When decorating your FOF home, there are often two polar instincts:
(1) Surround yourself with the heartwarming photos, knickknacks, books, art, etc., that you’ve accumulated over 50+ years.
(2) Pare down, and create a calm, clutter-free oasis straight from the pages of Dwell magazine.
Meet Lee Olson, who brilliantly managed to do both. FOF Lee is a textile designer and the owner of Yoma, a New York firm that creates fabrics for commercial and residential use. Her vivid designs all begin with her own hand-drawings and are inspired by her travels around the world, to India, Thailand, China and South America.
Her travels have also inspired a lifetime of . . . .shopping. Lee and her husband, Chandler Pierce, a leading architect and furniture designer, have collected a (small) museum’s worth of cultural artifacts and art, including books, brooms, buddhas and baskets.
Twelve years ago, the couple purchased a building on a one-block lane straddling SoHo and Little Italy, just behind the former New York police headquarters. They renovated the attic into a 1500-square-foot residence for themselves. The space took six months to renovate so that it was “livable,” but the couple has continued to work on it over the years.
According to Lee, both the biggest asset and challenge of decorating their home was marrying her and her husband’s tastes. “We have different aesthetics. Design-wise he’s a little cleaner, slicker…I’m always interested in bringing in more texture, color, curvilinear shapes.”
The key, says Lee, was in the curation. She and Chandler carefully chose what to display and what to pack away in their large storage closet. “He edits me,” Lee says of Chandler, “I choose to display things that I’m really passionate about, and then he goes in and arranges them–almost like a set.”
The end result: “When people come there, they often say: ‘Wow it looks so clean and sleek, but when you start to look around there’s a lot of detail–a lot of warmth.’”
Left: Lee’s building used to be a gun factory, part of New York’s fabled gun district. Right Top: Lee in the Yoma office, wearing a coat by Juli Raja. Right Bottom: Each of Lee’s textile designs begins with her own hand-drawings.
The main living area is a mix of sleek, architectural pieces and quirky ethnic finds, like the tiny wooden chair from Guatemala and a collection of hand-woven purses from the Philippines. Couch: Ligne Roset, purchased on Craigslist. Coffee table: Broome, Chandler’s furniture design company. Rug: Warp and Weft.
At first glance, these “Afghan War Rugs” appear to be typical antique oriental designs, however if you look closely, you can see machine guns, missiles and war planes woven into the fabric. “It’s an amazing example of people incorporating what’s going on in their lives into their art,” says Lee, who inherited two of the rugs and bought a third from Warrug.com.
Lee and Chandler began collecting handmade brooms ten years ago. “They’re mostly street brooms,” explains Lee, “handwoven by people in China and India who use them in the morning to clean. I’m interested in things that carry the spirit of the person who made them.” Red chair: Ochre.
Lee’s tranquil terrace overlooks the former New York City police headquarters.