Adreamy sense of whimsy and surrealist fantasy are hallmarks of New York interior designer Adam Charlap Hyman’s work—and exactly what was needed to transform a clean-lined Greek Revival house (owned by his parents, the artists Pilar Almon and David Hyman) into a serene yet inviting family home set in the heart of the creative community of Roxbury, Connecticut. Read on to find out how Charlap Hyman and Almon worked together to restore the 18th-century beauty—with the help of their new collection of wallpapers and fabrics for Schumacher.
HOW DID THE HOUSE SPEAK TO YOU?
Pilar Almon: While the house dates to 1785 and its style embodies the Greek ideals of classical proportions with details such as pediments and columns, it was built humbly, using local materials. We loved the way these two characteristics coexist within the house with so much elegance.
Adam Charlap Hyman: Actually, Mom and Dad almost let the house go. They bought it sight unseen during the pandemic, but the photographs made the ceilings look very low. I said, “Mom, if you’re looking for really high ceilings in an old house, you’ll never find it in Connecticut.” So they made the leap—and the ceilings in the house actually turned out to be fine.
WHAT DREW YOU TO THE HOUSE INITIALLY?
Almon: Attached to the house is a smaller temple-type building which would have originally stood close by, on its own—almost a folly—but was long ago joined to the main building. It was the perfect space for our studios, mine on the first floor, David’s on the second. We also knew it was a house we could fill with all our books and art, and maybe one day lots of grandchildren, too!
HOW DID YOU BRING IT BACK TO LIFE?
Almon: The house needed quite a bit of “undoing”—there were many Dumpsters filled with 1980’s moldings, mirrors, doors and hardware, all remnants of past renovations and patch jobs. We wanted to return it to its more historically pure self while also discreetly coaxing its infrastructure into this century.
Charlap Hyman: From a designer’s perspective, it was fun suggesting things that I imagined my parents might like, knowing them so well, but I definitely followed Mom’s vision. There is a floatiness to the soft, pale colorways we chose for the wallpapers we used, which work well with Mom’s love of white linen slipcovers and light plaster walls, but because of the proportions, they also have enough space to breathe.
YOU’VE REALLY USED YOUR NEW COLLECTION TO MAXIMUM EFFECT.
Almon: Adam gently coaxed us towards using wallpaper because while I love designing it, I somehow didn’t imagine using it in this house. He’s shown me how fun working with patterns can be—and how much they add to a room. It has made the guest bedroom feel particularly peaceful—it’s the oldest part of the house and the original floorboards are very wide with a beautiful patina; the pediment-shaped upholstered headboards were Adam’s nod to the house’s Greek Revival style.
Charlap Hyman: In that guest room, which is tucked into the eaves, we used the same wallpaper on both the walls and ceiling; it really expands the sense of space, blurring the room’s edges so they melt away a little. It’s not an effect people always expect of wallpaper. Its speckled quality also lends a depth of texture, making the ribbons in the design feel three-dimensional and buoyant, like they are wafting across the sky in a gentle breeze.
MANY OF THE DESIGNS HAVE THAT ALMOST SURREAL EFFECT.
Almon: The candy-striped wallpaper pattern, which we used in the bathroom, came from a little series of paintings I had done in oil—the shadows give it a charming trompe l’oeil effect. The bird wallpaper that lines the hallway was hand-drawn to appear as if carved in stone; the doves were inspired by a photograph of Gertrude Stein’s Paris apartment which had a similar wallpaper in the background.
HOW DO YOU CREATE A SENSE OF BALANCE IN EACH ROOM?
Charlap Hyman: Mom is half Spanish so there is something duende about her taste—it’s a way of describing the earthy, powerful, solemn beauty found in flamenco, and I think you can use it to describe a space, too. In every house we’ve ever lived in, she always brings soulful, dark things into these light rooms to lend a serious, mysterious edge.
Almon: You can get lost in everything being white and light, so a shot of something dark and dramatic—like the printed velvet we used to cover the heirloom chair from Paraguay and bolster cushion—helps to bring it all into focus. I like to think the wallpaper we’ve used is having a quiet conversation with the art.
WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING TOGETHER AS MOTHER AND SON?
Charlap Hyman: The very first thing that we worked on together was a dusky forest landscape as a backdrop for a performance of the Baroque opera La Calisto at the Juilliard School in 2016. It’s very inspiring to work with my mom—we think in similar ways but make things very differently. There is magic in everything she does, from cracking an egg to making a painting of string. It’s a wild thing to watch her work. I’m like a 13-year-old kid again.
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE WINTER 2023 ISSUE OF FREDERIC. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!