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Quick Takes With: Hollister and Porter Hovey

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Quick Takes With: Hollister and Porter Hovey

May 19, 2024
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Hollister and Porter Hovey are not your average house stagers: You’ll find no faux topiaries or generic art once they’ve come through. When Porter worked as a real estate agent in New York City, she found the usual staged interiors woefully lacking in personality and looking, as the duo now says, like “monolithic furniture showrooms.” The Brooklyn-based sisters founded their full-service firm, Hovey Design, and since then they’ve worked on over 800 apartments, townhouses, and homes, adding paintings by Hollister and employing design tips and tricks to help a space stand out. (We’ve borrowed many of those tips ourselves over the years in our own places: See Real Estate Staging with Style and Affordability: 8 Insider Tips, for example.)

Today, the sisters share four great design films, a surprisingly common furniture mistake, and a simple switch that “feels like a gut renovation.” Read on…

You’re invited to dinner. What’s your go-to gift?

If it’s a warmer month, we love to give an Astier de Villatte Mantes-la-Jolie candle. We’re so into the green/vegetal scents these days. To our noses, this seems tomato and basil adjacent, but is actually citrus, eucalyptus, and herbs. It’s fresh, crisp, and wildly interesting.

What’s on your bedside table?

Hollister: iPad (mainly for looking at design magazines on Zinio), Burt’s Bees Overnight Intensive Lip Treatment, and Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Balm.

Porter: Ayad Rahmani’s Frank Lloyd Wright and Ralph Waldo Emerson: Transforming the American Mind, about how those two great thinkers influenced each other’s outlooks on living and overcoming societal inequality.

hollister&#8\2\17;s den. &#8\2\20;i recently finished a &#8\2\20;sl 29
Above: Hollister’s den. “I recently finished a “slow redesign” of the loft Porter and I used to share but which I now have all to myself since Porter moved to Downtown Brooklyn,” she says.

What do you pull up when you need inspiration?

Color is incredibly important in our work, and especially in Hollister’s paintings. Fashion generally moves faster than interior design, so we go to the runway—the Vogue Runway app—for color mixes that feel absolutely fresh and can add life and exuberance to a white or neutral room. Dries van Noten is our all-time favorite, and we’re obsessed with Matthieu Blazy’s palette for Bottega Veneta and what Pier Paolo Piccioli did at Valentino.

We’re also forever obsessed with Nowness’s “In Residence” videos–so iconic that they’ve been copied and spoofed. We watch them over and over on a loop. They’re like beautiful, inspiring lullabies, giving everyone access to the best of the best homes.

What’s a film or TV show whose aesthetic has stuck with you?

Our top picks are perfect films with great stories, acting, sets, and costumes: A Single Man, for giving us a peek inside John Lautner’s 1949 modernist Schaffer Residence (and all the great eyewear); Gattaca, for the whole mood, Margaret Atwood predicting suiting of the future in the most timeless way, the perfect curation of cars, and the sets that include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marin County Civic Center and Antoine Predock’s CLA Building at Cal Poly Pomona. In the Mood for Love, for showing us the mid-century office and home life of Hong Kong in the most romantic, aching way. I Am Love, too, for reopening the world’s eyes to Piero Portaluppi’s genius and the beauty of rationalist architecture.

Are there any Instagram accounts you can’t get enough of?

We’re blown away by the creativity going on at Balbosté (@balboste_paris), the Paris-based creative studio that’s doing incredible avant-garde pop-up events with food art for the best global fashion houses. For knowledge, Alice Rawsthorn (@alice.rawsthorn) does these wonderful multi-day deep dives into designers and architects that puts the scope of their careers and work into perspective.

We’re so inspired by the creative color and materiality mix coming out of Australia. It’s as luxurious (or more!) as the Italians but still playful and accessible. @flackstudio_, @ysg.studio, and @tamsinjohnson are three of our favorites. We’re also obsessed with the incredible restaurants that @studiomodijefsky is doing throughout Amsterdam.

What has been your best house upgrade?

New light fixtures, door knobs, and cabinet knobs. Along with a fresh coat of paint, making these items feel cohesive throughout the home will feel like a gut renovation. For cabinet knobs for clients, we almost always go with the fantastically tiny Bodil 18Ø from Pretty Pegs.

We both have open lofts, and having one huge statement light really became the lynchpin for the design of each of the spaces. Porter chose an absolutely amazing pendant from the Seville-based designers Las Animas, while Hollister has a Noguchi Akari 120A.

We both recently had Lutron Caseta systems installed in our apartments, and that’s been such a game changer. Every lamp is on a dimmer, and it’s so nice to just shut down or wake up the whole joint with one tap.

Are there any simple or budget-friendly design moves you wish you’d known sooner?

If you’re considering replacing solid wood floors (or even junky parquet) with engineered wood, please try to refinish what you have. The stains and seals—like Bona Nordic and Natural Seal—are so good now and don’t yellow.

hollister&#8\2\17;s loft kitchen. 30
Above: Hollister’s loft kitchen.

My favorite sheets are…

LL Bean Pima Percale 280 Thread Count. They’re incredibly soft workhorses. Colors are limited, but they’re a joy to sleep on. We adore Bed Threads linen throws on top, especially for the warmer months, and there you get fantastic color choices.

My unpopular design opinion is…

Dark paint does not make rooms look smaller: It makes them more interesting and cohesive. We’re both very into the immersive paint trend. It hides so many construction flaws and imperfect walls while giving personality and depth. For our staging work, yes, we mainly still stick to white walls and ceilings, but immersive color for our own homes is the only way to go. Porter has Benjamin Moore Mexican Tile in her place, and Hollister has Chocolate Truffle drenching hers. Our favorite for clients lately—when we can push them—is Midsummer Night, an almost-black with mahogany undertones. For a contrasting ceiling, we love going bold and including the crown moldings in the ceiling color vs. having them match the walls.

And your design pet peeve?

Gray sofas. Big box stores have pushed them on the public so hard, and unless we’re talking about a luxurious mohair velvet, they will suck the life out of any room, especially when paired with muted blue (the path to which gray sofas seem to lead). It seems like a great choice: Literally in the middle! Won’t show dirt! Will match everything! Ironically, they’re so in the middle that they bring other furniture down instead of offering contrast and visual interest. We know white is impossible, but try warmer colors, something really dark, or a print. It’s probably the largest (and possibly most expensive) piece of furniture in the living room, so make it count, not disappear.

My go-to kitchen utensil is…

This is more of an appliance, but the hardest working thing in each of our kitchens is a Moccamaster Technivorm coffee maker.

Three words that describe our design style:

Sculptural, colorful, fun.

First design love?

Hollister: Art Deco. Growing up, we ate and watched TV en famille, which meant we ate and watched what our parents wanted (asparagus, artichokes and Mystery!/Masterpiece Theater). Most of those shows were set in the 1920s and 1930s and seemed like the aesthetic ideal, with the beautiful materiality of the glossy wood and the beautiful Bauhaus chrome minimalism. Our home was very English country house-looking, but our mom always gravitated towards the minimalist/deco look for small appliances (everything had to be Braun). When I was eight, Santa brought me an (actually ubiquitous) pink QT-50 tape player that I adored because someone made something for kids that looked like post-modern Miami Deco (we also watched a lot of Miami Vice).

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Above: And Porter’s home office, with Tom Sachs chair and Best Case desk.

What item from your closet do you have on repeat?

We’ve always invested in shoes, bags, and outerwear more than our actual clothing. These days, we’re installing almost every day or at our warehouse, so our clothes are fairly utilitarian: versatile dresses for Porter, black jeans and a Uniqlo cashmere sweater or long sleeved tee for Hollister. But Porter got an incredible Dries Van Noten wool coat with delicate flower embroidery years ago, and it’s remained an absolute treasure. Slip it on, and she’s instantly put together and ready for meetings (which, for us, involves walking through apartments and townhouses). Hollister’s favorite is a 1980s-inspired balloon-sleeve Toteme black raincoat. The silhouette is great and works almost all year round.

Favorite design shop to visit (online or in person)?

For inspiration, nothing beats Dimore Gallery and Dimore Centrale in Milan. It’s almost like a museum. Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci create entire worlds that bend the past into wildly modern configurations that allow you to see vintage furniture and lighting in completely new ways.

Our favorite shopping destination in the world is Mexico City. Spaces like Originario, Perla Valtierra, XINÚ Perfumes, and INA are beautiful experiences, and we almost always buy something from all of them every time we go back.

What is the last thing you purchased for your house?

Porter declared her apartment set and done when we finished designing after she moved in, but we’ve found some too-good-to-be true pieces at auction lately and the switching has begun. The biggest coups are an off-white leather Tobia Scarpa Bastiano sofa, a Giovanni Offredi Paracarro dining table, and a Rino Marturi low lounge chair. She also invested in a stainless steel desk from Best Case, which is spectacular and functional, and recently added a Tom Sachs Shop Chair.

Hollister just finished re-doing her loft with many of her favorite Italian pieces that we’ve collected over the years. The whole place feels new and exciting.

And something you’re coveting?

It’s been a nearly 20-year covet, but a country house upstate. We’re looking for an affordable modernist late 1970s or 1980s situation without a recent Home Depot kitchen and bathrooms update, which is why we don’t have a country house, ha!

Thanks, Hollister and Porter! For more of their work, follow @hoveydesign and HoveyDesign.com.

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