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Interiors: A Hands-On Couple’s Graphic Redesign

“The day I met him,” says Raina Kattelson of her husband, Robert Butscher, an architect with Wadia Associates in New Canaan, CT, “he was trying to shore up the porch.”  For some women, that might have been an uh-oh, see-you-around-pal moment of truth but fortunately, she did not see things that way at all.  Kattelson, a fashion and interiors stylist and location scout who now also writes a blog on design and life in the Hudson Valley, recognized a kindred spirit and saw the potential in his 150-year-old wreck of a house on the main street in Tivoli, NY.  “One of our early dates,” she ruefully admits, “was me sanding the floors.” Photographs by John Gruen
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The house, which in the 1940s and 50s had belonged to the local butcher, sat next door to another abandoned building that had been his shop.  A year after Butscher bought the house, the shop burned down, so he was able to acquire that land, as well.  Today, the only evidence of the property’s meaty history is the butcher’s outdoor smoker, which sits at the edge of the patio, serving both as focal point and fireplace.

The house has proved to be a receptive canvas for the couple’s adventures in interior design.  Following a family trip to North Africa some years ago, for example, they did up the living room with finds from Morocco.  Now, except for the rug they bought in Marrakesh, that incarnation, heavy on earth tones, has vanished.  Raina acquires interesting objects as effortlessly as a sweater picks up burs in the woods.  Flea markets, junk and antiques shops are both her business and her passion.  She grew up in Woodstock among artists.  Her father, Sy Kattelson, is a fine art photographer who also founded the movie theater in Woodstock that has just been acquired by Upstate Films.  Thanks to the stores of photographs, art, furniture, and ceramics they already owned, when the re-do bug bit them, Raina and Robert had to do little more than sift and tweak.

“I wanted something different, more graphic,” Raina says.  She started by painting the combined living-and-dining-room walls a brave shade of green.  To find the ideal color, she and Robert bought five or six sample pots, brushing each color onto its own sheet of Masonite, then moving the patches around the room, to see how each looked in various lights.  Finally, they settled on Benjamin Moore’s Grape Green (#2027).

“I collect pottery, both old and new,” Raina says.  “I use it both for styling gigs and our daily life.”  The Emeco chairs at the dining table typically have vinyl seats.  Raina replaced them with thick industrial felt pads. The table is from Ikea. “I sanded the top, then whitewashed it.  The picture is a scene of New York by my dad.”

A raised platform in the kitchen left over from the original house is now the family’s sunny breakfast nook. “I love the graphic quality of old signs, numbers and letters and have them throughout the house. I also have a weakness for chairs—the green Thonet chairs in the kitchen are the first I ever owned.  I bought them when I was 15 and have been painting them different colors ever since.  They now look great with the Saarinen table base, which presently which presently has a chalkboard oilcloth top.”
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“My office is the only all-white room in the house but is so filled with colorful books, magazines, craft projects and props, it’s sometimes hard to tell.  I have lots of collections—vintage knitting needles, old cameras, trays, bottles—all stuff that will end up in my work at some point.”  The chair is one of two she found at the Brooklyn Flea Market and reupholstered.  “I have always loved the Scandanavian look, so the fabrics on my office chair and lounge pillows are Marimekko. I chose this Ikea desk because it echos the Aalto stools in the living room.” Of the print by Anthony Burrill, Raina says, “Shouldn’t we all?!”
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“I love Tord Boontje’s work and own several of his lights. For our daughters’ room (Maeve, 13, and Romi, 9),  I did my own version of his style on the floor.”
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Romi appears to be a style junky in the making.  According to her mother, she requested the Panton chair for her 8th birthday.  She also asked that her dresser be painted silver. “She loves to draw on the chalkboard-painted wall ,” says Raina. Colored chalkboard paint available exclusively through Hudson Paint.

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 02/11/10 at 04:32 AM • Permalink