HID­DEN TA­LENT

The Catskills aren’t the typ­i­cal habi­tat for an ac­claimed Hol­ly­wood ac­tress, but the lush green hills turn out to be the per­fect set­ting for Amanda Seyfried, who fills her stone house with hand­crafted fur­nish­ings and beloved an­i­mal com­pan­ions

Elle (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

Amanda Seyfried’s stone house in the Catskills

The hand-off – the mo­ment a de­signer presents a com­pleted project to the client – is of­ten as staged as a Broad­way show. The doors fling open wide, and ta-da! Ev­ery­thing from tea­spoons to tis­sues is in place, ready for the drama of life to be­gin. But when de­signer Sarah Zames passed along a project in the Catskills to its owner, ac­tress Amanda Seyfried, the tran­si­tion was al­to­gether dif­fer­ent. Yes, the 1920s house was in­hab­it­able, but it was not ‘done’ in the or­di­nary sense of the word. In­deed, it was barely fur­nished and half the work had not even be­gun. Which is ex­actly how ev­ery­one wanted it. Seyfried had pre­vi­ously col­lab­o­rated with a soup-to-nuts in­te­rior de­signer on res­i­dences in Man­hat­tan and Los An­ge­les, but she craved a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence here. ‘I wanted to see what it would be like to add to the house slowly,’ she says. ‘Sarah’s eye lends it­self to that: it’s easy for me to layer on top of what she’s done.’ And layer Seyfried does, from tex­tiles, art and found ob­jects to items she knits or cro­chets her­self. Nor are her ad­di­tions lim­ited to inan­i­mate de­tails. She adopts res­cue an­i­mals, wel­com­ing them into her menagerie of horses, goats, chick­ens, cats and a dog. Not in­ci­den­tally, she also ac­quired a hus­band re­cently, ac­tor Thomas Sa­doski, and gave birth this past spring to their baby daugh­ter. ‘Ev­ery time I visit, Amanda has added some­thing,’ says Zames, founder and prin­ci­pal of the Brook­lyn-based firm Gen­eral Assem­bly. ‘The project takes on warmth re­ally well.’ ‘Warmth’ wasn’t a catch­word of Zames’s early ca­reer. Trained as an ar­chi­tect, she worked for cut­ting-edge mod­ernist giants such as Rafael Viñoly and Skid­more, Owings & Mer­rill. But big, cor­po­rate projects didn’t in­spire her. ‘A con­nec­tion to home is the rea­son a lot of peo­ple go into ar­chi­tec­ture in the first place,’ she says. Still, she

brings an ar­chi­tect’s sense of bal­ance and align­ment to ev­ery as­pect of her work. ‘I’m al­ways think­ing about the over­all space and the light,’ she says, ‘and how ma­te­ri­als and pat­terns will en­hance them.’ The re­sult is a kind of cosy mod­ernism: clean, sim­ple planes com­posed with evoca­tive, hand­made and rus­tic ma­te­ri­als. For this as­sign­ment, she ap­plied her sen­si­bil­ity to two sep­a­rate struc­tures: a stone house and a barn. Zames tack­led the house first, adapt­ing her ap­proach to each of the floors. ‘Down­stairs was thick walls and de­fined spa­ces,’ she says, ‘so we weren’t able to al­ter the foot­print.’ In­stead, she aimed to make the rooms brighter, cleaner and more ef­fi­cient, adding built-ins and re­fin­ish­ing all the sur­faces. The up­stairs, by con­trast, was com­pletely gut­ted. Three bed­rooms be­came two, the ceil­ings were opened to the rafters and the walls were pushed out into the eaves. Yet the re­sult­ing rooms are hardly grand. ‘Amanda cares more about the char­ac­ter of a space than its size,’ says Zames. It’s an at­ti­tude that freed Zames to fo­cus on sub­tle, grace­ful de­tails, like shiplap that car­ries from a sun­room into a bed­room, deep, an­gled book­shelves that echo the win­dow open­ings, and a cus­tom bath­room van­ity whose mid­night-blue steel legs match the refin­ished tub. It also al­lowed her to in­tro­duce hand­made tile, a favourite ma­te­rial. ‘I love us­ing it to de­fine and con­tain a space,’ she says. Guest beds rest atop ra­di­ant-heated tile ‘rugs’ set within wooden floors. A swathe of hexag­o­nal tiles wraps around a wood­burn­ing stove and a band of graphic tiles adds a pop of en­ergy to the tiny kitchen. For Zames, the ren­o­va­tion of the barn was a dream project. ‘I’ve al­ways been drawn to barns,’ she says. ‘Ev­ery de­tail serves only the ex­act pur­pose the farm needs. And once that’s over, barns take on a dif­fer­ent life – the wood splits and you get sliv­ers of sun; the form changes and de­grades. Ar­chi­tec­ture is al­ways about this idea of per­ma­nence. Barns are the op­po­site.’ Of course, since it now serves as a guest­house, Seyfried’s barn needed to pro­long its hold on per­ma­nence. Zames shored up the struc­ture, then gave the in­te­rior new life. The liv­ing area was en­cir­cled with a band of white wall, to con­trast with the rough wooden floors and ceil­ing. A pair of for­mer foal­ing stalls was trans­formed into guest rooms. A whole side of the barn was opened to the rolling, wooded land­scape with glass doors that fold flat, ac­cor­dion-style. That land­scape is what drew Seyfried to the prop­erty in the first place. ‘Be­fore I even went in­side the house, I knew I wanted it,’ she says. Al­though fam­ily and work keep her in Cal­i­for­nia – cur­rently the series Twin Peaks plus films The Clap­per and First Re­formed – she con­sid­ers her Catskills prop­erty home. ‘I al­ways want to come back here,’ she says. Not sur­pris­ingly for a project that omit­ted the dra­matic un­veil­ing, Zames, too, keeps com­ing back. She ap­pre­ci­ates the op­por­tu­nity ‘to ex­pe­ri­ence the peace of the house now that con­struc­tion is done’, she says. But she’s also drawn by an­other com­pul­sion: her de­signer’s in­stinct for per­fec­tion. ‘There’s al­ways some lit­tle de­tail that isn’t ex­actly right,’ she says. ‘Some drawer pull, some tile...’ With any luck, there al­ways will be.

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