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Interiorssneak peeks

sneak peek: nicholas santore & valerie ferus

by Amy Azzarito


When painter Nicholas Santore and clothing and jewelry designer Valerie Ferus moved into this Philadelphia row house ten years ago, they knew the home needed to be updated, but they wanted to respect its integrity and past. They used a light hand when making changes but allowed their imaginations to run wild when choosing furniture. Eight years ago, they became fans of mid-century French designers such as Jean Prouvé, Serge Mouille and Charlotte Perriand and have been hunting for pieces ever since. They seem to be pretty competent hunters — they certainly have one of the best collections of Prouvé that I’ve seen. The wall-mounted swing lamp has been on my wish list for quite a while.  Sigh. Thanks, Nicholas & Valerie! — Amy A.

Image above: The dining room is in the center of the house. As one of the darker rooms in the house, it needed to have a bright, open feel, so the walls were painted a brilliant, cool white (Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White). A large painting of Nicky’s is hung, which gives a window-type illusion that expands the space, throws light due to its reflective silver elements, and at the same time is consistent with the sparse look of the furniture. The table and chairs are vintage Jean Prouvé; the ceiling fixture is by Gino Sarfatti; and decorative, colorful flea market finds were added for some pop and to play off of the furniture colors.


Image above: For the bedroom, naturally, we wanted a tranquil and subdued space. The bed is vintage Jean Prouvé, and two Eames side tables were purchased at a garage sale. The ’50s Serge Mouille lighting fixtures add a sculptural element, and Nicky’s watercolor and silver-leaf painting provides a calm palette for the space. The large pillow’s case is actually a 1930s U.S. Navy sailor’s seabag, and the vintage linen throw was purchased at a flea market.

The rest of Nicholas and Valerie’s sneak peek continues after the jump…


Image above: This wall in the living room was a challenge because it had a painted cinder block faux fireplace flanked by recesses. We tore out the fireplace, replaced the flooring to match the rest of the room and built bookshelves in the recesses. Hanging on the chimney wall is Nicky’s urban landscape painting. The ’50s Prouvé bench provides a reading area as well as additional seating.


Image above: The living room is a combination of pop elements mixed with utilitarian/industrial furniture. The Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls” poster is an original color separation proof used in the printing process. The ’60s fashion illustration was a Redbook magazine cover by Nicky’s father, Charles Santore. The sofa converts into a bed for guests and is a 1950s design by Borsani. The child’s desk and chair set, by Jean Prouvé c. 1940s, doubles as a coffee table. The plywood and metal chair (1930s) and the wall-mounted swing light (1940s) are also Prouvé‘s. The vintage 1960s Lucite cube chest provides storage for vintage blankets and another surface when needed. The old wooden farm stool was picked up while driving through upstate NY and is used as an ottoman. The rug is early 20th-century Pennsylvania homespun.


Image above: Another dining room view. The salvaged beveled-glass door leads into the powder room in an attempt to bring more natural light into the space. The vintage Eames ESU was an estate sale purchase and provides storage as well as a place to display objects, such as the colorful Krenit bowls, glass (by John Bingham) and metal modernist sculptures. The top photo, acquired in a trade with the artist, is by Laurel Nakedate, and the bottom photo is by Matthew Monteith.


Image above: This is another wall in the dining room, and it is always evolving and changing. The hooks on the early 20th-century paint sign were originally intended to hang old fishing lures. We used the hooks for a ’20s sports mask and a wooden tramp art piece. To the left is an original early Hawaiian surf silver print photo dated 1913, and to the right are a collection of original Philadelphia mugshots from the late ’40s/early ’50s.


Image above: Beyond the yellow jug, at the base of the stairwell, hangs a grouping of original Jean Prouvé ephemera — a blueprint, documents, brochures and photos.


Image above: Designing and building the kitchen ourselves was a labor of love. The subway tile was original, and beautiful, so we was decided that it would be the leading design element. We salvaged the period tin ceiling, as well as the fan and lights. The floor is the original yellow pine subfloor. Rather than having traditional cabinets and countertops, we decided to have single movable storage cabinets with butcher-block tops, all of which were salvaged. None of the elements, with the exception of the wall cupboard, are “built in,” which is a little design nod to the old butcher shops and bakeries typical to the neighborhood.


Image above: The kitchen cupboard was salvaged and worked in to look like it had always been there. Everything else in this photo was also salvaged, with the exception of the range. The bouillon sign was added to bring some color to the otherwise subdued palette.


Image above: Being able to have a lush garden is a real luxury when living in a city like Philly. We definitely view this green space as another room, or an extension of the house. Because it is off of the kitchen, it also serves as a dining space.

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