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A hundred-year-old Andersonville home maintains its historic charm while getting a modern update from Sean Cowan and his shop’s collection of midcentury-modern finds.

HISTORY REPEATS The main floor living room mixes midcentury-modern furniture from VERN + VERA along with some pieces the homeowners already had. Many of the home’s historical elements, such as the stained-glass windows, were kept, and the dark wood paneling was restored.  

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Designer Sean Cowan made room for all of his clients’ heirlooms, such as the portrait of one’s grandfather. ”Everything in the house is authentic and meaningful,” he says.

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A custom rug from Kyle Bunting defines the seating area in the bar, which is furnished with a quartet of swivel chairs by Pierre Paulin from Ligne Roset

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The Dieter Rams shelving unit replaced heavy wooden bookshelves that previously dominated the upstairs library. The sofa is from Ligne Roset, the chandelier is from Luminaire and the sconces are Bestlite.

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A gray palette with vintage and midcentury-modern finds from VERN + VERA create a calm guest bedroom

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Builders from Cerwe Corporation carefully ensured the newly installed millwork in the front entry matches the original. A wallcovering by Kelly Wearstler and bronze table from Schoolhouse Electric add a modern touch.

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“We tend to shy away from anything too iconic,” explains Sean Cowan of the rarefied ’70s-era furniture, artwork and accessories that he and partner Eric Silvestrim showcase at their Edgewater showroom, VERN + VERA. Chock-full of such finds, the Broadway storefront’s sexy window display enticed at least one neighborhood couple to pop in on opening day. “They sat here for probably two hours chatting,” says Cowan. “They were doing quite an extensive renovation, and I think they were inspired by the store to do something a little different.”

Midway through renovating their three-story home in the charming tree-lined Lakewood Balmoral area with architecture firm G. Goldberg + Associates, the couple asked Cowan of Sean Michael Design to pipe in on the interior design. “We wanted the house to sparkle and breathe,” the owner notes, “to set up a friction between the dark moldings and the much more contemporary furnishings.”

The best way to accomplish those goals, Cowan explains, was to bring in unique pieces that not only push against the architecture but also stand out among the more recognizable midcentury furnishings. A modern white chandelier by David Weeks, for example, pulls the living room in a modern direction perfectly suited for midcentury chairs and a custom one-armed sofa from the owners’ existing collection. White walls and black and charcoal accents enhance the sense of contrast, while a vintage molded floor lamp from VERN + VERA adds yet another sculptural dimension. “It’s a tower of light that looks gorgeous from the street,” describes Cowan. “It’s one of the more obscure pieces that I introduced to shake up the iconic mix a little bit.”

Lighting fixtures play an important role throughout the interior. An oversized paper chandelier by Ingo Maurer, along with a round rug, curvaceous furnishings and a modern white shelving unit, soften the traditional wood moldings in the second-floor library. And a second David Weeks chandelier, this one jet-black, elevates the design of the dining room—a gallery-like space furnished with a Herman Miller table and Bertoia wire chairs where the owners display an ever-rotating array of sculpture and artwork. “The chandelier is just extraordinary,” the owner explains, noting that Cowan pushed hard for it. “It’s very sculptural and contrasts the old wood beams in a way that creates a brilliant clashing.”

Just off the dining room is a bar area that Cowan furnished with a custom rug and mod gray swivel chairs. Fast friends with their clients ever since that initial visit to the shop, Cowan and Silvestrim have enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails in that very spot—one of the fringe benefits that came with the close collaboration. “Even though this home looks serious and sophisticated on the surface, it’s superfun at the same time,” Cowan explains. “We had such a great time doing this.”