amy azzaritointerior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: alethea morrison

by Amy Azzarito

if you’ve ever had dreams of backyard chickens, miniature goats or just becoming a better gardener, chances are you’ve picked up a storey publishing book (confession. i have two of their chicken books and i don’t even have a backyard!) three years ago, alethea morrison, now the creative director of storey publishing, her husband mars vilaubi and son xavier moved from san francisco to their own little plot of land in williamstown, ma. the couple had spent their entire lives in cities, but they’re all adjusting to life in the country just fine! and it’s giving alethea a chance to try out some of those storey books! {thanks alethea, mars and xavier! and special thanks to mars for the lovely photos!} amy a

[Before we moved to Williamstown, I was desperate to get settled in a permanent home to ease the transition, but most of what we saw was a depressing assortment of dark houses with low ceilings that contrasted unfavorably to airy California spaces. The very last possible house we looked at was like a gift. Having just that day come on the market, we were the first to see it, and we bought it immediately. What I like most about the plan of our house is that the living room, dining area, and kitchen are all one big open area. It makes the space feel modern and is just plain convenient. I also love the exposed beams, the use of salvaged wood for architectural details, and the wide-plank pine

photo above: I have a longstanding design crush on Angela Adams, who designed the rug in my living room. My favorite piece of furniture in the whole house is the mid-century Scandinavian sideboard. Art on the walls is, from left, by Hatch Show Print, John Wischmann, Yee-Haw Industries, and decals by Blik. The pillow is by Crispina ffrench. I keep meaning to digitize my record collection, but I’ll keep the vinyl all the same if for no other reason than loving the cover art. My dog Chico was born and raised in San Jose and can never get warm enough in this colder climate.]

[The ladderback chair and basket of pine cones at the foot of the stairs are from my grandparents. They were dyed-in-the-wool Yankees, and it greatly relieved my grandfather that I moved back east before he passed away. There’s another Angela Adams mini rug. On the windowsill I keep a little nature shelf of pretty stones, driftwood,et al that I find here and there.]

[photo above: I bought this teak table and eight chairs for $100 at a tag sale my first summer here. Mars and I reupholstered all the chairs ourselves with Maine Cottage fabric, which taught us that we don’t like to upholster furniture. It took us almost nine months to complete. What I do like is vivid color and bold patterns – vintage Harlequin dishes, workaday Fiesta, and Orla Kiely for Target fit the bill. I bought the enameled milk jug and wire egg basket at Brimfield. I can’t say enough good things about these Modern-Twist silicone placemats: they are easy to clean, feel silky to the touch, and are beautifully designed. The ceramic fish trivet is something my grandparents bought when they visited Norway. I treasure it beyond reason. The art on the wall is a vintage Scandinavian plate and a print by artist Jen Skelley.]

[photo above: For our bedroom, I made portraits of Mars and me out of vintage wallpaper and housed them in Victorian frames. We have a lot of sock monkeys that we’ve rescued from flea markets and adopted. I had to put the kibosh on getting any more. There are only so many mouths you can feed. These two are named Gypsy and Harpo.]

CLICK HERE for the rest of alethea’s sneak peek after the jump!

[photo above: I made the rug in our bedroom myself out of recycled sweaters during a three-day workshop I took with artist Crispina ffrench. She made the runner on top of the dresser. The quilt is designed by Denyse Schmidt.]

[photo above: The counters in our kitchen are made of soapstone, which is the same material used in science labs. It’s totally impervious to heat, has a pretty, smoky-grey color and a chalky finish. I keep my dish soap in a vintage seltzer bottle with a barware pour spout. It keeps the soap handy but still looks nice. I’m a design victim with my Dualit toaster. I like the color and shape of it, but I hate in on a functional level. The matching vintage colander I got at Brimfield. My dad has been doing a lot of woodworking, and he made us the cutting board for Christmas. He also made the vase on the bar back in the 70s when he was a potter.]

[photo above: Xavier’s room has its share of sock animals as well. I covered corkboard squares with fabric and nailed them on the wall so Xavier could tack up his drawings. He keeps his own nature shelf on the windowsill. The pillows are by Jonathan Adler and the wool serape is vintage.]

[photo above: When we moved, I promised Xavier I would redecorate his room in a bird theme. Since he was a baby, it was decorated in a cowboy theme, which he was never into. We hung a large twiggy branch from the ceiling, and I made birds out of plant-dyed wool roving. The needle-felted nest and eggs is by local artist Lauren Gottlieb.]

[photo above: From our years in California we have lots of Western and Mexican decor, which has mostly now gathered In our guest bedroom. This bed is crazy. It even has wrought-iron barbed wire details. The vintage suitcase was my samples portfolio the last time I looked for a job. It has a new life as a bedside table, resting on an antique suitcase stand from my grandparents.]

[photo above: All the old cowboy stuff from Xavier’s former bedroom lives in the guest room now. The mirror I bought at the Grand Nationals Rodeo at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. It’s made of salvaged wood that’s been branded and studded with with horseshoes. In the reflection is a paint-by-number horse.]

[photo above: And lastly, the chickens. I’ve gone native and now keep three egg-laying hens in my backyard. My hen house is an Eglu, the first and only chicken coop to be featured in ID magazine. My next homesteading adventure is beekeeping this spring!]

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  • what a colorful, clean, yet simple home. i have a question about your teak table and chairs. i also have a teak table and chair set that was my grandparents. the chairs look almost identical to yours, but i cannot figure out how to take them apart to recover them. do your chairs also have a fabric seat? i’d love to know how you disassembled them for recovering.

  • beautiful! i really wanted to see the kitchen pic with the soapstone counters & seltzer bottle, but it seems to be missing…

  • sooooooo dreamy. the green couches in that first picture are divine. i cannot imagine a more perfect space for that color!

  • What a fun but still serence, beautiful home! I’d love to know the color on the wall of the stair well. I stumbled upon Maine Cottage’s website (and their “hotty dotty” fabric recently…I really wanted some since it’s available direct and a fraction of the price of Hable’s beads fabric, but I had to stop myself since I think it’s just too blatant a rip-off.

  • Such a gorgeous and welcoming home. I love color and they’ve done a great job of using it without it being overwhelming. And I love the chickens too, so cute! :)

  • Love the twig with bird nests hanging from the ceiling…clever and sweet.
    I have a soft spot for sock monkeys, too.

  • Love love love! The colors are so happy, and it’s nice that almost every item has some story to it. I enjoy when I see REAL peoples homes that they live in and not staged mag pics!

  • i love it! it definitely has a lot that i have only dreamed about having in my home. beautiful inspiration. i especially love the rail and rail post closest to the chair, how did you ever get your hands on that?

  • I’m currently obsessed with silhouettes and this is really a fun take on it, especially with Valentine’s Day right around the corner!

  • I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Alethea’s lovely home, and it is just as wonderfully airy, light, and colorful as it looks in the pictures. Bravo!

  • wow! my friends Amie and Justin and I have been working with Alethea on a book. it’s long-distance, though, and we never knew just how beautiful her home is! great sneak peek!!!

  • This is the kind of decor I have always been drawn to–the play of color and natural wood against clean white–so cozy and inviting while still sunny and clean. And I love the painted wood furniture. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  • Lovely home! I love all the personal touches, and your explanation for how you chose the place (family connections, etc.)

    I love so many items, would be grateful to know where you got those great storage/display pieces for your vinyl records. We have quite a collection and I love this idea.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Love the Eglu! I’ve been coveting one of those for years, since I first read about them in Dwell. Now if I only owned a backyard…
    Seriously lovely home; what a great place to group up!

  • love this house!
    Is it me or is there a caption for a photo that isnt there? under the photo of the sewing machine there is something about a soap dish and kitchen counters… anyone?

    • hi marcelina! you are not imagining things! some nasty code slipped in, but it’s gone now! ;) so you should be able to see alethea’s beautiful kitchen!
      – amy a

  • I love how neutral the rooms are with that amazing pop of colour from all the little details! delicious!

  • I love how that artsy/rustic rug you made looks with the modern dresser in your bedroom. Unexpectedly interesting. Also, love how you put the salt and pepper collection under the dome on the cake plate. What a cute arrangement!

  • My heart just skipped a beat over the rug in the bedroom! I cannot believe she made it herself, out of sweaters. It is gorgeous.

  • What a fantastic home. As others have already said, there are so many fabulous details here. My favourites are definitely the rug made from sweaters (how?) and the reclaimed banister (looks like an old gate post). Absolutely stunning.

  • This is one of those houses where I am jealous about the lack of “stuff”. It’s so beautiful! I agree about that rug! It’s amazing! I want to go to a workshop with that lady!

  • This house is amazing and such an atypical find for MA. I was wondering if you knew if there were going to be any more “sweater-rug workshops.” Yours is so beautiful!

  • Alethea:
    Your house is beautiful. Thanks for choosing our Hotty Dotty fabric. It’s a Maine Cottage original from the paint brush of founding designer Carol Bass (circa 2001.) We develop all of our own art and are proud of the originality of our work. Thanks for being a customer.

  • Can you provide more kitchen info? Like – who was your soapstone provider? What kind of cabinets are those? Where did you get the lights over the island? Thanks!

  • Jaimie, yes, the backs of the seats need a special kind of tool to disassemble. Maybe you could take a snapshot and bring it to your local hardware store.

    Avril, the wall color on the stairwell isn’t anything special. I think it’s Navajo White…it’s the play of light in the photo that’s so pretty!

    Tina, the rail and rail post are salvaged barn beams. I don’t know what source the builder used…sorry!

    Andria, I’m loving your book!!

    Valerie, we bought the record album stands at a small vintage furniture shop in L.A., but I’ll bet you can find them on ebay. They come cheap…nobody wants them! They don’t know what they’re missing ;)

    Mango, you know those potholders that kids make from loops of fabric? The rug is made the same way out of loops of sweater wool, on a huge loom.

    Kerry, go to Crispina’s web site. She is definitely active in running workshops. She can put you on her mailing list.

  • Your house is lovely and must feel very cozy in Williamstown!! Billsville is one of the prettiest places on the planet, and I love and miss it beaucoup! I think you need a purple cow to nestle in with the sock monkeys.

  • Something about this home is almost theatrical (in a very good way). It’s like a beautiful set designed for some magical play. Very original!

  • I like the hen house but at 750 you would have to buy a heck of a lot of eggs.
    I guess suburban eggs are expensive eggs. Kind of like those hundred dollar tomatoes.
    I hope John Storey is well. good luck its amazing what you can do with a little bit of land.
    Alethea I hope you discover the snow hole in august with your kid.

  • I love this house! Modern, yet cozy; full of color and vintage goodies, but not cluttered or cheesy. Wonderful!

  • Your home looks like a very happy place to live. I adore the old sweater rug you made–gorgeous. The sock monkeys and silhouettes are fantastic with the turquoise chest. Thanks for making me smile!

  • Wow, imagine my surprise when I visited Alethea’s bedroom shot…that’s one of my bronco pillows perched right in the center! Made in Montana, my decorative pillows were popular with catalogs and boutiques. Yippeeee!

  • I love how you maintain the airy California feel by keeping everything uncluttered and neutral with pops of color. This home has a perfect West Coast meets East vibe. Xavier’s “bird” room and reupholstered kitchen chairs are awesome!

  • Love the airy, uncluttered California feel in this West Coast meets East home. Xavier’s “bird” room and the reupholstered kitchen chairs are awesome!

  • What a great home you have! Also, I want an eglu! I’ve wanted chickens for years – this might be just the ticket to get a few into my garden. Thanks!

  • By far my favourite sneak peek! amazing colours! I want to live in this place. love it!

  • So playful and natural, like every thing happened over time and not overnight . Thank you .

  • Crazy- I have a cinnamon + sugar shaker that match those yellow canisters in the kitchen. it was my grandmothers. i’ve never seen them any where else!

  • I have the same vintage suitcase on display in my house that is used as nightstand in the your guest room! lovely home.

  • You have done a beautiful job in decorating your new home.
    I especially like the tree branch and birds and nest. Xavier is very lucky to have such a creative Mom!

  • Great use of color…especially love the green in the living room. The only thing I didn’t like was the Blix decals over the fireplace, but that is just my personal dislike of decals. I would love to see the same idea rendered in paint with a single large branch coming in from one side of the fireplace–I think it would be far more visually arresting in that stunning room.

  • Nice chicken house. Is that available for purchase or not yet. If so how?
    Think about cat house, it can be very useful for cat lovers and it has market.
    We have some design, if you can built it just let’s start.

  • sounds like you’re adjusting very nicely to life in the country! Hope to hear about your beekeeping next season…I just bought mason bees for our garden so hopefully our pear tree gets pollinated this year (fingers crossed). The xavier’s room is so great- I love those birds and the nest.
    Oh, and your dad seemed like a real talent- that vase he did is really cool. :)

  • I love the colors, the Mexican blankets, and the that awesome recycled rug. I have to learn how to make that now.

  • Very beautiful! This is exactly how I dreamed mine would be like – white base with colors!