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Bloomsbury in the Bronx: At Home with Livia Cetti and Family

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Bloomsbury in the Bronx: At Home with Livia Cetti and Family

July 17, 2017

Livia Cetti made her first wedding bouquet—for a family friend—when she was just seven. “I had hippie parents,” she says. “My father was an artist/contractor and my mother was the crazy mom who whipped up tofu from scratch and kept a full-size loom in her bedroom.” Livia grew up in the mountains of Santa Barbara with chickens and cows in the yard and acres of cactus gardens. She went on to study art at the San Francisco Art Institute, but worked for florists all along the way—which led to her becoming an editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.

Livia now has her own studio known as The Green Vase and is celebrated for her botanical stylings—when Tiffany wants to fill its Fifth Avenue windows with cyclamen, she’s the one they turn to, and when exotica, such as flowering cherry branches are needed in November for a Burt’s Bees ad campaign, she concocts exact lookalikes out of other fresh plant parts. Livia is equally known for her paper creations: She’s the author of two how-to books on the subject, including the new The Exquisite Book of Paper Flower Transformations. And though she long ago left California for NYC, she’s even created a facsimile of her bohemian childhood home, backyard chickens included, in a hidden corner of the Bronx. Come see.

Photography by Kate Mathis.

Livia lives in a funky 1901 Spanish Mediterranean house in Riverdale, in the northwest Bronx, with her husband, Danny Marrone and their two boys, who are 9 and 11. Conveniently, Danny happens to be a contractor (his business is Edgehill Construction) and was able to take on the full gut of their 1,800-square-foot place himself, new terracotta roof and heating and AC systems included.
Above: Livia lives in a funky 1901 Spanish Mediterranean house in Riverdale, in the northwest Bronx, with her husband, Danny Marrone and their two boys, who are 9 and 11. Conveniently, Danny happens to be a contractor (his business is Edgehill Construction) and was able to take on the full gut of their 1,800-square-foot place himself, new terracotta roof and heating and AC systems included.

“It was a mishmash of ugly: Every surface upstairs and down was either wallpapered or linoleumed,” says Livia. Danny opened up the compact downstairs by creating twin arched passageways between living room and dining room/kitchen.

It took sixty 80-pound bags of concrete to create the mantel. (“It’s framed in white melamine and we did two pours.”) That’s one of Livia’s red paper camellias mixed in with the fresh greenery.
Above: It took sixty 80-pound bags of concrete to create the mantel. (“It’s framed in white melamine and we did two pours.”) That’s one of Livia’s red paper camellias mixed in with the fresh greenery.

John Derian was the first to sell Livia’s paper flowers, and for the opening of Astier de Villatte’s Paris shop last spring, she was flown out to create a giant Victorian-inspired paper arrangement. The terracotta head is Nigerian and dates to the 15th century; it was a holiday present from their neighbor friend Bruce Frank, owner of Bruce Frank Primitive Art.

Danny’s inspiration for the curved plasterwork was the living room’s existing archway that opens it to the sunroom.
Above: Danny’s inspiration for the curved plasterwork was the living room’s existing archway that opens it to the sunroom.

Livia is an avid collector of vintage exotica, and she especially loves embroidered textiles—her sofa is draped in a dropcloth, a backdrop for her round-the-world collection of pillows. Her best source? “My mother is an antiques dealer [her shop is the Green Vase Antiques], and she’s always texting me photos and sending me her finds. If I get tired of something, it gets shipped to her shop; we have a constant give and take going.”

Danny custom-built the sunroom’s window seat and Livia cushioned it with futons (the family’s lone TV is perched opposite, on a fifties credenza out of view from the living room). The tiger maple floor is original, newly refurbished. And that’s a Bolivian poncho draped over the hoop chair.
Above: Danny custom-built the sunroom’s window seat and Livia cushioned it with futons (the family’s lone TV is perched opposite, on a fifties credenza out of view from the living room). The tiger maple floor is original, newly refurbished. And that’s a Bolivian poncho draped over the hoop chair.
An old enameled dental cabinet is Livia’s curio case. The walls throughout are painted Pashmina in matte from Benjamin Moore Agora, a warm medium gray—”a perfect neutral that works well with both the modern and the antique,” says Livia. The moldings are in semigloss Jute, also from Benjamin Moore Agora.
Above: An old enameled dental cabinet is Livia’s curio case. The walls throughout are painted Pashmina in matte from Benjamin Moore Agora, a warm medium gray—”a perfect neutral that works well with both the modern and the antique,” says Livia. The moldings are in semigloss Jute, also from Benjamin Moore Agora.
A Swiss sixties chair—a Riverdale trash day find—is propped with a pillow Livia made from a sequined sweater. The emu head is one of Cody Foster’s papier-mâché creations from John Derian.
Above: A Swiss sixties chair—a Riverdale trash day find—is propped with a pillow Livia made from a sequined sweater. The emu head is one of Cody Foster’s papier-mâché creations from John Derian.
A prickly pear cactus (in a woven palm planter from Target) fills the window of the niche library, formerly the downstairs bathroom. The windows throughout are all new, save for the ones in the sunroom, and are by Pella.
Above: A prickly pear cactus (in a woven palm planter from Target) fills the window of the niche library, formerly the downstairs bathroom. The windows throughout are all new, save for the ones in the sunroom, and are by Pella.
In the kitchen, the couple splurged on a hardware-free design in dark oak with aluminum framing from Poggenpohl’s Segmento line. “Because it’s a tiny space, we wanted to hide the appliances, and we loved how clean and neutral the cabinets look,” says Livia. (See Good Küchen: 9 German Kitchen Systems.)
Above: In the kitchen, the couple splurged on a hardware-free design in dark oak with aluminum framing from Poggenpohl’s Segmento line. “Because it’s a tiny space, we wanted to hide the appliances, and we loved how clean and neutral the cabinets look,” says Livia. (See Good Küchen: 9 German Kitchen Systems.)

The counter is a placeholder—it’s two Ikea Hällestad boards ($109 each) with metallic edging—until the time is right to replace it with marble or Caesarstone. The sink is also from Ikea and the vintage pendant light was an eBay score.

Stylist’s swag: The kitchen’s Mosaic House Moroccan cement tiles and this daisy pattern in the bath were both leftovers that Livia brought home from a Martha Stewart Living shoot; Danny installed a hydronic radiant heat system underneath them.
Above: Stylist’s swag: The kitchen’s Mosaic House Moroccan cement tiles and this daisy pattern in the bath were both leftovers that Livia brought home from a Martha Stewart Living shoot; Danny installed a hydronic radiant heat system underneath them.
An ever-growing shrine rises in a recess that Danny built between the kitchen and living room. It’s crowned by a vintage Amazonian headdress found at a Connecticut tag sale, and that’s Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth—”not just money,” specifies Livia, “wealth of friendships, family, and quality of life”—in the middle.
Above: An ever-growing shrine rises in a recess that Danny built between the kitchen and living room. It’s crowned by a vintage Amazonian headdress found at a Connecticut tag sale, and that’s Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth—”not just money,” specifies Livia, “wealth of friendships, family, and quality of life”—in the middle.

Livia’s flowers of hand-dyed tissue paper are mingled with, among other things, a paper lotus that she spotted in the window of a dry cleaner in Queens and a Small Adam pot by Group Partner. To dust, she says she simply “hits it all with a blow dryer.”
Above: Livia’s flowers of hand-dyed tissue paper are mingled with, among other things, a paper lotus that she spotted in the window of a dry cleaner in Queens and a Small Adam pot by Group Partner. To dust, she says she simply “hits it all with a blow dryer.”
The dining ensemble—Fritz Hansen’s B619 Super-Elliptical Table and Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chairs—were hand-me-downs from a friend whose ex was a modern furniture collector. An Ikea domed light hangs from a new plasterwork recess.
Above: The dining ensemble—Fritz Hansen’s B619 Super-Elliptical Table and Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chairs—were hand-me-downs from a friend whose ex was a modern furniture collector. An Ikea domed light hangs from a new plasterwork recess.

The table displays Livia’s rotating collection of pottery. The papier-mâché head was a surprise discovery of unknown origin from Home Goods.
Above: The table displays Livia’s rotating collection of pottery. The papier-mâché head was a surprise discovery of unknown origin from Home Goods.
The dining room opens to the kitchen, so the couple linked the two by inserting a Poggenpohl sideboard and Ikea counter. Livia carried home the Illy coffeemaker from a trip to Italy—”it was $300 cheaper, but Danny still needs to give it an American plug.”
Above: The dining room opens to the kitchen, so the couple linked the two by inserting a Poggenpohl sideboard and Ikea counter. Livia carried home the Illy coffeemaker from a trip to Italy—”it was $300 cheaper, but Danny still needs to give it an American plug.”
Thriving euphorbia flank the bathroom door in the sunroom. The sconce, by custom lighting studio O’Lampia, has a pierced ceramic shade from a 1970s faux Chinese chandelier. Livia sourced the window seat’s gray linen “for about $7 a yard” from Gray Line Linen in New York.
Above: Thriving euphorbia flank the bathroom door in the sunroom. The sconce, by custom lighting studio O’Lampia, has a pierced ceramic shade from a 1970s faux Chinese chandelier. Livia sourced the window seat’s gray linen “for about $7 a yard” from Gray Line Linen in New York.
Moroccan glazed fish-scale tile and a Vanda orchid in the downstairs bath.
Above: Moroccan glazed fish-scale tile and a Vanda orchid in the downstairs bath.
The upstairs landing is hung with a 1960s Murano glass fixture that Danny got from a client who was getting rid of it. The tasseled saddlebag came from Nine Streets New York, one of Livia’s favorite textile shops.
Above: The upstairs landing is hung with a 1960s Murano glass fixture that Danny got from a client who was getting rid of it. The tasseled saddlebag came from Nine Streets New York, one of Livia’s favorite textile shops.
In the master bedroom, Livia hung an Andean frazada as the headboard. The blue metal ostrich over it is one of Livia’s mother’s finds. The linen sheets are by Italian line Society Limonta.
Above: In the master bedroom, Livia hung an Andean frazada as the headboard. The blue metal ostrich over it is one of Livia’s mother’s finds. The linen sheets are by Italian line Society Limonta.
An arched entry opens the bedroom to the dressing area lit with Japanese silk kite lights from Conran’s. The black-and-white rug is an Ikea classic.
Above: An arched entry opens the bedroom to the dressing area lit with Japanese silk kite lights from Conran’s. The black-and-white rug is an Ikea classic.
On and around the bureau: a plastic tote from a trip to Australia, a flea market pitchfork, and a papier-mâché zebra head.
Above: On and around the bureau: a plastic tote from a trip to Australia, a flea market pitchfork, and a papier-mâché zebra head.
Livia’s signature paper geraniums with hand-painted leaves.
Above: Livia’s signature paper geraniums with hand-painted leaves.

Tour the quarters of a few more creatives at home:

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on May 9, 2016.

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