The hand-carved wooden deer head hanging above the fireplace gives it away. “The homeowners are big on the outdoors,” says Bridget Rahr of the interior of the Berwyn home she designed with her partner, Carrie McNamara.
Their goal was to blend the laid-back, outdoorsy feel of their clients’ second home with the sophistication of a Main Line home. And the family room, with its cathedral ceiling, was one space that could accommodate such a relaxed vibe. Grass-cloth wallpaper was an obvious choice to suit the homeowners’ affinity for natural textures. Though grass cloth has made a comeback as a trendy wall textile, it’s actually a rather traditional option—one that’s been around for a long time. The man of the house, however, wasn’t as easily sold on the choice. “He was afraid it would make the room look like a tiki hut,” says McNamara.
Elsewhere in the space, rattan end tables with “egg”-based lamps—the work of well-known lighting designer Barbara Cosgrove—bookend the fireplace. And among the designers’ favorite additions to the room: swivel club chairs. “Swivel chairs seem to have a bad connotation, but they are really practical,” says McNamara. “You can arrange them for conversation, or the kids can swirl them around to watch the flat-screen television behind them.”
In keeping with the owner’s passion for red, the color’s brighter hues make an appearance in both the throw and the polka dot pillows on the camel-colored mohair sofa in the family room, where a pink-and-coral leopard print ottoman replaces a coffee table. As for the carved deer head, it came from Inside & Outside, McNamara’s home boutique in Wayne.
The major renovation work came in the kitchen, which had to be gutted. “The homeowner knew exactly what she wanted,” says Rahr.
That vision entailed a simple design, with white cabinetry and honed, black granite countertops. The matching island is spacious enough for a family of five. “In the owners’ last house, there wasn’t room in the kitchen for a table, so the family was used to gathering around the island,” says Rahr. “It was important that this island was large enough to do that.”
Custom-made, antique glass globe lanterns hang above the island, and its chairs reflect the homeowners’ love of nature. The backs and legs—made of resin with a faux finish—look just like tree branches, and red flannel covers the cushions. White subway tiles and a light gray grout lend an inconspicuous aesthetic to the stove’s backsplash, while a trio of miniature deer heads lines its hood.
The kitchen also has a custom wine storage area with cooler, and a fireplace. A farmhouse table used in the dining room of the last house was a perfect fit for the space, and red lacquer, bamboo-style, chairs add interest. “One of the owner’s loves is wicker, so we tried to take elements of wicker and make it a little more sophisticated,” says Rahr.
McNamara and Rahr first partnered as interior designers for the 2006 Vassar Show House. Together they created a fantasy room they dubbed the Queen’s Lair, where a woman could go to escape the hectic pace of everyday life.
“After the show, we started getting calls from people who said they loved our room, and who wanted to hire us,” recalls McNamara. “So we thought, ‘Why not?’”
And just like that, Rahr/McNamara Home was formed. In the three years since Vassar, the design team has collaborated on residential and commercial projects throughout the Main Line. “The first job we did together was staging a family room—someone who just wanted a new look,” says McNamara. “Then we designed a few more rooms in her home.”
Rahr and McNamara offer full-service interior design services. They also specialize in one-day decorating projects, always stressing a “use what you have” approach. As partners and creative individuals, they bring two very different styles to each job they take on.
“We both have similar tastes—in our feel for clean and very sophisticated lines,” says Rahr. “Carrie definitely is funkier and trendier than I am. And although I dislike the word ‘traditional,’ I would say that I’m more traditional. I think that’s why we work so well together.”
McNamara agrees fully. “We balance each other out and keep each other in line,” she says. “It has really been a wonderful partnership.”
The blend of traditional and trendy in Rahr and McNamara’s best work is apparent in the living room of the Berwyn home spotlighted here. The owner wanted a space that was more sophisticated than the other main living areas of the house—but not so formal that her family would feel uncomfortable spending time there. Her choice of a soft cream paint for the walls drove the furniture’s neutral color scheme. The dark wood spindle side chairs with blue, vine-patterned cushions were something the owner saw in a magazine.
More pattern was brought into the space with a round, tufted ottoman in a blue-gray-and-cream giraffe print. Two small throw pillows in the same pattern sit on a pair of wide-checkered side chairs along the opposite wall of the living room. Red creeps into the design scheme once again in the form of a small table between the chairs.
For the two facing sofas, the designers chose a cream-colored wool knit fabric. “It feels like you’re sitting on a sweater,” says Rahr. “The homeowner loves chunky, textured fabrics, so this was perfect for her.”
In the end, there are plenty of rustic touches scattered throughout the owners’ new Berwyn address to remind them of their second home, yet it still feels like home. And that’s always the goal for Rahr and McNamara, whose clients appreciate the fact that they have no interest in making the interiors they design look like something in their own houses.
“We’re very conscious of the fact that people go into each other’s homes in this area,” says Rahr. “The Main Line—as large as it is—is actually very small. So we don’t want anyone’s house to have the same look or the same fabrics as someone else’s we’ve designed.”
Interior Design: Rahr/McNamara Home, Carrie McNamara and Bridget Rahr, 164 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, (610) 971-1070
Painting: Hi-Tech Painting Solutions, Bo Parke, West Chester, (610) 436-0916