This is how we do it

In their new book, Abode, General Store retailers Serena Mitnik-Miller and Mason St Peter demonstrate their décor philosophy in their California home.

The edit

Rearranging your furniture or rethinking the way it functions can be transformative. We recommend beginning with your living room — a space that often has the most flexibility and biggest impact when it comes to switching things up.

Start by sketching a basic floorplan that maps out the furniture in the  space. Looking at the layout from this perspective frees you up to see all of the possibilities. If your current configuration follows the common layout of a couch facing a television (and watching television isn’t your priority), consider a change. Our ideal orientation? One that takes in the view. If your room doesn’t have a view, create a nice one inside, orienting the furniture towards a beautiful piece of art, or a bookshelf, or the thing with the most character, like the fireplace. If it’s a room in which people are going to gather, you can facilitate conversation by orienting the furniture toward the centre.

MAIN IMAGE Our kitchen shelving is one of the key focal points of our home. It’s a great example of our philosophy in action, a twist on the tenets made famous by designers Dieter Rams and William Morris: everything that’s visible shouldbe beautiful and useful; if it’s just the latter, it should ideally be out of sight, rather than taking up premium real estate. ABOVE Our Topanga living room. Honouring a structure’s history and channelling its purest form lies at the heart of our design aesthetic. Over the years we’ve learned to seek out and value a home’s marks of craftsmanship and originality.

The hero

The nesting process is an imperfect and ever-evolving one. There’s no single right way to approach it, but for us, the most effective jumping-off point is determining a space’s dominant piece. In all likelihood, this will be the thing that occupies the most real estate in the room and that’s emblematic of its purpose — the dining room’s dining table, the bedroom’s bed. With this starting point in place, you can nail down the pieces that will orbit around it, considering your must-haves and assigning each to a location.  

In the case of our dining room, we knew we wanted a rectangular table to shape the space, something not too bulky, in a neutral colour and a hard-wearing material. These are qualities that any table we put here will possess, giving us the versatility to change without sending the entire room into disarray.

ABOVE When you’re making decisions, be sure to choose things that aren’t too precious to be used. Our Ramsey Conder light, for example, sometimes doubles as a laundry-drying rack.


The whole

When we begin to add to a space, we’re constantly asking ourselves: How will we use this? How will it enhance the room’s beauty? The goal is to create an ecosystem that feels harmonious and effortless.

ABOVE We looked everywhere for the perfect tap for our kitchen and finally ended up importing an aged brass one by Perrin & Rowe. When you’re choosing an item as hardworking as this, be sure to take into account its functionality. This tap looks good, but it’s also a pleasure to use.


The hues

You may have noticed that when it comes to interior design, we don’t rely on colour for impact. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate colour, but it raises an important point about our approach. For us, it’s not about the walls, floors, counters or cabinets — we want to draw attention to the whole, not the parts, and a cohesive neutral palette helps us achieve this.

The mix

The things that populate our Topanga home represent a sort of map of our lives and tastes. There’s no single formula for ensuring cohesion, but here maintaining a palette of neutrals and wood tones results in a scheme in which things ‘play’ well together; there’s a common thread. The same applies to your chosen themes and motifs; whether it’s florals or modern Zen, blending is successful so long as you have recurring, consistent elements. In other words, balance difference with similarity. 

ABOVE We believe storage is as much about creating an organised system for stashing things that are useful but not visually inspiring as it is about showcasing your favourite belongings so you can enjoy them on a daily basis, while keeping them out of the way. Our custom-made, self-supporting Monterey cypress bookshelf holds our books without flinching, divides the room and allows light to pass through.
THE BOOK Edited extract from Abode: Thoughtful Living with Less by Serena Mitnik-Miller and Mason St Peter (Abrams, $55).



Mariko Reed

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