Sophisticated Living - March/April 2016

Feathering A New Nest

With their son off to college, empty nesters Brian and Jennifer Gibson opt for a cozy new old house in Hyde Park.

Written by Bridget Williams / Photography by Andrew King

Interior designer Brian Gibson of DIGS is sought after for his curatorial knack for imbuing projects with a worldly perspective.  A narwhal tusk here, a carefully selected kilim there and viola, even the most mundane homeowner can project aura of a well-traveled cognoscente. In their own Hyde Park bungalow-style home, Brian and his wife Jennifer, an estate sales specialist at Everything But the House, are truly diligent dilettantes, showcasing a unique style that harmoniously melds tribal with traditional and mid-century modern influences.

With their son off to college, the couple transitioned from a nearly 5,000-square-foot Tudor-style home to a much cozier 1,900-square-foot Sears Roebuck kit home near Hyde Park Square. "We wanted less to worry about and the convenience fo being able to walk to everything, " explained Brian. Deciding to take a different design path than what was laid at their previous residence, the couple chose a cool color for the walls and upholstered pieces in an effort to give greater emphasis to the antique furnishings that survived the editing process. "As a designer and collector I think the concept of editing is healthy," said Brian when asked if it's difficult to part with pieces he's collected. "Everyone's collection would be elevated by removing the bottom 25%," he opined.  Of the original artwork on display throughout, almost all is contemporary in style and created by local artists, which provides an interesting juxtaposition to casegoods that range in age from several decades to several hundred years. 

A purposeful pairing of disparate elements is found in the dining room, where the previous homeowners' dining table was refinished with a grey limed whitewash and the dining chairs were given a facelift with peppy ikat upholstery.  Centered above the table is contemporary pleated pendant light fixture. Along the room's periphery are finely crafted sideboards from the 15th and 18th centuries.  Surmounting the marble-topped example is an 18th century Italian gilt mirror.

Presenting an appropriately erudite environment for a curious and capital collector, the study is a cabinet of curiosities.  Anchored by an antelope-print Stark rug (one of half-dozen animal prints found in the room), Brian keeps some of his most "unusual and odd" pieces displayed on the walls and interspersed among scores of coffee table and leather-bound books.  Fossils, geodes, maps depicting Hannibal's crossing of the Alps, Native American artifacts, Chinese antiquities and "other weird historical stuff", acts as a tactile treasure map of Brian's career evolution and world travels. As his interests have changed, he's let go of some pieces to fund acquisition of new ones. One constant is his affinity for pre-17th century English and Continental furniture. 

The existing finish on the kitchen cabinets - a hand-painted shade of yellow-green that calls to mind the Irish countryside at the onset of spring - was left as-is.  Also left unchanged is a framed chalkboard wall that currently sports a Polluck-esque artwork masterfully executed Jennifer.  Gleaming stainless steel counter tops and appliances are an ideal foil to the shaker-style cabinetry.

The entirety of the second floor is given over to the master suite.  A colorful suzani, backed with linen to serve as a coverlet for the bed, was acquired on a trip to Paris.  Continuing with the mish-mash pf periods and styles from the first floor, the cozy confines are home to late-17th century chest, an early-18th century French farm table repurposed as a desk, and a mid-century zebrawood credenza.  "The mix is what we like," said Brian.  SL