Interior designer Amy May creates functional, purposeful spaces for a couple whose children grew up and moved out.
THERE WAS JUST one problem with the brand-new, wide-open layout of Kay and Bob Comiskey’s Normandy Park home: It was really open.
“We remodeled and didn’t have money for furniture,” says Kay. “We lived for three years with almost nothing. We had one sectional we’d move from room to room. The UPS driver asked if we ballroom-danced.”
They did not. But the Comiskeys are promenading on air these days, now that Bjarko|Serra Architects (who created those wide-open spaces) connected them with Amy May, of MAY Designs (who creatively filled those wide-open spaces).
The Comiskeys love their family-friendly neighborhood and their delightful midcentury home (originally an old, dark A-frame), which served admirably for years as a flexible, active hub for their three kids and their coming-and-going lifestyle. But once the nest emptied, May says, “They wanted a new way to enjoy the house, such as creating intimate gathering spaces with dedicated furniture.”
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May didn’t have to look far for décor inspiration: Sand and saltwater shimmer forever, just outside a west-facing wall of windows.
“The clients wanted to maintain a neutral palette that acted as a backdrop and setting for the natural beauty of the Puget Sound,” May says.
And now, a beautiful blend of natural simplicity and industrial touches artfully flows through the re-imagined first floor, in driftwood, coral and beachy glass; color-popping art pieces; and all-new, fantastically functional furniture whose only movement is the occasional swivel of a purposely placed chair.
• In the warmly welcoming living room, May softened the existing two-story, black-clad fireplace with a giant, artsy, battery-operated clock that hangs from the 20-foot ceiling. “It casts interesting shadows and helps break up the mass of the black background,” she says. A tall-drink-of-water piece by local artist Lisa Daniels introduces happy bursts of orange, and sentimental mementos accessorize the hearth and shelving completed during the remodel. Swivel chairs perfect for coffee and wave-watching anchor one end of the graphic, oversized rug, and on the other sits “the second thing Bob said,” May says: “an Eames chair he’d had his eye on.”
• In the dining room, the 6-foot-diameter table, of cerused rift oak with decorative inlays, “is round to inspire community and conversation,” May says. “This was arguably the most important piece in the plan because the dining room is visible from all the other rooms, and they plan to keep it forever.” Touches of bronze, on rods and sconces, “show off against the white walls and create an architectural feel,” she says, and each globe of the glass light fixture was handblown. “The dining room was a bit of an investment,” she says.
• The re-imagined kitchen, brightened by quartzite countertops, “is one of our favorite things,” says Kay. “There’s tons of room to cook, and our son can hang out in the family room and still be part of things.” (One of the Comiskey children lives locally; another is in Dallas, and another in Los Angeles.)
• And in the adjacent family room, “More swivel chairs turn 360 degrees so you can turn to be a part of a kitchen gathering,” May says, and a round, concave coffee table of reclaimed wood (perfect for jigsaw puzzles) doubles as an ottoman. There’s also a versatile, gray sectional anchoring the corner, but this sectional is not moving — not for a while, anyway.
“I thought the mindset was you remodel every seven to 10 years,” Bob says. “Amy said it’s 15, and I said, ‘We’re good for one more, then.’ ”