Interiorssneak peeks

A Rustic Carriage House With a Modernist Heart

by Maxwell Tielman

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When graphic designer and woodworker Rob Laliberte moved into this 1910 carriage house in Knoxville’s historic Old North neighborhood, the landlord was quick to point out that inhabiting the small space was a bit like living on a boat. The ceilings were low, the storage capacity was limited, but all of the essentials for living were there. Although “living on a boat” doesn’t exactly bring to mind the most charming or comfortable of living spaces, the choice of words here seems oddly fitting to Laliberte’s minimalist lifestyle and aesthetic. After all, it was legendary Modernists like Le Corbusier who modeled their homes after the functionalist forms of ocean liners and championed the notion of life with less. Here, the sleek lines and machine-made trappings of a Le Corbusier interior might be absent, but the Modernist ethos is present, updated for the handcrafted aesthetic of today. “I prefer to work in calm environments that allow me to think clearly and have a lot of headspace,” Rob says. With luminescent white walls, modest furnishings, and just the right amount of warmth, this space seems perfectly suited to do just that. Check out all of the photos of Rob’s space after the jump! —Max

All photographs by Rob Laliberte.

Image above: The house’s staircase. “During rainstorms I will often sit in the window and watch the rain,” Rob says.

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Image above: “This is the upstairs portion of the carriage house with the windows facing east and west,” Rob says. “I’ve come to learn there is not a single time of the day when I don’t love the lighting.”

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Image above: Because Rob rents and alterations are forbidden on his lease, he used pages from old books to create decor and a shade for an unattractive light fixture.

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Image above: “During the day, the dining table acts as my office. When guests come over I tidy it up once again. It also helps me have discipline to keep it that way.”

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Image above: “This bag has inspired a children’s book I will be finishing this year called ‘Vincent Takes a Holiday,'” Rob says. “It was made in France and has travelled around the globe. I use it on Saturday mornings to carry items that I sell at the local farmers’ market. I found it on the side of the road!”

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Image above: Rob’s American flag was a gift from his grandfather, received on his most recent trip to Massachusetts.

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Image above:  The beginnings of a brush collection. “I always find things that need a little scrubbing,”Rob says. 

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Image above: “I found this piece of wood in the shape of Tennessee and decided to help with the rest of it.”

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Image above: One fourth of Rob’s house is a small woodworking studio where he makes wares for his company, WDWRK Co.


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  • I’ve really been loving the rented spaces you guys have showcased lately, and seeing the creative solutions people come up with to make the space theirs, despite limitations. This is especially beautiful, I love those quirky details like the angled walls and staircase window. Those kinds of things were my favorite part of renting in the Fan in Richmond for so long!

  • Rob – what’s the wood behind your bed? I love your book pages light fixture. Sometimes I feel like I’ve looked at so many blogs that I’ve seen it all – but I haven’t seen that done! How’d you do it? Thanks! E

  • I wish we could’ve seen what the exterior of the carriage house looked like :( It would help understand the space more.

  • A great reminder to keep it simple. I am planning to build a house in the spring and it is so tempting to keep expanding the square footage! I keep trying to reign myself in because the truth is, especially for a weekend place, I could probably just convert the shed and camp out there. Guests will just have to bring a tent : )

  • What neighborhood has houses like this?! (I rent in Baltimore, too, but have never seen one like this!)