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Learn how to combine minimalism and maximalism from an expert interior designer

A maximalist collector and subtle minimalist couple create a harmonious space in their New York City apartment

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By Yashna Balwanth | September 3, 2023 | Design

A home that is able to complement 19th-century collectables with trinkets and treasures while still reflecting a clean and minimalist style sounds confusing but also works in so many ways. Interior designer Juliette Spencer of Atelier RO had the difficult task of creating a harmonious space to suit two opposing design styles in order to create a comfortable home for a family of four. Using what the family already owned, Juliette seamlessly merged these ideas into the space while keeping its character intact.

‘This home cannot be too precious, this family lives in the space hard so everything needs to be either robust or able to embrace the patina. In general, the atmosphere had to be casual to reflect the family who lives here,’ says Juliette. The building itself is rich in history. Constructed back in 1860 to be contextual with the surrounding 19th-century structures, it was only renovated in 2010 into a single-family dwelling. Juliette says her inspiration for this project was to look toward the minimalist forms of Donald Judd, Japanese mill work and simple lines and forms.

The featured lights were salvaged by the client along with woven dining chairs. Photograph: Tim Lenz

‘The home was very cluttered with items when I started working with the husband, and once introduced to the wife, she requested everything to be clear. I suggested that instead, we could find a way to marry their sensibilities together and showcase the husband’s finds. The challenge attracted me as it’s within my nature to hide everything away.’

The bookshelf is full of books and historic collectables, a focus throughout the lighter areas of the home. Photograph: Tim Lenz

Since the home is constructed in a way that receives plenty of light, Juliette focused on a neutral colour palette throughout these spaces with a cream plaster finish to add warmth and comfort. The elongated hallways with less light were given a darker wall treatment which allowed the pieces of art to pop. The custom peg board at the entrance of the home, along the darker blue wall is used to organise coats and hats, depending on the season, and also allows the space to lean into its minimal counterpart while the lighter space focuses on showcasing the historic collectables. One such piece is the carved fireplace made of Portoro marble from Italy. It is a replica of one salvaged by the husband from a 19th-century school that was about to be demolished. ‘I drew the original fireplace and cleared up the lines slightly. We took a mould of the original wood fireplace and carved the new one out of a block of Portoro’ says Juliette.

This custom fireplace in interior designer, Juliette Spencer’s New York City apartment. Photograph: Tim Lenz

‘All the materials used are living finishes intended to become patinated over time.’ While Juliette chose to focus on different elements in every room, each style of maximalism and minimalism is equally respected to create the perfect amalgamation and celebrate this union within the home. Although it may have been her biggest challenge, seeing the space come together so coherently is also the greatest reward.

The custom peg board used to organise coats and hats by Prospect Woodwork and chair from BDDW. Photograph: Tim Lenz