Home Rules

What does it take to make a house feel like home? Is it family photographs, your great-grandmother’s patchwork quilt, the smell of bread baking? Five professionals who create homes for clients show us the places they come home to.

When interior designer Annie Parr goes home from work, she simply walks upstairs. Her living space occupies the second floor, and her showrooms and workshop the first, in a renovated, hundred-year-old house on the corner of Vineyard and Dukes County avenues in Oak Bluffs, not far from the Dragonfly and Fire House galleries.
“Living so close to my work,” says the forty-something-year-old mother who shares the house with her six-year-old daughter Sadie, “it’s important for me to be able to leave my business behind.”

One way she does this is through a careful use of color in the decorating of her living quarters. “I see so many bright colors during the day,” she says, “that I need to come home to a neutral palette.” In her bedroom, for example, she’s painted the walls what she calls a “biscuity yellow,” with subtle color gradations that make the surfaces look uneven – like old plaster. The room exudes peacefulness; it’s the spatial equivalent of comfort food.
Living in the middle of a commercial zone, Annie made sure during renovations to organize her home so that the rooms she occupies during waking hours ­– the dining room, living room, and kitchen, which together compose one large, open area ­– are situated at the back of the house, where it’s quieter during the day. The bedrooms are near the street, but by the time Annie and Sadie go to sleep, the outside activity has died down, and it’s quiet.
The large living area is Annie’s favorite part of her house. She likes its openness ­– the fact that when a meal is cooking in the kitchen, you can smell it in the living room. Track lights point up at the wooden ceiling, giving the room a warm and inviting glow in the evening. But more than anything, Annie likes an intangible feeling she believes the room has. “There’s a history to this place that you can sense,” she says, pointing out the mellowed wood floors and the brick chimney running up through the room. And of course, she’s making her own history here too. “It’s what happens inside a room, not the furniture, that makes it,” Annie says. “It’s the meals, the bedtime stories, the parties on the porch that I remember when I look out the window. You could take all the furniture out of this room and it would still have the same feeling. Which I guess is a funny thing for someone in my line of work to say.”
Annie considers her house a perpetual work in progress. In the tradition of the cobbler’s children having no shoes, she sometimes finds it difficult to make time to apply her professional skills to her own environment. Nonetheless, her house is full of little surprises that make it feel like home to her, such as the dishtowels she’s used as curtains in the kitchen, or the blades of the ceiling fan she’s
covered in wallpaper.
You wouldn’t walk into my house and immediately say, ‘This is an Annie Parr house,’” she says. “You’re not supposed to pick up on all the details when you first come in. You’re supposed to just think it feels really good, and a day or so later still be noticing new things.”