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The Hawthornes spent the first five years of their marriage in a small apartment filled with hand-me-downs, saving their pennies for a time when they could create their own dream space.
Sarah Greenman: Tell me about your decorating process.
Mary Emma Hawthorne: After sacrificing for so long, it was such fun to pick out furniture and fixtures.
Matt Hawthorne: We see furniture as art too. When we were making initial decisions about furniture, we took a blueprint and cut out furniture shapes to scale and moved them around on the paper until we had the right configuration. Everything was planned.
SG: How would you describe your personal aesthetic?
MH: That's tough. It's a lot of things. Urban. Modern. Organic. Eclectic. Minimal.
MEH: I seek out authenticity. Some of the "art" in our home is just real artifacts from our travels. A drum from Indonesia or a box from Ghana. We like real things.
Art: "Water Well," by Mary Emma Hawthorne, dining table: Bo Concept; chairs: Design Within Reach; bookcase: Expedit, Ikea
SG: How did you know this was the right home for your renovation?
MH: We wanted a home that had no previous renovations. Why pay for updates that you're just going to take out? It was built in the 1950s, and we liked the floor plan. We dissected each house that we looked at and knew that this one would best suit our vision.
MEH: We spent a lot of time in each home. I think what I liked the most was that the face of the house was straight across, accentuating the clean-line feel.
Art (far left): Beast sculpture by Patrick Mehaffy and "Nana" by James Havard
SG: Once you chose the house, how did you decide on a contractor?
MH: We went with Scott Powell of New Leaf Construction because he was confident he could do what we wanted within our budget.
MEH: We just sat down and chatted with contractors. Some of them had their own ideas about design that didn't jive with what we wanted.
MH: We were very picky.
Sofa: Gus Modern; coffee table: Anthropologie
The great room is anchored by a massive piece of abstract art by Dirk de Bruycker, which greets guests as they enter the front door.
Although the hall bathroom is small, it's inviting and very well appointed. Mary Emma points to the countertop and says, "This is a battle that I won. Matt wanted a different white, but this white has little flecks in different earth tones. It goes great with the wood floors."
The guest room doubles as an office. The art above the bed is one of Mary Emma's original works.
Atop her desk is Mary Emma's prize possession: a paintbrush that once belonged to abstract impressionist Agnes Martin.
SG: Where are your favorite places to shop for home goods?
MH: We like Design Within Reach, West Elm, Bo Concept, international markets while traveling and small, interesting boutiques.
The master bath is simple, functional and monochromatic with a double sink and a large glass walk-in shower.
There was no backyard landscaping when the family moved in, so they brought in 10,000 pounds of dirt, built a short retaining wall by hand and installed grass. Potted succulents, aloe and agave anchor the edges of the patio.
Painted brick, dark gray trim and bright green grass create a natural frame that showcases the home's crisp, clean curb appeal.
Mary Emma holds Oliver while Matt leafs through one of his art books. The great room, with a view out the bay window, is a favorite spot for the Hawthorne family.
SG: What is your advice to homeowners interested in remodeling in a modern style?
MH: Don't rush it and don't be trendy.
MEH: We frequently see modern remodels that seem cool at first, then quickly become dated.
MH: And do your research. Make sure your contractor is on the same page. His solutions have to be in line with the homeowner's vision.
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