Q&A: Interior Designers Hollister and Porter Hovey

(Photos: Matthew Williams and Porter Hovey)

Names: Hollister and Porter Hovey
Occupations: Interior designers at Hovey Design and co-authors of the book Heirloom Modern, which spotlights their own much celebrated apartment (pictured above right), and the homes of like-minded creatives.
Reside in: Brooklyn, New York
Best known for: Parlaying a knack for treasure-hunting into an aesthetic that remixes Colonial heirlooms with Victorian curiosities for unexpectedly modern results.

Antique or modern?
Both. All old or all new can be quite one-dimensional—and, even worse, a bit dull. It’s so fun to look back at the adventures, journeys, and traditions that impacted our lives, and to find subtle ways to integrate those memories into the places we live.

City or country? 
They’re both absolutely necessary to maintain any form of balance and sanity, especially when living in a place as stressful as New York. We’re mainly in the city, but that’s just because we can’t afford a country house. 

Which colors do you use most?
Brown and white, which sounds so disappointing. But we’re such knickknack obsessives that hundreds of colors end up sprinkling their way in to all our rooms, and nothing is better than an unexpected pop of hot pink (scarlet ibis), orange (Hermès boxes) or red (military uniforms).

Favorite materials or textures?
Aged brown leather and zebra skin.

What is your favorite interior design-related word?
Adventure. It’s always good to remind yourself that there’s so much more out there. In a silly way, we're like little kids who built a pretty fancy fort [as their home]. It’s less about protection; more about imagination—even if we’re relatively all grown-up.

Does your current home look like the one you grew up in?
Yes. Mainly because about half the furniture is from that house in Kansas City. However, we’ve put our own spin on it. We were really lucky to have incredibly cool parents who put an emphasis on quality materials and aesthetics, and that we little apples fell very close to the tree.

Does a room need a view?
No! More space for art on the walls! We’ve lived without windows for eight years and never missed them. That said, we wouldn’t mind a breeze.

Favorite designer or architect?
David Collins and Kelly Wearstler. [Collins's] use of brass and high gloss paint was epic, and [Wearstler’s] sense of whimsy, remarkable use of color, and artful mixes are like nothing else.

Which design blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without?
Nowness. Every single entry inspires—even if it’s not exactly our aesthetic. It’s nice to rely on interiors books and blogs, but what gets us going is beauty in culture, fashion, and history that we can apply to an interior space. That said, World of Interiors is pretty damned incredible. (And so is Lonny!)

What qualities do you most admire in a room?
High ceilings and decent floors. And we really admire high ceilings laden with plaster moldings, and decent floors covered in herringbone patterned wood.

What is a forbidden word in your house?
Match (as in, “does it?”). If it’s something either of us love, it will work somehow. It never fails.

Design rule you love to break?
Well, matching. Objects and furniture can share a common thread, but overwhelming matchy matchiness is unnecessary and limiting.

What is your favorite room in the house?
The main living room. It’s the real embodiment of our combined style, and a great mix of our mom and dad. We have flowers, military prints, old luggage, and exotic taxidermy—and somehow it all works together in a fresh way that always feels comfortable and like home.

What is your most treasured possession?
All the important pieces from our mom and dad: the 1933 life-size painting of the hunter, mom’s Venetian mirror, the floral Hermès scarf that she bought on their honeymoon. They’re all beautiful, but also living relics from our childhood.

What do you wish you could do without?
90% of our clothes. We’ve been fairly good about purging the décor lately, but the wardrobes are overflowing and tend to destroy all bouts of tidiness within minutes.

How does West Coast design differ from East Coast design? 
Like the coasts themselves—and the architectural styles that grew up along them—the East tends to be more grounded in history, where the aesthetic of the West seems to be imbued with freshness, modernism, and fun.

What is your favorite thing about the East Coast—design-related or otherwise?
Our somewhat direct access to Europe, where it always seems more fun to shop and explore and fantasize about living with plaster moldings and herringbone floors.

If you could live in one historical figure’s house, whose would it be?
Serge Gainsbourg’s apartment in Paris...or Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s apartment in Paris. Both homes had incredible modern and ethnic touches mixed with exquisite antiques.

On what movie set would you like to live?
Jude Law’s apartment in Gattaca; Collin Firth’s glass house in A Single Man, the Ludlow family cabin from Legends of the Fall, and all the homes featured in Swedish Wallander and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The first two fulfill our secret desire to be highly organized minimalists, while the cabin would satisfy all of our country house yearnings, and Sweden’s great old homes are grand without all the gold leaf of say, France.

To which country would you move for the design?
Turkey, specifically Istanbul, for its perfect, sometimes gritty melding of East and West.

If you were reborn as a piece of furniture or an object, what would it be?
A Roorkhee chair for its timeless beauty, simplicity, and functionality during adventures.
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