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Where The Heart Is
February, 2017, Page 114
Photos by Garrett Cook
An intimate dining area between the kitchen and library features a midcentury Modern-style table crafted from black limba wood and a bar cart stocked for small gatherings.
With His Wife As His Muse, A Young Designer Creates Their Newlywed Dream Home
In June 2014, on a chilly summer morning in Kodiak, Alaska, Tony Williams popped the question. He had whisked his fianceé-to-be, Brittany Weser, on a family vacation to his home state, where she had no idea the surprise proposal would occur. For the occasion, Tony built a small bench from a large slab of perfectly weathered driftwood perched on legs crafted from a continuous length of bent rebar. He placed his handiwork on a lush grass lawn overlooking the ocean and sat admiring the scenery with Brittany before taking to one knee. From the seat that her future husband built, she accepted. “It was the easiest decision of my life.” Now, more than two years later, the bench greets visitors in the entryway of the Williams’ home, a sweet reminder of that special day.
A driftwood bench, built by homeowner Tony Williams especially for his proposal to his now-wife, Brittany, rests just outside the master bedroom door. Tony employed bas-relief wallpaper to highlight the wall’s unusual cutaway design.
That same creative thoughtfulness defines Tony’s style as a designer. “I like telling stories without having to use words,” he explains. “I like everything to have meaning and to be intentional.” At first glance, the single-story condo he remodeled and designed for Brittany is a striking example of fresh, modern eclecticism. Unexpected decor items with personal histories are tucked into corners, and classic materials utilized in contemporary ways blend harmoniously in a swirl of soft white and gray hues. But while the aesthetic appeal is immediate, one doesn’t completely grasp the depth of his romantic gesture until Tony explains how every detail—from the architectural curves to the lighting fixtures—was chosen to delight his wife.
“After we got married, we lived in an 1,800-square-foot house on one-third of an acre,” says Tony. “It was a nice place, but I hated taking care of a pool, yard and three of the rooms that we never used. It didn’t make sense to continue paying for all this stuff we didn’t need.” The couple searched for a home that was the right fit for their lifestyle, and a small, quiet complex in a Paradise Valley neighborhood caught their eye. “I had just moved my wife into a nice, spacious home 10 months earlier, so I knew I had my work cut out for me to convince her that an 1,100-square-foot condo straight out of the ’80s was going to be just as comfortable,” says Tony. “But I saw the potential, and Brittany trusted that I could make it work. So, I set out to build her the tiny home of her dreams, and I wasn’t going to cut any corners. We wanted to downsize, not downgrade.”
Tony’s handmade bistro table, where he and his wife took Communion during their wedding ceremony in 2014, now has a permanent place of honor on the patio.
Over the next four months, Tony, with the help of a rotating cast of contractors, implemented numerous tailor-fitted designs throughout the home, such as wood-paneled ceilings, dark wood flooring, a tiled fireplace and a semiremodel of the cramped kitchen. “The budget was very tight, but I love finding deals as much as I love challenges, which results in having to get creative,” he says. “And I think creativity trumps expensive finishes. I wanted our place to prove that you don’t need to have a ton of money to love your home.”
Though he shared with Brittany some of the materials and fixtures he planned on using, he kept the overall plan a secret. “At first, it wasn’t going to be a surprise,” she says. “But when we realized that after a month I was so busy I still hadn’t been over to see the progress, Tony decided it would be more fun if I didn’t see it until the end. My husband loves to give gifts, and I was touched that he wanted our home to be a gift from him to me.”
When Tony felt the house had finally become a home, he brought Brittany over for the big reveal. “I was blown away by how he was able to take this dated condominium and morph it into something so incredible,” she remembers. “When I opened the front door, his eyes were glued on me with anticipation as he waited to see my reaction.”
Vaulted ceilings and ample light flooding in from clerestory windows make the small home feel larger. An oversized pendant light anchors the room, while small touches, such as a firewood basket and a vintage photographer’s trunk, add a sense of lived-in charm and character.
Each room is designed for his wife’s maximum efficiency and enjoyment. Brittany had longed for an open, airy kitchen where the couple could simultaneously cook and entertain guests, and Tony’s revamp delivered just that. The master bathroom features a few of her favorite things: a roomy walk-in shower with a rainfall showerhead, an elegant chandelier and a custom vanity with his-and-hers sinks and an upholstered bench where, as Tony jokes, “Brittany can rest her precious legs while she powders her nose.” Seating areas in each room invite uninhibited relaxation and a variety of gathering spots for visitors. The pantry enclosed in the kitchen doubles as a quiet respite for the couple’s American Shorthair cat, Earl.
Perhaps the greatest homage to his wife is the cozy library he built in the den off the kitchen. “I wanted to define a space for Brittany’s ever-growing book collection due to her ‘reading problem,’” he teases. “I am a bookworm by nature,” Brittany asserts proudly. “In our last house, my books were overflowing the shelf we had. But now they’re a focal point of the house instead of just stored away in a back room.” In addition to the handcrafted bookshelf and plush sectional, Tony soundproofed the walls for undisturbed reading and napping.
Designed to allow easy movement from room to room, the townhouse’s open floorplan bridges cozy living areas to dining and cooking spaces.
“Intentional design—that’s my creed,” says Tony. “I wanted Brittany to see a smidgen of how much I care about her by how much I cared about preparing our home.” Throughout the house, one-of-a-kind accents speak to the designer’s free-form approach to design. “I love the midcentury Modern style and use a lot of its elements in my projects, but I realized trying to work within a single period can be constricting,” Tony says. “I like too many different eras, materials and aesthetics to stick to only a few. If, for whatever reason, something just feels right, I go for it.”
Indeed, each item and furnishing seems perfectly suited to their home. A gnarled branch from a family member’s backyard is propped casually in the guest room corner across from a lustrous black bear pelt hung askew on the wall. An authentic 19th century library ladder is affixed to a rail on the bookshelf for easy top-shelf access. Intermixed with typographical art and dozens of potted plants, photographs from the Williams’ wedding day are found in nearly every room.
Tony’s attention to detail and intentionality overwhelmingly paid off, both in the polished-yet-personal character of the finished product, and in his wife’s sincere gratitude. “When I look at our house, I see the hours that Tony poured into making something so beautiful for me,” Brittany says. “This home constantly reminds me of all the reasons why I married him in the first place.”
Photos - Clock-wise from top left: Brittany’s personal library features an inviting sectional, an antique rolling ladder for those hard-to-reach volumes, and an array of earthy accents, from the wood-paneled ceiling to the collection of potted plants. Natural light pouring through diaphanous curtains makes for excellent reading conditions.
Homeowners Brittany, Tony and their cat, Earl. The couple recently celebrated their two-year wedding anniversary.
Originally a votive candle holder, Tony repurposed the wooden beam into a one-of-a-kind mantlepiece accented with tiny succulents and cacti.
Furniture upholstered in monochromatic textiles is positioned for the couple to enjoy the fireplace and views of their front patio. An antique sliding door is an attractive accent and separates the guest room from the rest of the home.
An intricate tile pattern with unfinished edges gives the fireplace a modern appeal. Decorative vases and an aluminum steer skull contribute to the eclectic look.
Simple and inviting, the master suite finds its identity in touchable textures, pared-down furnishings and minimal clutter.
A locally crafted credenza faces an industrial-style bench at the foot of the bed. Echoing the macramé plant holders suspended above the bedside table, a large, intricate wall hanging creates an artistic focal point.
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