This Photographer Traded Her Urban Loft for a Rural Farmhouse

Maxing out a small house with Laura Resen.

Taupe Living room
Photography by LAURA RESEN

From time to time, we like to dip into the Domino archives and revisit some of our favorite spaces. This story originally appeared in the December/January 2008 issue.

When photographer and die-hard New Yorker Laura Resen packed up her airy urban loft and moved it all (plus her family) into a teensy rural farmhouse, she had what most of us don’t: designer Thomas O’Brien on speed-dial.

His advice: make friends with color, texture—and clutter.

The timeworn 700-square-foot house Laura Resen shares with the photographer Cloud Devine and their 4-year-old daughter, Tessa, has no shortage of charm: cathedral ceilings in the living room, lots of windows, a dreamy view of misty green fields.

But there are drawbacks too: a pronounced lack of interior acreage and an upstairs layout that could charitably be called quirky. “The French have an expression, ‘full like an egg,’ that perfectly describes this place,” Resen says. “We have to make use of every surface, every corner”—a serious challenge considering her penchant for a spare, uncomplicated style.

Above, layered textiles—a sheepskin tossed on an armchair, unstructured white raw silk draped over the sofa—help integrate the hard lines of the furniture into its rustic setting. 

White Entryway
Photography by DEVINE CLOUD

Fortunately, her best friend since college, the decorator and furniture designer Thomas O’Brien, “pushes the part of me that secretly gravitates to more color, more stuff.” That went a long way toward helping her reconcile a lifetime of accumulated furnishings with her new home’s decidedly unloft-like proportions.

In Resen's home in upstate New York, even the mudroom is a lesson on creative organization. 

Brown Dining room
Photography by LAURA RESEN

The combination kitchen-dining area benefits from the famous Hudson Valley light; storage, however, is at a premium—meaning surfaces are maximized down to the last square inch. “My instinct was to put all the containers and appliances away, but we just don’t have room for that. So we designed around how we live, and the KitchenAid stays out in the open,” Resen says.

A minimalist black-and-white palette creates a clean backdrop, making the crowded countertops—and even the space above the cabinet—homey instead of busy. She covered the prime real estate above the range with a chalkboard that’s used for shopping lists, recipes and the occasional family broadcast.

The hats crowded on pegs get plenty of use from Devine, who grew up in Montana. 

White Kitchen
Photography by LAURA RESEN

Matchstick wainscoting on the walls (installed by Devine) and a surplus of woods, including well-preserved wide-plank floors, warm up the monochromatic palette. 

Wood Dining room
Photography by LAURA RESEN

Positioned off-center and filled mostly with glassware the added cupboard feels light rather than cumbersome and makes room for a lamp.

Blue Bathroom
Photography by LAURA RESEN

The framed Photo "Olga," is one of Resen's works.

White Bathroom
Photography by LAURA RESEN

Towels stacked in full view and within easy reach make use of a corner. The graphic Navajo rug creates a focal point underfoot.

Taupe Kid's room
Photography by LAURA RESEN

A gaggle of animal dolls that resen clothspinned to a string and a casual miscellany of red and white sheets, oatterned pillow and a vintage quilt create a homey cozy feel.

Brown Bedroom
Photography by LAURA RESEN

The master bedroom's built-in flaws—an odd shape, cramped ceilings, little of the gorgeous natural light the rest of the house enjoys—were no match for Resen and O'Brien's ingenuity. Iridescent gold wallpaper on the ceiling reflects and amplifies the sheen of the glossy white-painted floors. 

"It's this high-glam element that also happens to totally change the feelings of the room because of what it does to the light," Resen says. But it doesn't override the low-maintenance rusticity. "The room has a great barn feel, even though it's kind of fancy chinoiserie. It's all a bit rough, the furniture isn't perfect, you see the seams in the wallpaper on the ceiling—but together it's made this kind of dark, boring, difficult spot feel like a jewel box," Resen muses. 

The stoic English bed frame is accessorized with a flamboyant embroidered salt in throw that plays up the luxe ceiling.

Red Bedroom
Photography by LAURA RESEN

Imperious Chinese armoires hold clothes and reflect the gold embellishment above while a still life of small frames and flea market objects created interest in an otherwise forgotten nook.

Green Bedroom
Photography by LAURA RESEN
Published on December 24, 2017 - 5:15am EST

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