De­signer writes the book on mak­ing li­brary space her own

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & STYLE - By Amy Gabriel

Most of us can only re­call the store or web­site where our fur­ni­ture was pur­chased. In­te­rior de­signer Fern Santini can ref­er­ence the era, the de­signer and most likely the back­ground be­hind each of her dé­cor choices. Any room in her 3,500 square foot Pemberton Heights home is spot­light wor­thy, but when pressed for the place that de­fines her most, her li­brary was the front-run­ner.

“I love this room be­cause it’s filled with all of my books,” said Santini. “It’s in­spir­ing be­ing sur­rounded by the things I love.”

Santini can be found nearly ev­ery night pour- ing over myr­iad de­sign books and mag­a­zines in her li­brary while sip­ping her sev­enth cup of cof­fee of the day. Vis­i­tors first no­tice sig­na­ture pieces such as a five-legged desk on cast­ers, six iron chairs cov­ered with a soft green cot­ton vel­vet, a whim­si­cal Bud­dha sculp­ture sit­ting atop an an­tique blan­ket chest up­hol­stery and a

Con­tin­ued from D retro light fix­ture hang­ing from the ceil­ing. But the skilled Santini, whose re­sumé most re­cently in­cludes the in­te­ri­ors of the brand-new Four Sea­sons Res­i­dences, can ex­pertly rat­tle off all the de­tails be­hind the dé­cor sit­u­ated within the 15-foot-by-10.5-foot space.

The desk is ac­tu­ally a Bie­der­meier game ta­ble from the 1830s, the six gilded iron chairs are by Jean Moreau, circa 1940, a re­flec­tion of Santini’s love of ’30s and ’40s French an­tiques, the sculp­ture is by late, lo­cally famed artist Tre Arenz, and the 1950s Sput­nik light fix­ture was dec­o­rated with red Christ­mas tree light bulbs be­fore Santini gave it a makeover.

“The story be­hind each piece doesn’t make the value of a room, but it does add in­ter­est.”

The li­brary space was orig­i­nally in­tended to be a small bed­room, but Santini had her sights set on mak­ing this room into her per­sonal li­brary ever since pur­chas­ing her home with her hus­band in 2000. “I had to have some­place to put all those books!”

She added built-in match­ing book­cases on the ex­te­rior wall and re­placed the sin­gle en­try­way with dou­ble doors fac­ing the liv­ing room. “The doors are al­ways open. I love view­ing the li­brary and liv­ing room to­gether.”

Look­ing around her li­brary, it’s easy to see why Santini uses words such as “ac­cu­mu­lated” and “dra­matic” to de­scribe her per­sonal style.

The mix of mod­ern and retro light­ing, pe­riod pieces like the duo of for­mal, hand-screened linen chairs and a fig­u­ra­tive paint­ing, a gift from a client, speaks clearly to her eclec­tic aes­thetic. “I col­lect things from the odd­est places. I don’t ever want it to look too pre­dictable or too matchy.”

The stand­out char­ac­ter­is­tic of the li­brary is the sense of drama within the space, ex­e­cuted ex­pertly by the choice of light­ing, which is as low-lit in the bright of day as it is in the dark of night, and the walls and ceil­ings painted in a deep green that is en­hanced with semi-gloss enamel. “I love a dark room with low light and at­mos­phere. It’s a good way to cre­ate glam­our in a small space.” Fern Santini’s li­brary re­flects her ec­cen­tric de­sign tastes, rev­el­ing in a sense of drama with a mix of old and new.

Santini’s trick of the trade when it comes to cre­at­ing a dra­matic room lies within the ceil­ing-to-floor drap­ery on the street-side win­dow. Her tip is to take the drape as high as it can go. “It’s amaz­ing what 2 to 3 ex­tra feet can do for a room.”

Known for work­ing with a client from the ground up, some­times ded­i­cat­ing three years to a sin­gle project, Santini rel­ishes the free­dom to let her per­sonal space evolve as new musthave pieces with sto­ries to tell come her way. “I have re-dec­o­rated this room three times over. It’s my lit­tle lab­o­ra­tory.”

Jar­rad Hen­der­son

De­signer Fern Santini spends each evening in her li­brary, which she has care­fully cre­ated with her tastes in mind. It is here that she pores over de­sign books and mag­a­zines.

Jar­rad Hen­der­son

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