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Queen bee from Home & Living Trends volume 2003
Themed interiors can be the most challenging design projects, mainly because it's so easy to get it wrong. But with the right budget and experienced designers, a themed interior can make a dramatic statement and still provide a sense of fun and whimsy.
The Victorian cottage featured on these pages is a good example. Named The Beehive, the house has been fitted out in bumblebee fashion. Every room, from the screen porch to the bathroom, and every detail, from the flooring to the light fittings, reflects this theme. But, as designers William Diamond and Anthony Baratta say, it is not always predictable.
"Each room has a different take on the theme," says Baratta. "Some furnishings are deliberately mismatched to create an element of unpredictability, but there are key visual links between all the rooms."
The refurbishment project included realigning the doors between three rooms – the entrance foyer, living room and den – to create a sight line from the front to the rear of the house. Establishing this axis improved the flow of the house and enhanced a sense of space, says Diamond.
A formal, elegant look was specified for the entrance foyer. Black-and-white striped fabric covers an antique sofa and also lines the walls. As with much of the wood flooring in the house, this floor is painted in high-gloss black enamel. A braided rug, which the designers call a doily rug, is a customized version of a traditional form of rug-making.
In the living room, a handmade, Portuguese needlepoint rug features a honeycomb pattern designed by Diamond and Baratta. Each black-bordered hexagon displays a bee-related image, such as a honey pot or sunflower. All of these elements also feature in accessories, including the customized black-and-white lamps made in Italy. Chairs and cushions are covered in fabric from an antique quilt.
The den beyond the living room has turquoise walls and furniture covered in a Buchanan tartan kilt fabric from a Scottish mill. The design of this woolen fabric is repeated on a larger scale in another customized rug and was chosen to create a warm, homey feel.
Black is a color that links all the rooms. As well as the shiny, painted floors, it features on painted furniture. The screen porch, for example, has antique, black-painted rattan sofas. These are covered in a water-resistant Sumbrella fabric. Cushions, in bright Manuel Canovas fabrics, are adorned with embroidered bee designs.
The porch has a painted checkerboard floor and a dining area with black Lusty‘s Lloyd Loom chairs. A rope-entwined beehive table base adds a touch of whimsy.
In the kitchen and breakfast room the floors are painted blue with yellow stenciled bee and flower designs. A customized, yellow gingham wallpaper adds a fresh look to the ceiling and walls. The Diamonds and Roses cushion and blind fabric was also custom designed. Other themed elements in the house include bee-patterned tiles and wallpaper.
"The house is a lot of fun and is probably the most talked-about interior we have undertaken," the designers say.
In keeping with its name, The Beehive, this Victorian cottage has been decorated with a vibrant bumblebee theme. The entrance foyer coveys a sense of formality, with wide-striped fabric covering the walls and an antique sofa.
Anthony Baratta and William Diamond, Diamond Baratta Design (New York)
Entry hall walls and sofa
Black & White Stripe from Bergamo Fabrics
Entry; Country Braid House; living room; Honeycomb from The Diamond Baratta Collection, Stark Carpet
Living room sofa and fabric
Custom designed by Diamond Baratta Design
Painting over sofa
Lois Dodd from Fischbach Gallery
Dining room lighting
Den sofa fabric and rug
Porch rattan sofas
Paula Rubenstein Antiques
Yellow and white stripe from Astrup
Penny Pockets Embroidery
Kitchen window treatment and chair fabric
Lee Jofa Diamond Baratta Collection
Lynn Worden Antiques
Kitchen and breakfast room floors
Custom stenciled by David Cohn
Custom white crackle beehive from Sonya Design
Photography by Kallan MacLeod, assisted by Jessica Skiles