interior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: mara zepeda of neither snow

by anne

as mara zepeda puts it, she “writes all the time, in two very different ways.” she is a freelance journalist who has contributed to philadelphia home and domino (sob), among others. she also works as a calligrapher, and with her own business called neither snow. she shares their 1865 abode in the powelton village neighborhood of philadelphia with her fiance andrew who is getting his phd in early modern european history. mara jokes, “i bring to the relationship time-consuming, ill-conceived craft projects (see ongoing project to cover entire library in paper below) and furniture off the street. he brings to it ephemera, old correspondence in different languages and abundant patience.” thanks so much for opening up your home to us today, mara! you can find more images of the place right here, and, as always, all the sneak peeks here. –anne

[Except for the obvious (e.g. Expedit bookshelf), our furniture has come from thrift shops, yard sales and relatives. My parents are artists, and I’ve collected since I can remember. Andrew and I are blessed to have many friends who are artists. Their work makes frequent appearances, and means so much to us. A few years ago I was writing a regular food column about cooking at home, which meant that, instead of dining out, my indulgence was buying affordable art. My various day jobs tethered to a computer only enabled this addiction.]

Our living room is about the only room in the house that stays clean. This is what happens when you are gifted all white furniture from your grandmother.  Most of the work in the room relates to birds and flying. Charcoal drawing by Elena Peteva. Pebble cup by Kim Westad. The prints on the bock windowsill are by Keith Taylor and Luke Stephenson courtesy of Jen Bekman and her brilliant 20 x 200 project. The photo of the  dragon was taken by Mark Heyman.

My experience is that an academic loves unconditionally any house with built in bookshelves. On the wall of Andrew’s study: an illustration from Don Quixote, a Frost poem printed by Emily Johnson and a 18th-century Caslon specimen (with Syriac, Coptic and Samaritan!) from the Colonial Williamsburg Print and Post Office. The graphic cloth owl hung in Andrew’s childhood bedroom.

CLICK HERE for the rest of mara’s peek (and all the images on one page) after the jump!



Friend and woodworker Dylan Weller made us this beautiful cherry refectory table, which is reason enough to get up in the morning. We’re still on the hunt for perfect chairs (and welcome suggestions!). From left to right, the art: a botanical print; photo in a rust frame by Kate Joyce, envelopes by Olivia Jeffries, print by Gail Rieke. The painting is an Old Master study by Andrew’s grandmother. Snowflake by Paula McCartney; handprints by me and Kate, from high school. Girl and bird print by photojournalist Amanda Lucier.


This is my office. I use my rolling stool to shuttle back and forth between the computer and my calligraphy table (constantly crossing this digital/handmade divide pretty much sums up my entire life). The photographs above the bookshelf are of Russian military deserters by Abigail Spindel.


My favorite part of any job is the final once over before it gets shipped.  I don white cotton gloves (which I stole from Andrew, who brought them home from the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan this summer. He used them to look at manuscripts). I do this to avoid leaving fingerprints. But really I just like the gloves. [right:] The printed Specimen of Ornaments is from Benjamin Franklin’s Print Shop in Philadelphia, which produces prints on a replica of an 18th- century press. This is my favorite local attraction. It’s free, the prints constantly change, and they usually cost $1.  National Park Rangers do the printing.


Print by Alyson Fox via design*sponge!; Manshroom print by Amy Ross; Glasgow print by Abigail Percy. The photo is of the first, hobbit-sized home we ever lived in, in Portland, Oregon.  The print above the doorway is by Jeff Dentz and can be found at Provenance. It says “Amor signatur in hac domo” (love lives in this house), an inscription found in an old Philly church.


These leaves were collected by my mother in the 1960s for a botany assignment in college. Anne Carson translation of Euripides print by Lettre Sauvage. Alyson Fox print. Sebastienne’s suggestion of keeping herbs in the bathroom is a good one. A list of “Things I Have Loved in this World” inspired by author Jim Harrison, letterpressed by Amanda Lucier.




I transported this Danish mid-century modern piece (a style that I generally don’t go for…I might be shot for saying this) on the top of my 1986 Saab. It was a catastrophe and I almost lost my life to a dresser. [right:] The mature garden has a mind of its own, and each year we wrestle with tangled nests of wisteria, creeping hydrangea and trumpet vines. The back yard is a chaotic mess of nasturtiums, peppers, tomatoes and chard in our vegetable patch, and an ongoing battle between the overgrown espalier peach tree (what we call the squirrel buffet—we’ve yielded exactly one peach out of hundreds) and the grape vines. The front yard is a bit more presentable (I’m being schooled by our neighborhood’s greening committee) with its showy peonies.


I found a big box of these lead engravers plates from the 1930s – 50s in Boston. They have the initials and addresses that were then used for stationery. It inspires me to look at the addresses while I work and remember how important correspondence was and still is in people’s lives.


Our guestroom is affectionately called the Valentine Room, for obvious reasons. Hankie from Bird and Banner, Ladies are Complicated print by Darla Jackson and my best friend’s wedding picture, which I still think is the best wedding picture I’ve ever seen. We call this the “thank you” desk. It is where correspondence of gratitude is written. The Siamese heart print is by Elizabeth Trost.

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  • so, so beautiful. now i have to recover all of my books! i keep going back through and finding more inspiration.
    in love with those curtains in her workroom.

  • i adore this house! can you tell me where the bunny painting and the stars (?) grouping of four come from in the bedroom? i love em both! thanks.

  • Wow, I love Mara’s style. It is clean and simplistic yet all the pieces that are special to them are there to make it a home and give it the warmth and express personality.

    I just want to move in!

  • I love the bookcovers, simple but with a personal aspect. If I had that handwriting, I would be making those myself right now!

  • as much as I love sneak peek I have never commented before this, but I cannot restrain myself, I’m totally swooning over this house. I’m considering trading one of my kidneys for the bunny print above the bed.

  • I loved this! Mara did our wedding invitations recently so it was so cool to get a sneak peek into where she created them! Totally dig her eclectic yet uncluttered style.

  • Head over heels with the book covers – so much I had to comment which I normally don’t even though I am on the site everyday.

  • the kraft paper book covers with the handwritten titles. Great idea! However, I think I will come up with codes to make it look like the trashy romance novels I prefer are as intellectual as in the picture. ( Love the rest of her house too, so many great things)

  • Wow. Just wow. I say go with mismatched wood chairs for the dining room – maybe paint them all one color, maybe not! :)

  • it’s so nice to see a sneak peak from philadelphia! i never thought there was much in university city but this post proved me wrong! beautiful home-thanks for sharing!

  • one of my favorite sneak peaks ever! love this! interesting too, we are in the middle of a living room reno and our room is very similar with the bay window and pine floors :) i would love to know the green color used on the wall as we consider colors for our room and i love this!

  • Lovely! Say hi to Darla from me as I am just now purchasing a sculpture of hers on ‘layaway’ — can’t believe this small world online moment.

  • I too would love to know the brand/name of the paint colors–especially the gray in the living room! It’s so lovely.

  • I love the way the desk is placed. You just gave me a great idea for my brother’s room in college! Thank you!


  • yes, the soft blue-gray wall color is just gorgeous. I have played with blues and can never seem to get the right one.

    And after reading the description of the garden….what, no photos?? I must see these peonies and the squirrel buffet…

  • Yay, Philly! Powelton Village has some really great homes. I would have loved to see an exterior shot. And by the way, if at any time you’d like to get rid of that Danish dresser, I will drive over immediately to get it! :)

  • paint colors, please! I am looking for a perfect shade of grey to paint my next place.
    Thanks so much, the home is really lovely.

  • What a beautiful, warm and fascinating home – one of the most inspiring sneak peaks I’ve ever seen. Do you mind if I ask how to get hold of the ‘amor signatur in hac domo’ print? I looked at the Provenance website but couldn’t find anything. I’m a classicist so would LOVE to have one in our apartment. The Anne Carson print is wonderful too. Every item in your home is so special and unique.

  • It looks like you have your stained glass hinged to the window. Did you make a shutter out of it? I’m thinking that could work in my home. Interesting idea.

  • that opening shot might be the most appealing space i’ve ever seen. the deep color of the coverlet, the globe thistles, the stars, the painting…i’m speechless.

  • Hi Everyone,

    Thanks so much for all of your kind comments! In answer to your questions:

    The paint is all Benjamin Moore. Their Aura paint is a splurge, but incredible.
    -Dining room & entryway: Harmony
    -Living room: Stonington Gray
    -Bedroom (not that anyone asked but this color is a lovely light purple that doesn’t show up in the photo): Oyster
    -Andrew’s Study: Gray Wisp
    (you will look at a swatch and say to yourself “This can’t be right.” But it is.)

    Sadly the bunny painting, stars and desk are all thrift store finds/hand me downs.

    Petaluna, more photos (including of the garden) can be found on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/71112133@N00/sets/72157621921105978/

    Eden, give Provenance a call and ask to speak with Jeff (the artist, who works there).

    Carleen, the windows are salvaged leaded glass that were suspended/mounted as shutters by the previous owners.

    As for folks intrigued by West Philly/Powelton Village: the civic association hosts a neighborhood home tour every few years and the houses featured are indescribable (we are total amateurs). I highly recommend checking it out. It’s a gem of a neighborhood. Contact me if you’d like to learn more!

  • I LOVE Powelton Village and all its gorgeous old houses (I lived there for 3 years, though my place wasn’t as beautiful as this – but still charming). The decor of this apartment suits the feel of that neighborhood perfectly… I love it!

  • So funny, I was reading today’s post and all the sudden realized that Mara is the Mara I went to Reed with, and worked on RAW (reed arts week) with when we were in school! She’s such a great talent and it was neat to see her fab place! Looking good, Mara! -Siiri

  • i have been looking for bedding this exact colorway- how can i find and who makes this?

  • REALLY wishing there were places like this in AZ that I could decorate!! What a beautiful and inspiring abode! *want to steal your floors!!*

  • I love the mis-matched furniture but think the whole thing needs a bit of editing. All the pieces are crammed against each other without any room to breathe. She has great taste, though!

  • Ah! Just came back from vacation and was catching up on the backlog of blog posts I wanted to read and there is my antler girl silhouette! How exciting!

  • To combine many trends and styles can be an amazing play. It depends on our taste, what we like and what not. This post is great, because it shows us and inspires us to do the best from our homes and lofts. I’m sure that we can make over them into modern, stylish places with the something special. The mixture of old and new objects and also the colour palette in her house turned this place into very interesting and good looking whole. Thank you for sharing.

    Best regards,

  • Oh my god, where is the actual DIY instructions for those bookcovers?! I’ve just gone through six different links, and still no tutorial. -_- Please email me!

  • I’m also looking for the DIY instructions for the book covers.
    Are there any available?
    Please email, thanks much!

  • Picking this up so many years later—would also love a book cover DIY tutorial! Those are fantastic!