The toys that architect Lisa Mahar sells at her New York City shop, Kid O, are not just for show, though the place is strikingly spare and their designers read like a who’s who of mid-century modern. The store defies the idea that children are maximalists at heart.
and kids’ store owner Lisa Mahar, a carefully edited, clutter-free home is the key to aesthetic happiness. She opens her appealingly minimalist doors to domino.
photographs by matthew hranek
text by alexandra proctor lange
styling by ashley sargent
For Mahar, this highly curated modernism is as much a way of life as it is a matter of aesthetics. When she and husband Morris Adjmi, partners in Morris Adjmi Architects, renovated their duplex in Manhattan’s West Village this year, they applied the same pare-it-down philosophy, designing a neutral box with a restrained palette, repeated materials, minimal storage and hits of vibrant color. “The design of this place and the design of the store don’t allow you to be messy. They tell you what to do,” she says. Mahar constantly culls her family’s possessions, donating clothes and toys so only choice objects remain. The result is an oasis of calm, all-clean surfaces and open spaces, enlivened by soft fabrics and iconic modern furniture.
The couple loves “the craftsmanship, the proportions, the materials and the timeless forms” of Italian designer Piero Lissoni's furniture, Mahar says. This Lissoni cabinet, with its white-lacquer finish and squared-off pulls, inspired the built-in cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms: As you go from room to room, all the storage looks the same. The room’s simplicity would have been foiled by a clunky TV. Hence, the flat-screen, whose wires and cables are hidden in the wall and the cable box in a cabinet.
"If you want to change color, change
the paint and accessories. The permanent
things should be neutral."
Mahar originally planned to install a huge, wall-size photo of her own in the living room (she had spent a year photographing forests with her 4x5 camera). Instead, she turned to faux flora: Lulu DK fabric, attached to a backing and glued to the wall by a pro. The rest of the living room is purposefully bare. But she and Adjmi tested all the furniture before buying to ensure it was as comfortable as it was sleek.
Mahar with 2-year-old Emmett, whose arrival inspired Kid O and much research into design and early-childhood development.
The open kitchen overlooking the garden sets the material palette for the house: limestone (also in the bathrooms), white lacquer (bathrooms, living room) and wood (floors everywhere else). The upper and lower cabinets are of different materials—white lacquer below blends into the floor; brown oak above draws a strong line across the wall. The pine table serves as a desk and play area in addition to fulfilling its dining duties.
Banana Tree|Shown in Container C, Tuscano Planter Antique Rust
"The bedroom is the
most personal space in
our home, and it reflects
that in the collection
of our favorite things."
Mahar devised this clever rotating photo gallery, which she changes a few times a year: 24 Pottery Barn wood frames hitched together with duct tape.
Emmett has a variety of quality toys to play with; he’s partial to plastic and metal trucks and cars. The furniture—such as a Noguchi side table—is pushed to the side to create ample floor space for play. Mahar keeps a lid on chaos by whittling down her son’s collection monthly. She also stashes stuff in bins under the IKEA bed. The thematic displays (the globes, the truck montage) mimic Mahar’s collections elsewhere in the house but reflect Emmett’s interests.