.
Jessica has had the luxury of snooping around some of the most stylish houses in the world, such as Pearl Lowe’s Cotswolds manor house, designer Matilda Goad’s London house and the interior design studio and husband and wife duo Buchanan Studio. She delights in asking the biggest names in the world of interiors, from Nina Campbell to Sophie Ashby, the really practical questions that we all want answers to – such as where to source that perfect living rug, kitchen cupboard handle, or paint finish – and loves finding out the design hacks that we can all achieve, especially on a budget.
After studying English Literature, Jessica started her career in journalism as a news reporter at the Daily Telegraph, before moving into the paper’s Saturday Magazine as a commissioning editor of lifestyle and food features, interviewing cultural influencers from authors and actors to politicians and inspirational figures, reporting on key trends across the sectors of health, fitness and wellbeing.
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