INTERVIEW WITH AMY AIDINIS HIRSCH, AMY AIDINIS HIRSCH INTERIOR DESIGN, LLC
A formerly DARK library sees the BRIGHT SIDE of lightening up
What prompted this library renovation? The clients, who were referred to me by another client, had purchased this home about two years ago, and this library is where the husband works. He loves being in brighter spaces, and he wanted a tranquil, quiet place where he could work and shut out the outside world.
What was the original library like? It was so dark and so cavernous. The architecture and limestone fireplace were heavy, and the ceilings are about eleven feet tall. A technique was used on the cabinetry, ceiling and coffers that looked like cerused wood, but up close you could see it was a technique that penetrated the wood, so it looked almost like it was scratched throughout. To fill that would have taken a tremendous amount of work, and we also felt it was just too dark for him.
So a total gut renovation was in order? Yes. Once we stripped everything down and brought the space back to its simpler form, you could sense just how large and vast the room really was. We left the configuration of the bar, which is within the vestibule you enter before coming into the library. The library is also removed from the family areas of the home, so we were able to really soundproof it. We took the space down to the studs, insulated it properly and did all of that before we moved on to the decorative elements.
How did you maximize the layout? There was a doorway that led into the backside of the living room, and it interfered with our layout. To get around this, I changed where the client would sit and work. He had been previously working where the bay area is, so I rotated the room and utilized that large wall for the sitting area and created a mini sitting area near the fireplace and another near his desk. This gave him a much more expansive working station. With all of the monitors he uses, he needs room to spread out.
What materials and finishes did you use? The floors were oak, so we stripped them for a much lighter color. The material I did introduce was walnut, but I bleached it. The key was to take a more modern approach, so we used large sheets of walnut in the vestibule and bar. I wanted an expanse of beautiful wood that had grain and offered motion but in a more serene way.
And you continued the walnut paneling behind the desk? Yes. Because this room is so large, we upholstered all of the walls in this really fabulous, lush cotton velvet, and I wanted his desk to be a feature. I didn’t want all of this white traveling throughout the space, so to balance out the bar, we introduced the walnut in the desk area. He has storage on the left and right, and his desk is actually a large buildup of sheets of the veneer. Very shallow cabinets on either side conceal the technical components of his computers, and his workstation is extremely minimal, has a touch-latch system and encompasses the height of the room with the repetition of the walnut.
Does the sitting area feature any existing pieces? Everything there is new. The key to doing a room that has simplicity is proportion, and having a sofa that was extremely long, with this small ottoman on the end that acts as a chaise, balanced out the weight of that wall. Everybody is into gray, and I just couldn’t do one more gray room, so this creamy white acts as an alternative to gray—it’s so beautiful. The rug is a viscose blend, and it’s darker than the furniture. They’re simple pieces. You don’t need to have a lot of things; you just have to have the right things.
I loved the padded pocket doors. The jamb that divides the bar from the library is gigantic, and there were pocket doors there before. We created a panel system for this beautiful cream leather, and the walnut seen on the ends acts as the introduction to how you open and close the doors. Because the client wanted solitude, I felt that the more upholstery I could add, the more of a haven it would be. The use of padded elements gives him that quiet zone.
How did you refresh the bar? We removed everything, continued the walnut and used a beautiful honey onyx for the countertop, which is also what we used for the fireplace mantel. We took away the bulk, while maintaining the sink and the fridge, and condensed it into a much more streamlined space.
Did the bathroom get the same treatment? A little bit. We did some wallpaper, and the fixtures somewhat remained. We took the existing door, stripped the paneling on the outside and applied our walnut paneling to it so it recedes; you only see it because of the hardware. I didn’t just want a doorknob—I wanted something that was more elegant yet hardier. It’s beautiful cast brass hardware from Lisa Jarvis. It’s like jewelry.
The fireplace also looks completely different. It was a Gothic limestone fireplace, and it was bulbous, encroaching into the space too much. We literally plucked it right off and replaced it with something super clean and modern. The honey onyx here adds warmth to the floor and the walnut and ties in the white; it’s a pure luxe material. I was so happy they went with it.
Any other challenges? This space isn’t a true rectangular box; it’s really three separate zones, so the layout was a little tricky. Since the ceilings were so tall, we had to supplement with other lights. We added pendants above his desk to humanize the space, and the light fixture over the seating area was enlarged to balance it all out. When you strip something down and make it so minimal, you have to be prepared to figure out what the scale needs to be.
What finish drove this room? The walnut really completed this space. The client is very savvy about color. His mother was a decorator, so he appreciates and understands it. The color here couldn’t be too yellow or too white. He was really involved and had such a keen eye for what he wanted. That collaboration was so beneficial.