Ever Green (and Red)
A cozy, jewel-toned library is the perfect place to unwind
By Nancy Oakley • Photographs by John Koob Gessner
Outside its lone window, swaths of green — a sweeping lawn punctuated by towering pines — undulate in waves in the flickering afternoon light. But it’s the swaths of green inside, accented with red and wood tones that entice one to enter, sit awhile and relax.
The small library tucked off a hallway in a historic Winston-Salem home belonging to Matt Carey and his wife, Elise Peters Carey, was borne of Matt’s enthusiasm for the Christmas holidays. “He loves the holidays. He loves big, family traditional stuff. He loves it!” says Anne Rainey Rokahr, owner of Trouvaille Home, whose design flair brought the room to life.
As co-founder and CEO of Blueprint Income, an online marketplace for personal annuities, Matt spends his time shuttling to New York during the week and back to North Carolina on the weekends. Elise, too, shoulders a huge load, not only as mother to their two toddler daughters, but also as president of Bethany Medical Center, the Triad’s largest independent healthcare provider. In addition, she holds various other posts and board memberships, and serves as director of the Lenny Peters Foundation, a nonprofit supporting the Triad and communities around the world that was started by her father, High Point’s Dr. Lenny Peters. Clearly, for such busy lives laden with responsibility, home — and specifically its hearth, that inner sanctum where the couple can retire with their small girls at the day’s and week’s end — has acquired greater importance. Plus, it’s a comfy place where they can just kick back and relax. “They love to have a drink before dinner,” Rokahr says. “That’s their thing.”
She made a mental note of the Careys’ preferences, when, arriving from New York City “without a stick of furniture,” they approached her last spring to design their new home — a spacious, 1920s jewel designed by the architectural firm of Northup & O’Brien. Matt had a basic vision for the library. “He kept saying ‘red and green,’” Rokahr recalls of those early consultations with the couple. Visions of “bad, late ’80s and early ’90s” trends in burgundy and forest green flashed through her mind. But then her imagination went to work.
First order of the day: “I had to work to find the right fabric,” says Rokahr. To anchor the room and its color palette, she selected two small swivel chairs from Highland House in High Point. Using the chairs’ rich, emerald green velvet as a guide, she then approached Sherwin-Williams to match their tone with a glossy interior eggshell paint. Not only does it echo the hue of the chairs, it complements the reddish wood molding and trim around the library’s shelves, mantel and doors opening into the rooms adjacent. Truth is, that trim is actually faux finish, original to the house.
Working closely with her clients, whom she describes as having an “adventuresome” spirit and willingness to experiment, Rokahr created “youthful” English country ambiance “with a sense of humor.” (Note the taxidermied ibex head mounted over the gas fireplace.) A hunt-themed fabric, “Equestrian” by Thibaut, covers a 19th-century English footman’s stool, the perfect perch for the Careys’ two daughters at the foot of the clubby, Cognac-colored, leather Chesterfield sofa from MT Company. Hanging on the wall above it are nods to the Careys’ roots: vintage maps of Matt’s native Maine, of Elise’s native North Carolina, of New York and photographs of quiet landscapes. Because there wasn’t room on either side of the couch for end tables, Rokahr found a pair of Oscar Bach Moroccan-style floor lamps in cast brass that lend a fanciful flavor to the room. Another light source, a fine lamp with a dolphin motif also in cast brass and mounted on a marble base, sits atop a 19th-century Korean Tansu chest, convenient for curling up in the adjacent red-and-green plaid armchair positioned next to the bookshelves.
It is a scene worthy of a Dickens novel — especially when a little holiday sparkle in the form of crystal candelabras and various brass ornaments adorn the mantel. What better way to spend a winter afternoon? h