Sitting room, book room, music room, plant room, art gallery, color studio — these are the many facets of the room in Mr and Mrs Philip M Stern’s house in Washington DC, that began life as a conventional living room.
In the most significant sense, it is a true family room since the Sterns have five children, all welcome there, all of the time. (When the senior Sterns want to be alone, they simply go off to the library and close the door.)
The huge room was planned, in a sense, around a swing — a vast floating mahogany divan Mr. Stern had made in New Orleans where airborne comfort is not uncommon.
In summer, the swing is hung at right angles to the fireplace. In winter, it is turned about and hung — for coziness — to flank the hearth.
A retro living room with a big swing in the middle
Piled high with cushions, it is the three youngest children’s “ship” — a lovely roost where they are occasionally allowed to sleep.
The rest of the furniture, arranged mostly in pairs, is simple, comfortable, and in no way distracts from the excitement of the room’s paintings and sculpture (the Sterns are ardent collectors)
At one end, the wall is lined from ceiling to floor with twin sections of egg-crate bookshelves, their front edges painted by Mrs Stern in a vivid maze of color.
“My house is my studio,” says Mrs Stern, and proves it by constantly repainting the room’s walls in contrasting panels of color. There are always five different hues, depending on her mood, plus a panel of white as an intensifier.
A sentimental touch in a brilliantly contemporary room, the cradle that rocked all the little Sterns stands between the bookcases, filled with flowers. Over it, a Kenneth Nolan; on the pale blue wall, a Victor Vasari.