mixed-era mastery from wary meyers in portland, maine
Published Jun 22, 2016 2:00 PM
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photography by LAURE JOLIET written by SARAH COFFEY
In Portland, Maine, soap and candle makers Linda and John Meyers ofWary Meyers
lead an inspired life full of family, color, and fun.
The house is filled with John’s abstract artworks. “I love hard-edged painting,” he says. “People like Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella—I’m obsessed with that two-dimensional graphic stripe, and you see it in our soaps.”
EGG PRINT by Wary Meyers warymeyers.bigcartel.com ALVAR AALTO TABLE 91 by Artek finnstyle.com ALVAR AALTO CHAIRS 66 by Artek finnstyle.com
“WE’RE OBVIOUSLY A LITTLE DIFFERENT
than your typical family,” says Linda Meyers. How many other couples would buy a house with an adjacent hair salon, then convert it into a soap and candle making workshop? For Linda, her husband, John, and their 6-year-old son, Fletcher, it makes perfect sense. With its 1958 architecture and 1980s updates—including said hair salon, an atrium, a kitchen addition, and a pool—the house is a twofer: modernism and postmodernism in one tidy package.
The soap came from their desire to work from home and evolve their longtime design collaboration. The couple formerly worked as an interior design duo in Brooklyn, outfitting apartments in their signature bohemian-graphic style. “When we did interiors, we’d always buy a candle or soap for our client,” says Linda.
“This house came with white wall-to-wall carpet,” says Linda. “It’s comfortable and our son loves it. We’re a white-wine-and-no-shoes house. I want to bring back the art of wall-to-wall carpet—the perfect pile.”
TOOBE FLOOR LAMP by Kartell lumens.com SAARINEN DINING TABLE by Knoll knoll.com TULIP ARM CHAIR by Knoll knoll.com RIALTO TRIS NESTING TABLES by Fiam yliving.com EAMES LOUNGE CHAIR AND OTTOMAN by Herman Miller hermanmiller.com
The transition took time. “It took us about eight months to get the soaps right and a year for the candles,” Linda explains. “The striped soaps are poured in layers, so if you have five stripes, you’re really making five soaps—it’s very time-consuming.” John adds, “It’s like cooking or baking—you’ve got to master the exact amount of ingredients, proportion, temperature, and timing.” Names like Esprit de Peach Soap and Hippie Hollow Candle hint at the couple’s effervescent energy. They find new ideas just hanging out at home. “We have these late-’60s plastic Massimo Vignelli plates and bowls in Pop colors that look really great stacked,” John says. “So, one day, Linda noticed it and made it into a soap.” “Our life is our brand,” says Linda. “I can’t believe we get to live and work here. Never in a trillion years would I imagine having a house like this. It’s all ours. We have complete freedom of creativity. What more could we want?”
The previous owners, a hair stylist and a piano tuner, gave the house its current configuration. “They did a great job putting an ’80s addition onto a ’50s ranch house,” says John. “It’s so perfect for us.”
BACKGAMMON SET by Albrizzi albrizzidesign.com
The couple’s home is a brilliant mash-up of thrift store finds and flea market scores including Pierre Paulin’s 1969 purple Groovy Chairs, vintage backgammon boards, and iconic pieces by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen.
(PURPLE CHAIR) F-598 by Pierre Paulin hivemodern.com AUDUBON BIRDS STUFFED ANIMALS by Wild Republic wildrepublic.com
WARY MEYERS ON HOW TO GET THE BEST OF EVERY ERA
“Look for graphic, psychedelic, design-driven pieces,” says John. “Massimo Vignelli plates, Pierre Paulin chairs. We found most of our collection at flea markets and yard sales.”
“Bohemian hippie style is great,” Linda says, “but I really love the way wicker peacock chairs or Pucci towels look in a modern all-white house.”
“Less is more with the ’80s,” John says. “Look on eBay for one iconographic design piece from Esprit, Swatch, or Memphis.”
Fletcher sports a storm trooper mask in the living room. “We’re a Star Wars family,” John says. “Linda’s dad found the life-size nude painting in our dining room at a yard sale. It’s by Alex Tavoularis, who did the storyboards for the original Star Wars movies. To me, it’s part of history.”
WE FIND IDEAS EVERYWHERE: FURNITURE DESIGN, PAINTINGS, OBJECTS, AND JUST ANYTHING WE LIKE.
WARY MEYERS INSPIRED SCENT & COLOR CONCEPTS
“It took me months to get the perfect pink spectrum,” says Linda. “It had to be transpar-ent, and I wanted it to feel effervescent, like champagne.”
“I wanted a really vivid purple and blue Marimekko-style colorway,” Linda says, “but I couldn’t match it to a scent. I finally came up with lavender lemongrass, and it clicked.”
“The late Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata made an amazing line of terrazzo furniture for the Esprit House in Tokyo,” John says. “Our mosaic soap is a take on that.”
“We’re constantly soaking up inspiration,” says Linda. “One day I saw a sunset that I wanted to translate into a transparent soap. It became grapefruit and clementine.”
“It’s tricky,” Linda says. “You don’t want to be too literal about scent. We have a red, white, and blue soap that’s lemon scented, because I associate those colors with summer and lemon ices.”