In the Swedish Countryside, a Home With Space to Think

A creative couple have transformed a former schoolhouse into a minimalist live-work space that spurs their art — and reflects it, too.

Article by Nancy Hass

Sweden interiors_1Råman’s pottery studio, designed by Claesson Koivisto Rune in 1998 and set in a field of wildflowers. Photograph by Mikael Olsson.

Sweden is among the world’s most egalitarian societies, but you might not sense that when surveying the ancestral estates that rise above the gently rolling landscape of the southern Skåne province, near the border with Denmark. Among them is the 14th-century Högestad, outside the town of Ystad, which has been owned for the past 300 years by descendants of Count Carl Piper, a nobleman who purchased the agricultural spread around 1705. His wife, Christina, was one of the most successful entrepreneurs and real estate developers of her time.

The Pipers still farm beetroot and wheat on the land, but modern machinery long ago made obsolete the tenant farmers who once occupied dozens of cottages there. In the last century, the Pipers sold off most of those peaked-roof brick dwellings and, over the past few decades, new owners, including Copenhagen residents who make the drive over the bridge that connects the two countries, have reimagined some as weekend homes — cosy retreats into an agrarian past.

But for years, one building remained largely untouched. Set on a quiet, grassy lane, the former schoolhouse built for workers’ children in the 1920s had long been maintained by the local government. The light-filled, 400-square-metre space, split into five rooms, served as a community centre and a venue for weddings and christenings.

In 1995, the officials sold it at last. The buyers were Ingegerd Råman, now 80, the legendary Swedish designer — responsible for iconic Ikea collections, including the limited-edition 2016 Viktigt rattan-and-bamboo line, as well as pared-down crystal vessels for the Swedish glassmaker Orrefors — and her partner of more than 50 years, Claes Söderquist, 84, an artist and experimental filmmaker.

When the couple first saw the former schoolhouse, its interiors were painted in dowdy shades of yellow and green, but they were instantly struck by its pleasing proportions: the two-storey structure, with white lime mortar-covered brick walls and a traditional red tile roof, is a near-perfect rectangle. In the years since, with help from the Stockholm-based architecture firm Claesson Koivisto Rune, they have transformed the building into a starkly graceful tabernacle of minimalism, as much a tribute to Japanese aesthetics as to modern Scandinavian style, warmed by artifacts from their bohemian life together and examples of Råman’s ceramics and glass. At a right angle to the structure, in a plot of purple-blue and canary yellow wildflowers, there is a detached studio, an ultracontemporary concrete cube in which Råman handcrafts limited-edition earthenware of uncommon beauty.

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In the open-plan living space of the designer Ingegerd Råman and the artist and filmmaker Claes Söderquist’s home in southern Sweden, a bronze candelabra by Saint Clair Cemin on an oak table by Claesson Koivisto Rune, mismatched chairs painted red by Söderquist and Alvar Aalto stools. Photograph by Mikael Olsson.
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In Råman’s workspace, a group of potted plants, including irises and geraniums, and artwork by (from left) Helena Blomqvist, Robert Whitman and Andreas Eriksson. Photograph by Mikael Olsson.

The designer and the filmmaker have always functioned with marked independence from each other. Since 1969, they have maintained an equally understated apartment in Stockholm, about 650 kilometres north, which they use both together and separately, sometimes living apart. Råman, who has lately been collaborating with a company in the historic ceramics enclave of Arita, Japan, often flies to the capital from nearby Malmö airport for a week or two of intense meetings and design work in her studio not far from the Moderna Museet; Söderquist spends time in the city on his own, too, recently producing a book about his films that was published last spring.

But on a late summer afternoon, the couple opened the 100-year-old doors to the former schoolhouse in Skåne together. They were dressed in black, as Råman always is — she favours draped and tailored garments by Issey Miyake. “It’s not as though I don’t like colour,” she said, “but I think there are just the right times and places for it.”

Those places would not, for the most part, be inside the couple’s home: it takes a vivid imagination to picture a pack of rambunctious schoolchildren galloping up the granite steps that lead to the building’s entrance. Today, the tall wooden doors open onto a monastic white plastered hallway, which runs the span of the 12-metre-long structure. The floor, like those throughout the house, is the original pine sublayer that was covered with mustard linoleum when Råman and Söderquist bought the place; before bleaching the narrow boards, Söderquist pulled up thousands of nails, sliding across the surface in stockinged feet to make sure he got each one. On a shelf just beyond the entrance, one of Råman’s charcoal-coloured thrown pots holds a cascade of black petunias. At one end of the corridor is a small chamber containing a hulking grey steel machine on which Söderquist transfers and edits 16-millimetre film; at the other is the home’s sole bathroom, as simple and plain as an ancient Roman steam room. “We have always lived with emptiness,” Råman said.

Behind the hallway, she and Söderquist have configured the house in a way that defies domestic convention but perfectly serves their partnership, in which there is always space for their work. Instead of using the entire expanse as a vast living area arranged with huge-scale furnishings, in the manner of a loft, they confined their kitchen, dining and sitting room to little more than half of the available floor space. A black velvet-upholstered couch by the Swedish designer Alice Kunftova and an angular Eero Saarinen chair flank a white-painted cylindrical wood stove, which reaches nearly to the 3.7-metre-high ceiling; against one of the walls, tall white kitchen cabinets hold unassuming but elegant dishware and glasses of Råman’s own design, including pieces from her spartan, handblown Bellman series, first created in the 1980s, which the couple use daily. A long custom-made oak dining table sits beneath the windows, bare but for a tall cast-bronze candelabra in a blobby organic shape by the Brazilian postmodernist sculptor Saint Clair Cemin. Surrounding it are six austere straight-backed wooden dining chairs amassed over decades. Each is slightly different, but Söderquist has painted them all the same shade of glossy red, a rare splash of colour that throws the room’s black-and-white palette into crisp relief. The effect is subtle, but emotionally redolent. “That way you have the memories of each, yet there’s visual harmony,” Råman said.

But in the adjacent 170-square-metre room the couple’s priorities become clear: the 19th-century oak table at which Råman works, a relic from a nearby castle, sits in the centre of the almost empty space. Here, as light streams through the windows, which were set high enough that distractions including passing cows wouldn’t interrupt classes, she sketches and puzzles out ideas for glass vessels, candlesticks and carafes, as well as less expected commissions, including a series of large-scale peat-fibre acoustic panels for the Swedish company Okko Design.

Though the home’s surfaces are mostly clear, the desk is laid out as a constantly changing library of inspiration, so dense with beautifully shaped and patinated things that it’s impossible to tell which are decorative and which are tools for Råman’s practice. “This is a French pipe for bird hunting calls,” she said, picking up a carved wooden straw. “This one with the little pouf at the end? A Chinese ear cleaner. And here are my grandfather’s calipers, which I use constantly. He was an engineer.” In a central spot sits a small ivory-coloured metal orb; the industrial designer Michael Anastassiades, a frequent houseguest whom Råman taught to throw clay on the wheel in the next-door studio, made it to commemorate a favourite stone he found long ago on a beach. Often, before she travels, she slips it or something else from the table into her bag for comfort, an unexpectedly Proustian gesture for a diehard minimalist, perhaps, but one that reflects her complex relationship with objects, however simple they may seem. “They remind me of my life,” she said.

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A pendant by Claus Bonderup and Torsten Thorup hangs over Söderquist’s film editing table. Photograph by Mikael Olsson.
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An oak bed by Söderquist, a birch Aalto chair and glass vessels by Råman and others. Photograph by Mikael Olsson.

The second floor is as sparsely furnished as the first. Echoing the layout of Råman’s office, the couple’s extra-low platform bed, dressed in black woolen sheets, stands in the centre of the spare peaked-ceiling chamber. “You want to wake up with all the air around you,” she said. Running along the wall beneath two large casement windows is the room’s sole nod to embellishment: a shelf holding an array of glass pieces designed by Råman and others, from squat columns with frosted geometric etchings to tall clear vessels. Some artisans and designers argue that the line between such high-level craft and fine art is porous, but Råman, an admirer of Donald Judd and the colour field painters, isn’t one of them. “I don’t see what I do as art,” she said, “which doesn’t mean that it isn’t good, but I am someone who needs material and an aim.”

In Söderquist’s office down the hall, next to which is a capacious guest room that looks out over the fields, the neighbour’s cat lounged on a pine day bed designed by Söderquist. (“He knows when we come home from our travels and invites himself in,” Råman said.) On a wall hangs the final painting Söderquist made, in 1974, the year he gave up oils for film. It depicts a trapezoidal brick barn, which stood across the road from a house they once lived in, set against a snow-frosted field. Söderquist sold the canvas right after he finished it, but the couple had always dreamed of buying it back and did so in 2011. On a shelf below sits a group of rough-hewn, black animal-shaped whistles made of fired clay, found in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Råman picked up a tiny cow and blew softly into it. The pure, high sound filled the air. “They still seem so beautiful to me,” she said. “You see, they have a purpose. Having a purpose, you know, is everything.” 

Julianne Moore’s Montauk Sanctuary

In a wild meadow by the sea, Julianne Moore and Bart Freundlich’s Montauk house uses just a few materials to say many things.

Article by Nick Haramis

julianne moore_montauk interiorsJulianne Moore and Bart Freundlich’s house in Montauk, New York, overlooks a meadow of wildflowers that Moore created with the help of Tom Volk of Summerhill Landscapes, and a modernist pool with a pair of structures by the architectural designer Oliver Freundlich. Photograph by Stefan Ruiz.

On a balmy afternoon this past July, Julianne Moore wanders barefoot through the open field next to her home in Montauk, New York, a once-quiet fishing town at the eastern end of Long Island. Butterflies and other pollinators flutter above the tall grass, and the bumblebees from her apiary hover among stalks of chamomile and milkweed. Her dog, Hope, pants contentedly in the heat. And yet the actress looks distressed. For weeks, she’s been anticipating the arrival of the Queen Anne’s lace, whose long, thin stems and delicate white flowers had last summer transformed the meadow into what Moore, 62, describes as a “fairyland”. It’s still early in the season, but her optimism has been challenged. “Yeah, maybe it’ll come,” she says, smiling to mask her doubt. “It’s a little fickle.” 

If Moore seems unusually patient for a movie star, it’s because she and her husband, the filmmaker Bart Freundlich, have had practice. About 10 years ago, the couple’s friend Tomas Maier, Bottega Veneta’s creative director at the time, told them about a four-hectare property for sale near their modest cottage on Fort Pond. Moore had dreamed of building a home in the modernist style of Andrew Geller or Norman Jaffe, but Freundlich became “obsessed”, Moore says, “with this lovely, very traditional house from the 1990s”. Although she was charmed by its proximity to a rocky purple-sand beach, the property, which came with a circular driveway, felt a little fussy. “There were transoms everywhere,” recalls the Manhattan-based architectural designer Oliver Freundlich, Moore’s brother-in-law and frequent collaborator. “And beadboard,” adds Moore, landing on the word as if it were the spooky part of a campfire story.

In the autumn of 2019, after years of false starts (the original owners kept removing the listing) the pair finally bought the house and started making it their own. That part required patience, too; when the pandemic brought the renovation, and Hollywood, to a halt in 2020, Moore and Freundlich moved temporarily from New York City into their 102-square-metre cabin on Fort Pond, which they hadn’t yet sold, with their daughter, Liv, then a high school senior. (Their son, Caleb, a musician and composer, stayed in North Carolina to finish college.) 

Now that she was living out east full time, the decorating choices Moore had made in the city about the new house suddenly felt like mistakes; although she admires the marbled interiors of the French architect Joseph Dirand, slabs of Calacatta Paonazzo make more sense in Manhattan than Montauk. “I wanted everything you see on the interior of the house to be reflected on the outside,” she says. Moore kept the two-storey structure intact but replaced the facade’s light grey shingles with red cedar, stripped the interiors bare and implemented what Oliver calls “the three-material rule”: clay-finished walls, white oak floors and Belgian bluestone. “I’m really consistent,” says Moore. “I cannot bear a variety of material, and I don’t like a lot of colours.” Oliver, who has now overseen six projects for Moore, grins. “It’s the greatest challenge to edit something to one’s personal perception of perfection,” he says, especially because they weren’t starting from scratch.

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In Moore’s office, a Pierre Jeanneret desk and chair, an Alvar Aalto stool and a Willy Van Der Meeren cabinet. The photograph above the fireplace is by Ori Gersht. Photograph by Stefan Ruiz.
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Moore replaced the formerly manicured lawn with a field of Queen Anne’s lace and native wild grasses. Photograph by Stefan Ruiz.
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in the dining room, an Isamu Noguchi lamp hangs over a Pierre Chapo table and chairs from Morentz. Photograph by Stefan Ruiz.

Moore, who disappears into characters as complicated as they are diverse, seems like her most authentic self when talking about design. She inherited her passion for objects from her mother, Anne Love Smith, a Scottish psychologist and social worker who sewed her own slip covers and regularly took Moore and her siblings on historic house tours as children. “I don’t think I really saw it growing up, how much my mother cared about what was beautiful,” says Moore. “She was always telling me where to look.” As Moore’s knowledge about furniture and interiors has become more refined — owing in part to her friendships with architects and designers such as Massimiliano Locatelli, Daniel Romualdez and Vincent Van Duysen — so, too, has her taste. And yet she’s careful not to intellectualise her aesthetic. “Talking about something while you’re doing it stops it cold,” she says. “Why do you have to tell us what it’s about? Why can’t it just be a thing?” 

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In the primary bedroom, a plywood bed produced by Mark Wilson Studio in East Hampton, inspired by the work of Donald Judd. Photograph by Stefan Ruiz.

Upon entering the home’s double-height foyer, one immediately notices the view of the ocean through the dining room. Moore has eliminated most clutter, choosing instead to let the coastal light cast shadows on “big shapes”, as she puts it. “This was the largest Noguchi I could find,” she says, pointing towards the ceiling at an oblong paper lamp by the Japanese American designer Isamu Noguchi. A bronze ring by the American sculptor Alma Allen is displayed on the floor across from a woven bench by the midcentury French architect Charlotte Perriand. Beyond a set of sliding pocket doors — which stay open except when they want to create a cosy environment for family meals — a smaller Noguchi lantern hangs above an imposing circular elm dinner table by the French furniture designer Pierre Chapo and a metallic cabinet by the Belgian Modernist Willy Van Der Meeren. A 2014 painting by the German artist Friedrich Kunath depicts a woodland scene. The title of the piece, “We Better Stop Pretending”, appears across the canvas in capital letters. “But I’m an actor,” says Moore. “That’s all I do.”

To the right of the dining room is the living room where she and her family watch movies or sports on a pair of puffy brown Le Bambole sofas by Mario Bellini. Some objects of personal significance are scattered on and around snakeskin side tables by Karl Springer and a gypsum coffee table by Rogan Gregory: a bronze cassette tape by Nancy Pearce (a gift from Moore to Freundlich, who made mixtapes for her when they first started dating); a turtle shell from the owner of a sushi bar in Japan. The best actress Oscar she won in 2015 for playing a linguistics professor with Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice” is hidden at the very back of a bookshelf between an Alexander Calder monograph and “The New American Cottage” (1999). 

On the far side of the ground floor is the kitchen, which abuts a porch overlooking the swimming pool and the vegetable garden where Freundlich, who enjoys cooking, grows kale for their morning smoothies. Above the bluestone sink and counters are rows of clay bowls by the California-based artist Andrea Zittel and ceramic cups by the American sculptor JB Blunk. A set of stairs off an adjacent mudroom leads to Caleb’s bedroom, where Freundlich now writes his screenplays. When Moore walks in, Freundlich throws his hands in the air. “I was just about to solve the issue I’ve been working on for years,” he says with mock exasperation. Moore rolls her eyes and laughs.

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At the end of a walking path, a stone bench by the artist Robert Gurr. Photograph by Stefan Ruiz.
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On the covered porch, a pendant from Tiina the Store over a table and benches also by Wilson. Photograph by Stefan Ruiz.

The most peaceful room in the house isn’t really a room at all. At the top of the central staircase sits Moore’s office, a sort of in-between space with water on one side and forest on the other. Atop her teak desk by the Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret are scripts: one for a film that shut down early due to the Writers Guild of America strike (when SAG-AFTRA joined the labour dispute, Moore picketed in solidarity); another for a fictional podcast that follows the therapy sessions of an alleged time traveller. 

When it’s nice out, Moore takes Hope down to the water. Sometimes she uses the walk to memorise her lines, playing back the dialogue she’s recorded into her phone. But most of the time, she takes advantage of the silence. It’s been 18 years since she and Freundlich started renting in Montauk; now that her children are grown, Moore has found new ways to enjoy her home at the end of the world. Well, mostly. “My mother used to tell me, ‘You’re never finished with a house,’ ” she says. “It’s like an organism that keeps going.” 

The sun beats down as Moore makes her way back, past her newly refurbished pool area and the rugged field where rosebushes and fluffy wisteria once bloomed. She stops to inspect something. “Huh,” she says, holding out her hand. In her palm is a burst of intricate flowers that look a lot like lace.

On Fire Island, a Home for Art — and the Artists Who Make It

How a New York homeowner and a pair of gay architects turned a midcentury Sears catalog kit house in the Pines into a contemporary refuge that looks nothing like its neighbours.

Article by Evan Moffitt

31-TMAG-FIRE-ISLAND-ART-1The financial adviser and art collector Ilan Cohen’s home in Fire Island Pines. The blue chair near the pool is by the artist Thomas Barger. Photograph by Chris Mottalini.

There’s a distinct palette to Fire Island Pines, the gay beach getaway a two-hour train ride from New York City. Boxy houses and boardwalks made of untreated cedar have gone grey from the salt air. Pale sand dunes covered in sea grass and holly trees are muted against the men in neon swim briefs who wander through them. But one house stands out amid the uniformity: a modest, 1,100-square-foot white two-bedroom with a gently peaked roof, its walls filled with colourful contemporary art. Architecturally, it looks like it belongs in Palm Springs; its contents would be at home in any Manhattan gallery.

When the financial adviser Ilan Cohen, 56, found the property in 2021, he asked his friend the 38-year-old painter Doron Langberg to tour it with him. The two had become close a few years earlier, after Cohen bought a painting of Langberg’s for his collection of queer-focused art, which he’d begun acquiring around 2010. Both men had been renting shares in the Pines for many summers but, during the pandemic, Cohen decided to find a permanent escape where he could invite artists and others to stay in his guest bedroom. “It’s not about having art on the walls,” he says, “but about them having a place and creating something here.”

In the sitting area, there’s a Hay sofa, a Finn Juhl lounge chair, a floor lamp by In Common With and a Wittus wood-burning stove beneath a watercolor by Stephen Truax. photograph by Chris Mottalini.

He immediately knew that this house was the right one: Its slim profile, inspired by the California midcentury Modernism of the American architect Joseph Eichler, had floor-to-ceiling glass windows at the front and back to let in light. The original owner had constructed it from a Sears catalog kit in 1959, making it one of the oldest dwellings on the east end of the island (which is technically more of a sandbar). When Cohen bought it, there were still remnants of a 1999 renovation, including jewel-toned laminate doors on the kitchen cabinetry. To update it, he hired Noam Dvir and Daniel Rauchwerger, a couple who also own in the Pines and are co-principals of the Manhattan architectural firm BoND (short for Bureau of Noam and Daniel). Like Cohen and Langberg, the designers began frequenting Fire Island after they moved to United States from Israel, where they were born and raised.

For more than a century, back when New York artists like Paul Cadmus and George Platt Lynes first came to summer here, Fire Island has variously appealed to queer creative types. When the renovation was nearly complete in the early summer of 2021, Langberg used the house to store his pigments, canvases and easels for painting trips to the nearby forest, known colloquially as the Meat Rack because men are known to cruise there. “I would hang all the paintings and Ilan and I would talk about them, and I would get ideas,” he says. With all the Hebrew being spoken, Rauchwerger, 36, likened it to a “kibbutz, but with fences.”

An in-progress work by Doron Langberg propped against a custom kitchen island designed by BoND. The mixed-media piece on the back wall is by Michiel Ceulers. Photograph by Chris Mottalini.
In the dining room, Langberg’s first mural, alongside other works in progress, is behind a Harbour table and chairs by Artek and Normann Copenhagen. Photograph by Chris Mottalini.

The architects started by stripping away the colourful finishes, then moved the stovepipe fireplace to the other side of the 600-square-foot main room to create distinct spaces for lounging and dining. Most of the overhead shelving and cabinets were removed, and kitchen appliances — including the refrigerator and freezer — were sunk low in an island and adjacent cabinets to create unobstructed sightlines and allow conversation to flow easily across the open floor plan. “We were trying to de-complicate and bring back the simplicity of the original idea,” says Dvir, 40. At the same time, Rauchwerger adds, “Modernism was quite rigid at times, so we introduced blurred boundaries.” Along one wall of the living area, they installed wood paneling at contrasting vertical and 45-degree angles in homage to Horace Gifford, the architect of many in-demand historic homes in the Pines. On the ceiling, a fresh coat of glossy white paint reflects aquamarine from a saltwater pool set into the front deck. The only areas left unchanged were the twinned bathrooms, with their royal blue tile and voyeuristic ribbed-glass wall, through which the adjacent showers are foggily visible to one another.

The architects preserved the original Modernist layout of the house, with its end-to-end sightlines; the aluminum side table in the back bedroom by Frama CPH is next to a Jens Risom chair. Photograph by Chris Mottalini.
In the primary bedroom, T.M. Davy’s portrait of his partner, Liam Davy, on top of a Design Within Reach bedside table, is lit from above by an In Common With hanging pendant. Photograph by Chris Mottalini.

From the beginning, Cohen knew he wanted a mural behind his dining table. Langberg — whose luminous oil-on-canvas scene of two men reclining naked in bed together, “Lovers at Night” (2023), was recently acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art — had never painted one before, although he soon began experimenting with diluted acrylic, which would be less vulnerable to the island’s heat and humidity. Last summer, over the course of a single day, he completed an ethereal beach scene, depicting a view toward the sea from the Meat Rack, which adds a nearly eight-foot expanse of roiling colour behind the round wood Harbour table. As Langberg says, “There’s something quintessential to the Fire Island experience of witnessing either moonrise or the sun coming up in the early hours of the morning after a night out.”

The mural keeps company with pieces by several other artists, many of them island regulars. A watercolour by the 38-year-old painter Stephen Truax, depicting a man tanning on the beach, hangs on the living room wall. At the back of the house, in the well-shaded primary bedroom, two early works by T.M. Davy flank the bed. One’s a 2012 painting of a single lit candle; the other a 2006 portrait of his partner, Liam Davy, the owner of the Pines-based landscaping company Gay Gardens, who planted the edges of Cohen’s property with native summersweet, blue vervain and hibiscus, some of which made their way into Langberg’s landscape paintings.

Another view of Cohen’s bedroom, with a candle painting by Davy and a photograph by Mark McKnight. Photograph by Chris Mottalini.
The wooden front gate, which came with the house. Chris Mottalini.

“Each person that shapes Ilan’s house is also someone who’s close to him,” the artist says. Dvir and Rauchwerger, whose clients are mostly L.G.B.T.Q, were especially proud to leave their mark on their favourite queer idyll: The project was their first in the Pines, and now they’ve begun work on their sixth. “You can’t take this place for granted,” Dvir says. “This renaissance we’ve seen in the last six or seven years has to do with people mortgaging their future and buying a place here knowing all of the complications.” During the AIDS epidemic, many residents of the Pines and neighbouring Cherry Grove died, then the region became less popular in the late 1990s — there were simply too many ghosts lingering. Yet if the crowded bars and boardwalks this summer are any indication (not to mention last year’s “Fire Island” film), the vacation destination is busier than ever. This resurgence has come even as storms and rising sea levels have washed away much of the beach this year, portending an uncertain future.

Through it all, Cohen and his guests are holding steady. Langberg returned this summer along with other artists, including the painter Louis Fratino and the sculptor Oren Pinhassi, who all found time to dream up new work or just take a break. Come what may, art will always have a home here.

In an English Village, a Home Where the 1430s and the 1970s Peacefully Coexist

When the artist Sarah Kaye Rodden and her family took over a former medieval meeting hall in Kent, they chose to honour its many lives.

Article by Carolyn Asome

08-TMAG-MEDIEVAL-HOME-NOW-2In the living space of the artist Sarah Kaye Rodden’s home in Kent, England, a wood-burning stove and an antique oak coffer topped with objects including dinosaur bones and a concrete bowl by the designer Philippe Malouin. Photograph by Sian Davey.

It isn’t unusual for a passer-by to mistake the home of the British artist Sarah Kaye Rodden for a shop. The 15th-century house sits on a bustling high street in the English village of Brasted, in rural Kent, and people are often lured inside by the distinctive objects she keeps near the entrance:a 1930s Belgian oak drawing board, a slatted chair by the Danish Modernist designer Grete Jalk and several of the artist’s own minimalist constructions made from paper, rubber and leather. “I have to tell them that this is my home, and then they back away sheepishly,” says Kaye Rodden, 48. Completed in 1430, the original timber-frame building, which once served as a medieval meeting hall, was in fact repurposed as an antiques store in the 19th century, and its large Victorian front window still seems to promise that rare treasures might be found inside.

Kaye Rodden bought the three-story 2,200-square-foot home nine years ago with her husband, John Rodden, 49, an executive at the film production company Studio Canal UK. They had been looking to move from their one-bedroom maisonette in London’s Battersea district to somewhere with enough room for their two children, Aoife, 12, and Naoise, 8, to run around. Kaye Rodden, who comes from several long lines of makers — her paternal great-great-grandfather was a tanner and harness maker; her maternal grandfather was a carpenter — also wanted to set up a studio. In 2012, after working for years alongside acclaimed British designers including Thomas Heatherwick, Ilse Crawford and Faye Toogood, she began focusing on her own multidisciplinary art practice. She envisioned a space where she could experiment without restraint.

Leather artworks by Kaye Rodden stand on a 1930s oak carpenter’s bench in her studio. On the wall behind hang her still-life drawing “Composition in whites” (2021) and a paper work in progress. Photograph by Sian Davey.

“The minute we walked in, it was, ‘Yes please,’” she says of first seeing the house. She was immediately taken with the light-filled 387-square-foot front room and chose it for her work space. She also liked that the place didn’t have what she jokingly calls the “ye olde” feel typical of many 15th-century structures. In the 1970s, the home’s previous owners had added a double-height extension with a mezzanine at the back of the building to create a modern living area. The mix of different periods embodied exactly the kind of raw imperfection that Kaye Rodden seeks to capture in her pieces, which range from tabletop sculptures made from blocks of 3500 B.C. bog oak to striking geometric assemblages of leather, book cloth and wood that can be hung from a wall.

Undeterred by the dusty pink carpet that covered every stair tread, the couple set about making the home their own. “There was no big renovation,” says Kaye Rodden. “It isn’t the sort of house where you strip everything back to redo it in a traditional way; we worked with what we had and preserved everything.” They kept the pre-existing fraying hessian wall coverings in the main living space and relished the contrast between the home’s timeworn original oak beams, Piranha pine stairs and ’70s-era golden-brown parquet floors.

Hanging from the ceiling of the double-height living space is a dried floral arrangement by the artist Yasuyo Harvey. The framed drawing is by Kaye Rodden’s daughter, Aoife. Photograph by Sian Davey.

The mishmash of styles also provided a complementary backdrop for the couple’s wide-ranging furniture collection, which includes both British antiques store finds and midcentury classics by designers such as Marcel Breuer and Vico Magistretti. They appointed the front room minimally, with just a few of Kaye Rodden’s favourite pieces, including a black Hans Wegner rocking chair and a simple pine stool by the contemporary Finnish furniture brand Vaarnii, for which the artist recently designed a series of Brutalist wall hooks. And the large, hall-like living area is likewise defined by arrangements of pieces from different periods. To the right of a Victorian oak trestle table in the dining area is a white-painted Arts and Crafts-era settle with a towering back. To the table’s left, almost like a shadow, is a smaller, curved black settle from the 1840s. And at the head, in stark contrast with both benches, is one of Toogood’s ultra-minimalist solid aluminium Spade chairs.

While downstairs the house exudes the richly textured, lived-in British warmth exemplified by the modernist home and art gallery Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge — a frequent source of inspiration for Kaye Rodden — the three bedrooms upstairs are more spare. In the primary bedroom, a hand-carved oak bed is flanked by a pair of simple antique wicker chairs. The two children’s bedrooms are similarly subdued but imaginative: Kaye Rodden has pinned sheets of paper to their walls and covered them with drawings of animals, including the family dog (a longhaired Bedlington whippet named 4B, after the pencil).

In the primary bedroom, 15th-century beams, an Arts & Crafts oak bed and a sheepskin rug. Photograph by Sian Davey.
Kaye Rodden in her studio, beside a 1930s drawing board displaying her paper and graphite artwork “Shadow drawing No. 1” (2021). Photograph by Sian Davey.
In one of the children’s bedrooms, a pencil drawing by Kaye Rodden of the family’s Bedlington whippet. Photograph by Sian Davey.

Just as Kaye Rodden’s work helps set the tone of her home, the place has come to inform her practice. Arranged on seemingly every surface within the house are thoughtfully assembled collections of objects — in the sitting room, Hellenic Greek pottery vessels stand on an 18th-century oak coffer alongside Neolithic-era flint tools and an ice age elk toe bone — and Kaye Rodden will often sketch still lifes of these small tableaux. “Then forms are extracted from those drawings,” she explains, “and become larger abstract shapes which I arrange into an artwork.” For her recent piece “Just hanging” (2021), she draped several such abstract shapes, cut from paper, over a wire nailed to her studio wall. This summer, variations of the composition, these made in pencil-shaded vellum, debuted in an exhibition of her work at Francis Gallery in Los Angeles. “The house is full of the things I want be surrounded by,” she says. “I think it’s good to interact with art in a physical way — to hold it in your hand.”

A Homey Party House in SoHo

Susan MacTavish Best’s New York loft gets fewer guests these days, but it’s still full of art and objects that tell stories of their own.

Article by Shelby Wilder

24-TMAG-SOHO-PARTY-HOUSE-4A pair of benches, known as settles, and, behind them, a 19th-century Tiffany mantel clock and a trio of etchings, two by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Photograph by Blaine Davis.

Susan MacTavish Best is a consummate host. In pre-Covid times, she held regular salons for anywhere from 50 to 150 attendees at her loft in Manhattan’s SoHo neighbourhood. Knowledge of the gatherings spread largely by word of mouth, and MacTavish Best, 46, sent invitations freely. “They were eclectic, not exclusive, events,” she says. At the end of the cocktail hour, she’d ring a bell or tap a sterling silver goblet with a piece of cutlery to let the guests know they should fill their plates — set on the 18th-century Georgian oak dining table would be an array of dishes, cooked by MacTavish Best herself, such as quail lollipops with quince, rum and honey roasted cayenne-cumin carrots and cauliflower and Taleggio baked pasta — and find a spot among the upholstered 17th-century benches, contemporary walnut and ash stools or various throw pillows and trunks spread atop an assortment of antique rugs in the living room. She’d then interview a chosen guest, perhaps an athlete, scientist, actor or C.E.O., about their profession, life and beliefs. Especially memorable was a night last holiday season when the celebrated trumpeter Bill Williams fielded questions before he and four others performed brass-heavy renditions of Christmas carols.

Susan MacTavish Best at work in the kitchen of her Soho home. Photograph by Blaine Davis.

This is all a rather joyous form of work. In 1997, MacTavish Best founded PostHoc, which now functions as an experiential events company that partners with organisations to create these talks. The hope is to generate ideas and connections, and past projects have included a discussion (co-hosted with with Conor Dougherty, author of “Golden Gates” (2020), on the housing crisis, and another (co-hosted with The Financial Times) with Rana Foroohar, author of “Don’t Be Evil” (2019), on big tech. And so a wide range of people are relatively familiar with MacTavish Best’s 2,500-square-foot Broome Street loft, which she moved into in 2018, having fallen in love with the neighbourhood and the unit’s kitchen — which has marble floor tiles and a large central marble-topped island — and knowing, instantly, that it would be a great place to entertain. Upon walking up a single set of stairs and through the front door, visitors find themselves in MacTavish Best’s living room, which, in addition to the various seating options, is filled with all manner of art, antiques and books. The floor-to-ceiling bookcases, which hold several signed first editions by Mark Twain, can’t help but inspire browsing, though by late evening, guests were more likely to be dancing to a D.J. set by Aku Orraca-Tetteh (who’s in the band Florence and the Machine) and the music curator Nikki Kynard.

Hanging in the living room is Alexander Calder’s “Ballons Sur Fond Jaune” (1967), which MacTavish Best inherited from her mother. Photograph by Blaine Davis.

Then, of course, came the pandemic and the resulting moratorium on large gatherings, especially those held in cozy confines. Hoping to preserve some piece of the culture and camaraderie of her events, MacTavish Best, like so many others, took the show online, and viewers from all over the world began to tune in to her live-streamed interviews. “Technology isn’t a replacement for human interaction,” she says, and yet she has found the response heartening. The past eight months or so have also forced her to reacquaint herself with solitude, and to engage with her home in a new way now that it is less of an entertaining space and more of a private retreat. This might have been difficult for such a social being, and yet the rooms of MacTavish Best’s home and the things that fill them are so memory-laden as to feel a bit like company. “I actually love wallowing in the quiet of my house,” she says. “It’s this warm blanket of a living space that provides a sense of belonging among the hurly-burly of New York City.”

A white leather Eames lounge chair and an armchair covered in a steampunk-style fabric. Photograph by Blaine Davis.
Early 19th-century blue and white porcelain plates on a shelf in the living room. Beneath them sit an array of decanters and Georgian silver. Photograph by Blaine Davis.
The hallway leading to MacTavish Best’s office is lined with original New Yorker cartoons by the likes of James Thurber and Charles Addams. Photograph by Blaine Davis.
The gallery wall in the guest bathroom. As MacTavish Best says, “During a party, this is the only place that affords total privacy, and if you have a captive audience, why not give them things to discover?” Photograph by Blaine Davis.

The bookshelves were built by a friend of hers, for instance, and there are more than a few nods, from the blue-and-green plaid wallpaper in the guest bedroom to the wingback chairs covered in the MacTavish family tartan in the living room, to her family’s Scottish and Canadian roots. Hung in the bathroom is a newly minted $100 Canadian bill featuring an image of a man and his microscope that signifies her grandfather’s involvement in the discovery of insulin. Nearby is a 1957 notice from the Canadian House of Commons commemorating her father for being one of its youngest-ever members. And the 1930s-era baby grand piano tucked into a corner of the living room is stacked with sheet music that’s been passed from one generation to the next.

Artworks arranged around a Welsh dresser by, clockwise from top left: Andrew Wyeth, Stephen Antonson, Gene Davis and John James Audubon. Photograph by Blaine Davis.
Draped on the back of a chair in the office is a floral-printed Moroccan textile that MacTavish Best found at a store on Ibiza. Photograph by Blaine Davis.

MacTavish Best also seems to have inherited her predilection for collecting. She was born on Prince Edward Island to a politician, geneticist and cattle rancher father and an art appraiser mother, but left Canada as a toddler, just before her father’s death, and grew up between Connecticut and Scotland. “I vividly remember being 9 and walking into Galerie Maeght in Paris for the first time,” she says. “They had paintings by Walasse Ting up, and I fell in love with his work. I vowed to save up to buy a piece of his and, when I was 35, I did.” Instead of toys, her mother gave her art for her birthday, which is how MacTavish Best acquired a Frank Stella lithograph and a watercolour of St. Andrews Castle in Scotland (where MacTavish Best attended boarding school at St. Leonards) by Mary Hunter, a family friend. “I can tell you I appreciate those a lot more now than when I was a kid,” says MacTavish Best. Her collection has since grown to include pieces by American artists including Alexander Calder, Andrew Wyeth and Helen Frankenthaler. She also loves ancient art and jewellery, but her most prized work is a vibrant 1969 Abstract Expressionist canvas by Sam Francis that hangs in a minimalist silver frame in her living room. Below it stands an antique medieval German knight’s suit her mother found in a Montreal gallery in the early ’80s and shoved in the back seat for their car ride home.

The kitchen stools are by Timothy Morman, a Georgia-based furniture maker MacTavish Best found on Etsy. Photograph by Blaine Davis.
MacTavish Best’s mother made the quilt covering her brass bed, and her scientist grandfather, Charles Best, made the nautical oil painting above it. Photograph by Blaine Davis.

In fact, it was MacTavish Best’s passion for collecting that led her to start her salons. In 2014, when she was living on Grand Street in a mid-1800s building designed by the architect John B. Snook, she opened a pop-up shop in the retail space below. There, she sold the contents of her prior home in San Francisco, along with objects she’d found on trips and at auctions. “I sort of made my life for sale,” she says. At night, she hosted parties in the space and discovered that, in a way, it was also possible (and more meaningful) to accumulate people, to seek out and celebrate their stories.

These days, MacTavish Best splits her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she has a loft in the Arts District Downtown, though she keeps her more historical objects on Broome Street. “I love both places,” she says, “but New York appreciates the old, so it just makes sense.” When she’s in SoHo, she works from her home office, appointed with a 1915 Wells Fargo banking desk, as well as orchids, golden pothos, ferns and other plants. In addition to planning more virtual talks, MacTavish Best is also writing a pilot for a TV show about Silicon Valley. Now, a night among friends might mean cooking dinner for neighbours or a very small group of loved ones, but someday soon MacTavish Best hopes to be able to welcome others back into her home. She’s thinking she might serve a roast rack of lamb and can already imagine herself chatting with a guest, fizzy gin cocktail in hand, as she garnishes the dish with lavender and prepares to join the rest of the party.

A Fantastical Art Gallery Masquerading as a Suburban Garage

In Arlington, Virginia , a gallery owner has made her home and garage into a celebration of art and community.

Article by Alice Newell-Hanson

Colourful Interior_Arlington_3In the sitting room of the gallerist Margaret Bakke’s home in Arlington, Virginia, a Mario Bellini sofa, a repainted antique side table, a Thomas Barger coffee table and chairs and a footstool that she inherited from her grandmother. The bowl on the table is by Francesca DiMattio. Photograph by Jared Soares.

On a quiet residential street in Arlington, Virginia, one garage is not like the others. Clad in white corrugated steel, the structure is tall and thin with a sharply peaked roof, suggesting a giant pencil poking up through the earth. And while its neighbours might house minivans and power tools, on a grey December afternoon the door to this one, which is not really a garage at all, opens to reveal a cross-shaped plywood table set, 

as if for a meal, with brightly coloured wares. At the centre of the spread are a pair of ornately dimpled pastel-glazed earthenware vases by the French ceramist Saraï Delfendahl, each the size and silhouette of a baby elephant’s foot. A chubby-armed sky blue ceramic chandelier by the New York-based artist Braxton Congrove hangs from the ceiling. The 12 unique place settings feature, among other items, an orange tumbler with three spiky legs by the New York-based artist and tableware designer Grace Whiteside and a clay oyster plate inlaid with shells by the ceramist Michele Mirisola of Brooklyn. Surprising even the gallerist Margaret Bakke, the curator of this exhibition, some of the artists had taken her concept of a dinner party-themed show several steps further by contributing unsolicited additions, including two punch bowls and a poodle-topped butter dish.

Bakke established this place, which she named Friends Artspace, in 2021 after unexpectedly discovering that her long-held desire to run a gallery dovetailed with a local zoning law. She and her husband, Jesus Canales, were building a house for themselves and their family on a modest corner lot when they learned its footprint could be expanded, as she recalls it, by erecting a free-standing garage on the property. The two-storey structure they envisioned, some six metres away from their new home, would, Bakke realised, enable her to fulfill her dream of exhibiting artistic work in a familial environment. She inaugurated the 30-square-metre gallery space with a group show comprising 14 fantastical one-of-a-kind mirrors and, though she has a background in fine art — she studied at Columbia University before working at the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, the school’s nonprofit print shop, and later became an art consultant in Washington, DC — the exhibitions she’s mounted since then have mostly emphasised collectible design, often by emerging talents. “Design is so approachable and easy to love,” she says, “because we all benefit from it.”

Colourful Interior_Arlington
One of Bakke’s children’s rooms, with a rattan bed and Josef Frank wallpaper. Photograph by Jared Soares.

Despite her training as a painter and printmaker, Bakke prefers seeking out the work of others. As a result, her house — a stark but inviting rectangular box with a black stucco facade and large rear windows overlooking a neat yard — is filled with unusual creations sourced from vintage stores and art collected over the years, often from other small galleries. “I just love objects,” she says, sitting on a bulbous pink velvet-upholstered Mario Bellini sofa in the compact parlour — just off the home’s 65-square-metre, open-plan living area — where she meets with clients, usually over tea. “In a way, the gallery is an extension of my love of collecting, because I don’t want to be a hoarder,” she adds with a laugh. Her home, in turn, sometimes accommodates overflow inventory: on a recessed shelf behind her, arranged among several antiques shop vases, are a pair of delicate candy-coloured ceramic cake stands by the New York artist Francesca DiMattio waiting to be shipped to clients. “People can’t believe kids live here,” says Bakke.

Colourful Interior_Arlington_2
An installation view of the 2022 show “Mise En Place” at Bakke’s gallery, Friends Artspace, including a chandelier by Braxton Congrove, vases by Saraï Delfendahl and a candelabra by Nienke Sikkema. Photograph by Jared Soares.

But the couple designed the house as much for their three young children as for themselves. It is just one storey, and thus toddler friendly. A playroom, strewn with spill-concealing patterned Moroccan rugs, sits between the living room and the three bedrooms. The tropical-print sofa in the main room, which Bakke bought on eBay for about $750, arrived already lightly stained. And while her collection contains valuable pieces — a large mirrored one by the Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, with whom Bakke worked at the Columbia print shop, is securely fastened to a wall behind a powder blue resin Sabine Marcelis dining table — she tries not to be overly precious about them. In front of the living room fireplace, which is framed by a Brutalist limestone mantelpiece, is an eight-legged coffee table by the Brooklyn-based designer Misha Kahn, whose work Bakke has shown, made from scraps of stainless steel inset with jewel-like glass discs the size of dinner plates — a room-transforming artwork strong enough for her children to dance on, as they sometimes do.

On a practical level, Bakke’s practice of blurring the boundary between work and home allows her to run Friends Artspace; when necessary, her children can be with her during appointments. But the endeavour is also part of her larger vision of a more humane art world in which institutions recognise that creativity can be a collective endeavour strengthened by the ties of family and community — one that, importantly, needn’t take place in a major city. Bakke eventually wants to have a studio above the gallery and a place for artists to stay. For now, though, that dream is most fully realised at her openings. Increasingly, neighbours stop by along with artists and collectors. And there’s always sidewalk chalk for the children, who cover the paved driveway with works of their own.