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When I was approached to write my first book, Upstate: Living Spaces With Space to Live (with photography by Sarah Elliott), I assumed that I’d get an inside look at some pretty great homes and collect some equally great stories, too. But there was one side effect I didn’t expect: Working on a book of interiors means you see a lot of them, which also means you see a lot of things you wish you had done to your house and things you wish were yours. That chair! Those doorknobs! That mug! Shiplap!

Coveting was starting to feel like a full-time gig—second only to finishing the book—so I started a running list to keep track of things and clear my head. Below, some of my favorite takeaways from each home in the book. 

Shou Sugi Ban, But Indoors 

The lofted bedroom situated above the kitchen at Claire Benoist and Derek Kilner’s spot is clad in charcoal black wood boards, a result of the Japanese weatherproofing technique called shou sugi ban, which preserves wood by charring it. Where do I sign? 

An Ode to Textured Walls 

The plastered walls—the work of Jersey Ice Cream Co.—in Christiana Mavromatis and Scott Arnold’s 7,000-square-foot home had me feeling emotional. Their soft, brushed texture made every room feel warm and anything set against them look good. 

New Build, 100-Year-Old Vibes  

Even though it’s a new build, Andrea Gentl and Martin Hyers’s house feels like it’s been there forever. A local woodworker built the windows using plans from the 1930s; the couple brought in wavy restoration glass from a glass company in the city; the floorboards are from a barn in Vermont; and sourced light switch covers came from area yard sales. 

A Strong Case for Partying 

Rainbow streamers hang from the ceiling of Cary Leibowitz and Simon Lince’s sitting room (artifacts of Christmases past), while upstairs a banner of multicolored cutout letters that reads “Happy New Year 2019” hangs above their bed. Who says whimsy is dead?

Appliance Camo (aka Out of Sight, Out of Mind) 

Don Howell designed his kitchen hutch to look like an antique. Made by a local cabinetmaker with wood from a recently demoed barn, it cleverly hides the dishwasher.

Top It Off 

A marble slab breathes new life and adds a polished feel to an antique wood island—a wedding gift that anchors Sara and Sohail Zandi’s kitchen. And so now I want to throw the material on top of all our vintage wood furniture. 

Two Kitchen Sinks Are Better Than One 

James Coviello maintains a two-sink rule in his home: one for heavy pots and pans (hi, kitchen sink) and one for antique porcelain pieces, which get all sudsed up in a narrow butcher’s pantry that was transformed with open shelving.

A Claw-Foot Bathtub, Sans Claws 

When Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree found a footless tub at a local salvage yard, they took it home and set it on wood blocks instead. Problem solved. 

Runner as a Doormat? Groundbreaking

No, but it really kind of is. The wingspan of Mimi Madigan’s front doors would dwarf any doormat. Her solve? A wall-to-wall jute runner that spans the length of the doors, calling attention to their grandeur while also serving as a catchall for dirt and debris. Two birds, one stone.

Everyone Needs a Cozy Corner

I love a good nook almost as much as I love free beauty samples—Amy Ilias and Jim Denney’s lavender Victorian boasts a most excellent one: Jim built the base and Amy sewed the cushions. 

Enviable Wood Arrangements 

Sarah Elliott and Dan Latinsky’s 1790 Greek Revival is offset by equally beautiful piles of wood. Latinsky took it upon himself to artfully arrange their firewood, and the result is often mistaken for a Storm King–worthy installation. It also has me Googling “Norwegian wood stacks.” 

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