5280 Home: Was it hard to trust your sister to design your home?

John: Sasha has a background in fashion and interiors, and even though we’re 17 years apart, we’re like the same person when it comes to design. I was traveling a lot when I moved back here, so it made sense for Sasha to do the work. She used a lot of things I had in storage, but I didn’t know how she’d put them together.

Sasha: I know what John loves: neutrals, gorgeous materials, the mixture of contemporary and antique pieces, and a few bright pops of color, usually in the art.

John: Just a few splashes of color. I bought a red shirt once. It was the only jewel tone in my closet, and I think I wore it to bed. Once.

Sasha: He always says that if you don’t put a color on your back, you shouldn’t put it in your home. We used a lot of taupe-y grays, slate grays, some white. The great thing about neutrals is that you don’t have to change them as your tastes or the trends change.

You have this understated palette layered with gorgeous art. Tell me about it. 

John: Artwork makes me happy. When I was considering moving into this house, Sasha convinced me by pointing out the surfaces for artwork. That’s hard to find in a house with too many windows or architectural details.

Sasha: A lot of the art—especially the chalk pieces and watercolor pieces—are from a designer-artist in Santa Fe named Pacheco. We hang them in big, beautiful frames with gorgeous mattes. Our father painted the abstract portrait [in the living room]. Those prints in the dining room are by Casper Schmidt.

And the furnishings? That Chinese chair is to die for.

John: I found it in Chicago. It’s heavily carved, probably a hundred years old. A room can have too much upholstery—this chair evens it out. Plus, chinoiserie never goes out of style.

Sasha: John also found the mirrored dining table in Chicago. I fought him on it tooth and nail. It looked like something someone had won on the TV show Let’s Make a Deal in 1973. But he was right: It works. With the chairs upholstered in polished linen, it became this gorgeous contemporary piece.

John: And I love it with the custom pendant. It reflects off the table and casts light through the whole room. The streamlined look feels so mid-century in here.

From a modern dining room to a master bedroom that walks the line between masculine and glam: How did that happen?

Sasha: I wanted to give the room some depth with the layered textures in a platinum palette, especially on the bed. John desperately wanted that Bolier art deco étegère.

John: I am in love with it. It was worth the begging.

Sasha: I added glam touches here and there, like the acrylic table topped with the Lalique accessories. We’ve always done custom acrylic. It goes with everything, and it gives some structure to a bedroom, which is obviously filled with fabric and pillows.

You’ve made another bedroom into a kind of lounge.

John: I believe in using space how it works for me. I retreat here. I love the Kenneth Cobonpue chair for its form. It’s like a sculpture. My dad brought the rug back from Tehran. The coffee table is from Bolier.

And the sofa?

Sasha: We make custom sofas, like that tête-à-tête, on any scale. The arms are detachable, which makes it easy to get a large, comfortable piece like that into a house with small doorways or rooms.

John: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a new client’s house to find a gorgeous sofa in the garage because it won’t fit through the doorway.

Park Hill is full of those kinds of homes. What do you like best about this neighborhood?

John: I love the quality of older homes. You don’t always get that craftsmanship. I like an ivy-covered home and a yard big enough that you don’t smell your neighbors’ cooking.

The name of your design firm, Thorn & French, feels right at home. Where did it come from?

John: It’s us. It’s strength and fluffiness. We like tailored pieces with clean lines; a little bit of sparkle and softness. If I’m telling the truth, Sasha is the strength—we call her the velvet hammer—and I’m probably the softy.

Speaking of smart combinations, what’s the secret to making the different elements in your home work?

John: It’s a collection of things I love—all in neutral, earthy tones. We mix French, Italian, Asian, midcentury, and contemporary. It works because the fabrics and finishes and scales are right on.

And the secret to working with your family?

Sasha: We laugh all the time. Even when John fires me—he tries 20 times a day—I just keep showing up.

John: It’s a good thing, too. Look what she did to my house. She’s my not-so-secret weapon.

This article was originally published in 5280 Home Summer 2014.
Hilary Masell Oswald
Hilary Masell Oswald
As the former editor for two of 5280’s ancillary publications, Hilary Masell Oswald split her time between the vibrant design-and-architecture scene in the metro area for 5280 Home and the always-changing field of health for the annual 5280 Health.