Rachel Laxer is an interior designer living in London with her husband and two daughters. Although originally from New York, she has lived in Tokyo before she decided to settle down in England to raise her family. Spending much time travelling and experiencing new cultures, which Rachel believe helps shape her ‘eye’ as a designer, she enjoys working on projects all over the world because as it allows her to work with a broad range of clients with different needs. From this, she has found that the design practice’s core strength as a company is understanding of their clients’ visions and making those visions a reality in their home. Rachel founded Rachel Laxer Interiors in 2007, based on the principle of “relaxed elegance.” Their designs combine the chic and cosmopolitan with the pragmatic, creating the ideal atmosphere for our clients. Here the top designer shares the design of her own New York Home with The LuxPad…
Project name: Heathcote
Floor Area: Approx. 10,000sqft.
Project time taken: It took 2 ½ years to plan and build
Completion of Project: 2014
Tucked away in a leafy enclave of Westchester County, New York, this luxury retreat is the US base of interior designer, Rachel Laxer. Her Westchester home reflects Rachel’s love of the serenity and simplicity inherent in Japanese style.The key elements are based on Japanese architecture, where each room leads the viewer into the next space. The house is full of pockets and sliding doors so that you have the option of opening and closing a room depending on what is going on. The materials are very clean and calming.
I wanted the design to flow and have the ability to change the space from open to private depending on the situation. The house has dark wood pocket doors with handcrafted long pulls. They are designed so that the hardware is shown on the faces of the doors, making them easy to open and close. It creates an open energy throughout the house, an idea that was taken from our flat in Tokyo. I have always loved how spaces can be flexible through the use of these doors. The design in our Westchester home is all about family, entertainment and relaxation in an elegant but informal way. This ethos of relaxed elegance is the core of my design belief.
What was the creation / planning process?
We bought the land with an existing house on the property but it was very damaged and poorly positioned. So, we decided to demolish the previous house and start again with a blank canvas. The design was based on Georgian architecture but maintained the key aspects of our London home, so it is very much a piece of North London in New York. I structured the house to have a classic brick exterior, with a gravel courtyard and entrance for balance. The skirting boards, mouldings, wall thickness and the general classic proportions of the interior of the house mirror those of my London home because I wanted the house to have a renovated, older feel rather than seeming like a new build. To achieve an older look, I was able to reference other older homes and research classical architecture, which helped guide the planning process.
How did the project go?
Planning is the key to any successful project, that and having a great builder. We arranged weekly meetings via Skype and monthly visits on-site so I could walk through the property and meet with the team. I think the best thing anyone can do when he or she takes on a large project is to assemble a great team – architect, builder, landscape architect, lighting consultant, and interior designer (of course!) — and pay for the additional consultants if necessary. From the beginning, I knew that our soil had its issues so we asked two sets of engineers to give us all possible options before we decided on a drainage system. I am a strong believer in second opinions – your home is a big investment. My advice is to allow yourself time in the planning process and consider how you really want to live in your home rather than how you think you are supposed to.
What was your favourite room or part of the project and why?
My favourite room is the library at the top of the stairs. Originally, the room was intended to be my office, however, during construction, it occurred to me that my design studio on the lower level already served as an office, so the room would be better suited as a place where everyone could sit, relax and read a book. Although I didn’t expect to make a change like this in the middle of the project, I think that when designing, you sometimes have to let the project evolve first because not everything happens in one go.
Were there any issues or problems you encountered during the project?
Our biggest issue arose when we were notified that the house needed to be closer to a fire hydrant. Unfortunately, the architect on the project forgot to check whether the rules and regulations had changed over the course of the planning. As the house is set back from the main road, we needed a special permit and a hydrant to be placed on the property. It was definitely one of our more stressful moments, but in situations like that, I always try to remember to take a deep breath and remember that there is always a solution!