A City Couple Revamps A Pueblo-Style Home


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A couple combines their distinctly different collections for a fresh take on a Pueblo-style house in the Hills.

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A City Couple Revamps A Pueblo-Style Home In The Southwest

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Jonathan Berger orchestrated a bold mix of classic and modern elements in the home he shares with Robert Nachman. "It was about finding a way to make our collections fit together," says Berger, who designed the living room's slipper chairs, done in a Robert Allen pattern, and sofa, covered in a Beacon Hill mohair.

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A bronze floor lamp by Berger joins a Mary Mito painting and one of a pair of saguaro cactus skeletons that he turned into torchères. Vintage Kravet fabric covers a Louis XV-style chair the designer got when he was 16. "It's gone through different permutations," he says. The rug is by Odegard Carpets.

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Pine vigas add character to the spaces throughout the house, including the living room, where a Lucite, glass and chrome bar cart from the 1970s and a Louis XV chair from Tepper Galleries in New York sit below a Hiroshi Sugimoto photograph. Mexican doors from Hands of America in Santa Fe, New Mexico, conceal the TV.

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The couple, who entertain frequently, wanted a dining room "that wasn't traditional," says Berger. A console he made from laminated cardboard is surrounded with drawings by Michael Leonard, George Grosz, Charles-Nicolas Cochin and Jeanne Mammen along with photos by Steven Meisel, Irving Penn and Susan Blanchard, and a 1905 Picasso etching. The ceramic lamps are by Barbara Barry.

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Berger fashioned the dining table from a piece of travertine set atop hand-hewn notched timbers. It's complemented by flea market finds: 19th-century Swedish Gothic Revival chairs from Brimfield Antique Flea Markets in Massachusetts and midcentury chairs from the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, California.

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The breakfast area features a vintage Danish table and Jens Risom chairs, all purchased at the Brimfield Antique Flea Markets. Beacon Hill fabrics cover the built-in banquette's cushion and pillows. "Because the architecture is so predominant, it can be challenging not to have the interiors become a cliche," says Nachman.

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Built-in shelves line the hall that leads to the master bedroom. "We have a lot of books, so that was another thing we loved about the house," says Berger. An early 20th-century portrait bust wears a Kyrgyzstan hat the couple bought at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe. The 18th-century Chinese rug is from Christie's.

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In the master bedroom, Berger paired a Raphael-inspired etching by Pietro Aquila with a Barbara Barry bed upholstered in a Larry Laslo Designs fabric for Robert Allen. The 1970s welded-steel table is by Silas Seandel and the sconces are by Workstead.

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Also in the master, Louis XVI armchairs covered in a Scalamandre velvet flank Berger's bronze floor lamp and a Napoleon III rope stool from Christie's. Beside the kiva fireplace is a terra-cotta sculpture of Mercury after Jean-Baptiste Pigalle's 18th-century marble original. The drapery fabric is from Holland & Sherry.

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Vintage fabric by Hutton Wilkinson adorns the guest bedroom's custom bed frame. Above it is a 1934 oil by Elmer Page Turner. The Kyrgyzstan throw is from Santa Fe's International Folk Art Market. An African drum from the Rose Bowl Flea Market serves as a bedside table. The area rug is Navajo.

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Berger brought a vintage Western theme to the powder room, designing the wallcovering, the plaster mirror frame and the faucet, which is made of copper plumbing pieces. "It's reminiscent of an old homestead," he says. A pair of 1940s gilt tole sconces are from the Brimfield Antique Flea Markets. The hand towels were embroidered by a neighbor.

Step into Jonathan Berger and Robert Nachman’s contemporary pueblo-inspired dwelling and it’s immediately clear this isn’t your standard Southwest style. A Louis XV commode is joined by 18th-century French chairs covered in chartreuse leather, a Tim Davis photo and a Navajo rug–and that’s just in the entrance hall. Of the unexpected juxtapositions, Berger says, “We were relocating from New York and said, ‘Do we dare bring this stuff out here? It doesn’t necessarily belong.’ But Southwest style is really very eclectic, so we thought, Why not?”

The couple’s fresh take on integrating the region’s Native American and European cultural influences was also a matter of merging their own disparate collections. Berger, an interior designer, favors classical antiques, while Nachman, formerly the design director at Robert Allen and now a marketing consultant in the home furnishings industry, tends toward midcentury modern and contemporary furnishings. “This is the first time we’ve really had the space to combine our collections,” says Nachman. “As things go, it was a very easy process,” Berger adds. “We seemed to agree on all the different elements.” For Berger, who oversaw the interiors and contributed his own lighting and furniture designs, it was about deciding which pieces to incorporate and how to make them work together in a house with strong architectural features, like vigas, kiva fireplaces and rough-hewn lintels. “It has the quirkiness of an old adobe, with ceiling changes from room to room,” he says.

The dining room reflects Berger’s eye for not only furniture selection and placement but also space planning. “You pass through the dining room to get to the living room, which isn’t ideal,” he points out. Rather than the typical rectangular dining table centering the space, he crafted a circular version that he placed off to one side; it’s made from a slab of travertine atop a base of notched timbers inspired by the minimalist sculptures of Carl Andre. Arranged on the opposite wall are photos by Irving Penn and Steven Meisel, drawings by Jeanne Mammen and George Grosz, and a Picasso etching, among other works. “When we were looking at our respective collections, I noticed we had a lot of faces,” Berger explains. “So I thought, Where could we get away with putting different things together? And that’s how the salon wall came about.”

The room’s laminated cardboard console is another Berger original. Says Nachman, “Originally Jonathan wanted to do it by embedding Japanese shou sugi ban wood in resin, and he was Googling for weeks and months how to do it.” Adds Berger, “The whole idea of the cardboard was simply, What could I get here at home and make easily without very many tools?” Berger’s DIY training started early: His father was in the lath-and-plaster business in Los Angeles and had a large workshop at home. “We’d spend weekends making things,” he recalls. “My mother would look at design magazines and point to something she liked and ask, ‘Can you make this for me?”

Berger’s touch is felt strongly in the living room, which features custom slipper chairs and a sofa as well as his hand-sculpted table lamp and bronze floor lamp. Flanking a large abstract by artist Mary Mito are saguaro cactus skeletons found at a shop in Santa Fe that he electrified and turned into torcheres. The diverse mix continues with a 1940s American chair that once belonged to Berger’s grandmother and a pair of Louis XV-style armchairs along with a vintage Florence Knoll table and a ’70s Lucite, glass and chrome bar cart.

Featuring an 18th-century Chinese rug, Louis XVI chairs, a contemporary bed and a welded-steel-and-glass table from the ’70s, the master bedroom was designed to be a “comfortable cocoon,” according to Nachman. “Part of it works because of the jewel tones,” Berger says. “I’d purchased the rug for a client, and then it came back to me. I absolutely loved it, so it ended up over the flat-weave well-to-wall carpet. If you look at the classic ’20s to ’40s American design, you see a lot of Chinese carpets like this with what they called ‘fine French furniture.’ I purchased the chairs in San Francisco many years ago. And we reupholstered the bed to match the dark shade of brown in the rug.”

The effect of such pairings is like a lively dinner party attended by a fascinating assortment of guests of all ages, backgrounds and interests. “That’s something we tried to achieve,” says Nachman. “It’s an inviting place to entertain but also a cozy and warm space, not only for friends and family but for the two of us.” Berger views the house as an ever-changing canvas. “You’re always learning about new things,” he reasons. “Some go away and some come in. It gets boring to look at the same thing all the time.”