“I have over 400 bottles. No duplicates.”
In a quintessential East Coast neighborhood of West Hartford, Connecticut, sits a rural cabin disguised as a quaint Cape Cod– style cottage. It’s the home of Jim Healy, who—in addition to being an architect—is something of an alchemist, busily transforming rusty old finds into appealing furnishings. “I like storied pieces, simplicity, and the sense of being in the woods of Vermont,” he says. While Jim is more likely to be found at a tag sale than in a canoe, he surrounds himself with a nature-inspired palette of browns and greens, generally accented with a primary color in a faded tone. “I love colors that evoke nature and integrate them in my home and work,” Jim explains. Large picture windows in most every room are kept bare except for cornice boards, which frame views of the many trees on the property; only bedrooms have curtains for privacy.
Yankee ingenuity abounds in Jim’s designs, where each piece of furniture is created for a specific purpose. “I needed a place for my TV so I built an armoire,” he says. Once Jim has sketched and built something, the next step is generally
to make it look old and worn. “Friends can’t believe that the armoires and jelly cabinet were constructed of new pine,” says Jim, who follows coats of paint with various methods of distressing, from chemical to physical. “Each piece needs to look like it’s worn from years of touch,” he says.
In contrast to larger dark pieces, Jim is drawn to bright vintage graphic design, and his home is filled with pops of colorfully branded containers, such as the parade of oil tins lining the top of a rescued supermarket sign. Ledge shelves— just 6 inches wide—keep part of his prized bottle collection in view. “I have over 400 bottles. No duplicates,” he explains. Jim also fashioned a fixture for an assemblage of cobbler’s tools. “These units become sort of art installations within my home,” he says.
Jim describes himself as a junker-artist-designer-fabricator, a title that fits him well. There isn’t a lamp in his house that hasn’t been put together from objects as random as a funnel and a thermos, a flagpole and a spindle, an architectural fragment, or a pile of twigs. However, the architect has a critical eye when browsing garage sales and shops and knows in an instant if he can use something or not. “Trust your gut,” he says. “It’s as simple as that.”