INTERVIEW WITH KAREN BOW, KAREN BOW INTERIORS | PHOTOGRAPHER AMY VISCHIO
These clients are good friends of yours—how far do you go back?
I met them when our daughters were in kindergarten, so they’re lifelong friends of mine. They’re based in Darien, and this is their new second home on Martha’s Vineyard. I did their Darien home as well, so this wasn’t my first project with them, and it was truly an honor to work on this house. They were really involved, and it was definitely a collaboration.
How have they been using the home?
At this time, they’ve actually been self-isolating here, and they told me it’s really been a gift. The husband works in the city, their daughter works in Boston, their son goes to school in Boston, and the daughter’s boyfriend works in the city, so all five have been staying here together. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful place. The house has many areas where people can gather and get together, but it also has plenty of spaces where people can duck away and do their job. Everyone has their designated area to get work done, and it’s funny—the daughter’s “office” is in the basement in the fly room, where her father keeps all of his fishing equipment!
What were the priorities for this house?
They wanted it to be very user-friendly—they’re the most social family you’ll ever meet, and they love entertaining. Things couldn’t be precious, but they still needed to look really pretty. For instance, in the living room, those sectionals are outdoor furniture from B&B Italia. Since they’re floating, it was important to me that they have a great-looking profile, but they needed to be durable as well. We used an indoor/outdoor fabric on them, and you can sit on the arms and they’re not going to cave in. This is a party house, so we needed furniture that would hold up.
Tell me about the ottomans and the bar there.
My friend is a very gracious host—she could give Martha Stewart a run for her money—and she throws the best parties. They wanted ottomans that you could put your feet up on, but they also needed a place where you could put a cheese plate or drinks when entertaining. I designed these ottomans to do both—there is a cushion to put your feet on, a place to put food or drinks next to it, and the cushion can slide left or right. And while the ottomans are separate pieces, the genius of them is that you can push them together during a party and create one giant serving tray. The sectionals and ottomans are mirrored in each other, which is also fun. As for the bar, the pool is just outside those doors, so we needed the bar to be close. A carpenter made it, and it’s decked out with a refrigerator, bar and ice maker, and the glass-and-brass shelving is a classic nod to the Vineyard. There are a lot of subtle plays on the Vineyard throughout the house.
I’ll bet the kitchen and dining area are getting a lot of use.
Yes—since they’ve been self-isolating here, my friend has been cooking for everyone and has really learned how to use the Lacanche stove, and she said the space has been working beautifully. They needed a really well-functioning kitchen, and for a house this large, this is a classic kitchen that is pretty yet still so functional. In the dining area, I really love the chandelier over the table. We wanted to embrace the fact that you’re on Martha’s Vineyard without getting kitschy, and I’m just crazy about that light; it’s like a work of art. It’s made of matte ceramic fish, and it’s just amazing. The painting behind the table is by a local artist, and I loved that as well. The table is by a designer in Long Island City—I went to his showroom and found inspiration in what he does, and he custom-built this table for me. What’s great is that the table expands to 17 feet and takes up the entire length of that space, which is wonderful for entertaining. We also had the designer make the bench along the back and the chairs.
I see an office—who is using this space?
There’s where the husband is working at the moment. Since it’s right off of the main entrance, we wanted it to have a bit of a formality to it. We also wanted it to feel like a cozy winter room, to have some warmth yet still live well with the rest of the house.
What drove the look of their master suite?
They were looking for a calm, serene feel and a relaxed elegance, which is a feeling found throughout the rest of the house as well. There is also a loft area in this bedroom, and I felt strongly about the type of staircase we needed for the loft and where it should go. The mudroom just outside the bedroom is a primary entrance from the front of the house, and when you come inside that door, the master bedroom is to your left. I wanted people to walk into the house, look around, peek into the master bedroom and say, “Ooh, what is that?” when they saw the staircase. I felt that putting the staircase where it is definitely created that moment, and the cables on it are another nod to the Vineyard. I’m also all about making something your own—I was at Terrain and saw these scalloped marble cutting boards, and I used them to top the blue linen nightstands. That choice made those nightstands their own.
Tell me about the bedrooms upstairs.These are technically guest rooms, since the children are older, and I like that it’s transitional from room to room—when you’re upstairs, your eye just effortlessly travels around, and the bedrooms all live so well together. I sort of treated the upstairs like an open floor plan in that way. This is a party house, and I didn’t want anyone to feel like the bedrooms were so intimate that they couldn’t go into them. It was all about scale and proportion, and furniture placement was really important. The daughter’s room is the one with the bathroom with the blue walls, and I wanted this room to look more like a suite. We placed the bed looking out toward the deck (you can see the ocean from up there), and we gave balance to the space with the twin dressers—I loved that symmetry. The medallion wallpaper transitioned into the bathroom as the paint color. There wasn’t space in the bunk room for bunk beds, so the built-in tête-à-tête beds with trundle beds underneath make the room a space to hang out in as well as to sleep.
Any overall favorite pieces?
I really do love the sectionals in the living room. I feel like they’re high style yet durable, and they meet the needs of the space really well. Those sofas are going to be around for life. They can easily be reupholstered, and we have a winter fabric we want to use to make slipcovers. And the ottomans are definitely another favorite—that was one of the things my friend asked for, and I was really proud that I was able to create ottomans for her that have form and function.
What was the best part about working with such good friends?
It was wonderful to have this lifelong friendship and to take it on the road. She is a road warrior—we went everywhere together. We would go into the city and shop and had so much fun doing it. At a time like this, with everything going on, I could start crying because I miss her so much. The best part about this was being with dear friends. I asked my friend how she feels about spending this time here, and she said, “Although we are obviously thinking of all of those suffering with their health or losing jobs or businesses, we feel very lucky to be able to spend so much time together in our beautiful home. And it also feels nice to be able to support this small, hardworking island community and their businesses that have given so much to us. We never thought we’d have the opportunity to live in and love this home so much.”
Interior designer: Karen Bow Interiors, Darien; 914-953-1517; karenbow.com
Architect: Patrick Ahearn, Patrick Ahearn Architect, Edgartown and Boston, MA; 508-939-9312; patrickahearn.com
Builder: John Magnuson, Burnham & Magnuson Builders, Edgartown, MA; 508-627-5019; burnhamandmagnuson.com
Kitchen cabinets: Ryan Dillon, Dillon Creations, Vineyard Haven, MA; 508-939-0469
Upholstery workroom: Artistic Upholstery, Norwalk; 203-849-8907; artisticupholsteryandfabrics.com