How Two Designers Have Done Up Their Own Homes
London-based Abigail Ahern and New York-based Sasha Bikoff have distinctive—and very different styles. You may find inspiration from one or both
Photo: Genevieve Garruppo
Photo: Genevieve Garruppo
While many of us look to interior designers to help us find our own personal style and to guide us in creating our perfect homes, it’s rare that we get a sneak peek into their own homes and see how they’ve done it themselves. Here, we visit the homes of New York-based designer Sasha Bikoff and London-based designer Abigail Ahern.
Ms. Bikoff mixes styles, colors, antiques and modern pieces together in her duplex, and Ms. Ahern’s nearly all-black home is meant to feel like “you have fallen down a rabbit hole.”
Read on for inspiration.
Sasha Bikoff Photo: Genevieve Garruppo
Sasha Bikoff Photo: Genevieve Garruppo
By Lambeth Hochwald
New York City based designer Sasha Bikoff’s Greenwich Village home is a showcase for her creative, multicultural flair. She is known for a design style that’s a mix of 18th century French Rococo, 1960s Space Age Modern, 1970s French Modernism and 1980s Italian Memphis Milano, a sensibility she executes with bright and colorful fabrics and rare antiques. Her duplex two-bedroom-plus garden in a prewar townhouse tucked in one of the most gorgeous tree-lined streets in Manhattan is the ultimate expression of her style.
“Even though I grew up in New York City, after I lived in Paris for two years, I longed for this romantic idea of living a little bit of a European lifestyle in Manhattan,” she said. “So I steered clear of new construction and picked an apartment that had personality and uniqueness.”
When Ms. Bikoff, 30, first toured this apartment two years ago, she fell in love with the powder room. “It had so much personality and charm,” she said. “For me a powder room is such an important design aspect in a home because you can pack so much punch into the space. You can be funky and crazy with a bathroom like this and, when I saw the red and white tiles, it was a game changer for me.”
No matter the room, Ms. Bikoff loves mixing modern and antique pieces. Her bedroom is no exception. “This is one of my favorite rooms as it reminds me of a more modern Marie Antoinette-inspired space,” she said. “A few amazing pieces live in my bedroom, like the chrome bench covered in Marc Jacobs ruffled velvet fabric and a Chinese black rug from the 1920s. The bedside table is a special piece because I added the floating glass top myself. It makes that space on either side of my bed feel more contemporary, due to the glossy surface atop the velvet cheetah-printed Italian side tables. When turned on, the Victorian heart lamp radiates the most beautiful pink hue and adds a romantic yet charming feel to the whole room.”
The 18th century vanity, sourced at a Paris flea market, is a treasured piece, one that Ms. Bikoff thinks every woman should have. “I put the amethyst crystal knobs on and then I did the chair with the Hermès scarf stool,” she said.
“I love that this vanity is such a throwback. I love things that make you feel nostalgic, and when you sit there and do your makeup, you feel so glamorous, like Marie Antoinette or Marilyn Monroe.”
Second Bedroom/Dressing Room
One of the first things Ms. Bikoff did when she moved into this apartment was convert the second bedroom into a walk-in closet or, as she says “a gallery space for my shoes.” In an ode to 1980s glamour, she began transforming the room.
“I covered the Vladimir Kagan chaise in silver velvet to speak to the gilded Venetian antique mirrored dresser next to it,” she said. Fashion remains an inspiration. “I love clothing, I love European designers and fashion inspires my interior design,” she said. “I love the idea of having a closet that feels like a boutique where you walk in and everything is open. I like to display my bags and shoes like they’re objet d’art, as if they’re sculptures. It creates a more intimate environment when you get dressed. My friends call my closet the ‘archives’ and we do fashion shows in there. It’s a fun experience—as though you are shopping in a boutique.”
The living room is a fun and sophisticated space where old and new come together. The Milo Baughman swivel chairs are in a “delicious creamy color,” she said, and are upholstered in faux fur. “My color theory comes from nature, which you can see in this room: the pale pink, rich green, sunny gold and accents of other bright hues,” Ms. Bikoff said. “It’s about taking these old, special treasures that have a uniqueness to them and making them look cool for nowadays.”
Completing the look of the space, the Campana Brothers Zig Zag chairs fit in perfectly with the hard-core pink assemblage in the open dining-living room. “I love to mix and match colors, patterns and textures, and I think the best example of this is in my living room, where an antique carousel pony, a neon Hollywood sign, a French lucite mirrored dining table and cheetah-printed chairs somehow all work together,” she said. Completing the picture: The sofa juxtaposed against the green cabinetry peeking out from the kitchen. “That same green happens to be the background color of the vintage Gucci scarf framed on the floating wall in front of the kitchen,” Ms. Bikoff said. “The geode slab table is a charming accent next to the sofa, as it’s just a simple addition that completes the space.”
Displaying collectibles is another joy for Ms. Bikoff. “I built this little shelving unit against the far wall to display my growing collection of vintage Murano glassware,” she says. “Most of these beverage sets are from small antique shops in Italy and France.”
Photos: Genevieve Garruppo
Abigail Ahern Photo: Birgitta Wolfgang / Sisters Agency
Abigail Ahern Photo: Birgitta Wolfgang / Sisters Agency
By Laurel Ives
Leading London-based designer Abigail Ahern is known for her dramatic interior design and love of dark, moody glamour.
Her product range features distinctive faux flowers, inky black paints, oversized mirrors, magical lamps and furniture that wouldn’t look out of place in Alice in Wonderland. She sells all over the world and teaches internationally, but her heart is in London’s Hackney—a buzzing neighborhood packed with new restaurants, farmers markets and hipster coffee shops.
Ms. Ahern’s house is a substantial Victorian terrace built in 1860, on a quiet street. The only hint that something is out of the ordinary are the black painted window surrounds and door.
As soon as you enter, however, you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
“I wanted this house to feel like you have fallen down the rabbit hole and you don’t quite know where to look, as lots of things are leading you in different directions,” Ms. Ahern, 49, said. There’s a tantalizing mystery to it, it’s a tactile sensual space that automatically excites your senses.”
The Living Room
When Ms. Ahern moved in 18 years ago, the house was derelict, so she gutted it and built a double-height glass extension, which brings the garden into the living room.
“I used to live in Michigan where I worked for an architecture practice who were designing glass houses by the great lakes, so when I came back to London I really wanted to recreate this inside out feel,” she said.
Ms. Ahern explained that her house is a laboratory for her designs; many of the sofas, tables, lighting, vessels, chandeliers are her own prototypes. “They start here, and if I love them, which I generally do, they go into production,” she said.
Ms. Ahern works from home with a studio and offices on the upper floors of her house, so she wanted the living space on the ground floor to be a relaxing place where she can escape. “This is where I come to switch off,” she said. “When you work from home the lines can become very blurred, so my business life is upstairs and full on and crazy, but I never try to do any work downstairs. It’s just my husband, Graham, and I in the house and two dogs, but there are literally chairs in every spot I can put them to flop on. In the winter I plonk in the front of the fire [not shown] and watch it puttering away, and in the summer I open the doors and live between indoors and outdoors.”
Ms. Ahern describes her look as trying to marry hard and soft, masculine and feminine, grit and glam. “You want there to be a tension, as tension in interiors creates interest,” she said. “If everything is all shiny or all rough it feels one dimensional, like a show home.” So on one hand there is a poured concrete floor and concrete chair, but these are softened with vintage rugs from Morocco and layers of fluffy cushions and a soft cashmere sofas.
Ms. Ahern’s studio is where she works and holds meetings. “I wanted this room to feel as beautiful as downstairs so I put in lots of living roomy things, texture and lamps,” she explained.
Like all of the house this room is painted a shade of black, called Bedford Brown, from her own range of paints. “Dark colors really cocoon, and when I’m home I want to feel like I’ve been wrapped in a cashmere throw,” Ms. Ahern said. “When you decorate with dark colors everything you put in the room really pops, it automatically feels cooler and grander than it really is. And it’s addictive. White makes me feel depressed now. I’ve got to the point where I can’t be in a restaurant in a white room. It drives my husband mad!”
The room also features one of her trademark mirrors, of which there are many in the house. “Most of my mirrors are round, because most rooms we live in are rectangular or square,” she said. “When you introduce circles you make the whole space more organic, and break up that grid. I use round pieces everywhere from vases, to cushions, pots and bowls.”
A key element of Ms. Ahern’s style is her love of plants and flowers. They fill every corner of her house, from giant cactus and rubber plants to delicate flowers and ferns. What comes as a genuine surprise is that they are all faux.
“My sister is a florist and partner in the business,” Ms. Ahern said. “When she came on board 15 years ago, she kept complaining that the flowers in our stores didn’t last, so I said let’s make them ourselves and make them as wild and amazing as the real thing. And that is how it took off. Now it’s the biggest part of our business and we sell them all around the world. We have seven factories and 40-foot containers arriving from China.” There isn’t one real flower or plant in Ms. Ahern’s house, but you’d never know they aren’t real.
The bedroom feels like a cozy, sumptuous refuge with Ms. Ahern’s trademark love of texture—with moroccan rugs, throws, plants and shaggy lamps as well as a wall which she clad in “really old” wood. The room also features an outsized chandelier made in South Africa from painted balls of mud.
“I love to play around with scale so I put things that are too big in a room,” she explained.“You have to step around this chandelier, but the minute you put something too big in a room you add an element of grandeur and whimsy. You can’t overdo it, just one or two pieces, imagine it like an explanation mark, but if everything is perfectly proportioned it begins to feel like you’re decorating by numbers.”
The bathroom features a trademark wire chandelier designed by Ms. Ahern that is neo baroque in style and scaled up to give an element of grandeur. This highlights the freestanding Victorian bath, and sets off the walls, which are painted in her own color, Wooster Olive. The floor is limestone, and there’s a fireplace for cold winter days.
Ms. Ahern’s kitchen is at the back of the large open-plan living area. It’s a simple room that blends seamlessly into the rest of the space, with piles of cookbooks on the kitchen island. “I softened it with living room accessories, like chandeliers, plants and rugs to make it feel more integral to the rest of the open plan space,” she said. “I love to cook, so I wanted the lines to be blurred between cooking, eating and living.”
Photos: Birgitta Wolfgang / Sisters Agency