Sharon Astrin and her husband, Randy Marks, have renovated six homes. This one, located in Oklahoma City’s Lincoln Terrace neighborhood, is an absolute jewel box. Not only does it feature over 30 local artists, but the couple carefully honored the history of the home in nearly every design decision. Of course, it wasn’t a walk in the park. The property had undergone a couple of unfortunate “redecorations” over the years—the woodwork all had a very heavy decorative glaze that was yellowing and flaking, the plaster ceiling was peach colored, some walls were a heavily glazed dark red, and the primary bath had decoupaged leaves on the walls…needless to say, the couple brought it back to its former glory and then some. Sharon was on the local Historic Preservation board for five years, so she was just the gal for the job. Over email, she tells us more.
This home has a unique history. We’d love to know how it influenced the design!
This home is located in the Lincoln Terrace neighborhood, which is part of the Capitol-Medical Historic District in Oklahoma City. The 1928 Tudor Revival house was designed by and built for Joseph I. Davis, one of Oklahoma’s first registered architects. Architect-designed personal homes are often rich in unusual detail, and this house is no exception. The ornamental plaster ceiling and crown moldings, the herringbone brick in the solarium, the steel casement windows, the beams, and the original lighting fixtures and hardware all played a big role in influencing the design of the house — it was critical to preserve and highlight the many architectural details and honor the original vision yet update it for modern living.
Updating a historic home can be inspiring challenging. As you planned the design, what was your initial “jumping off” point?
Almost one hundred percent of the time, kitchens that have never been truly redesigned or updated pose huge challenges, since they are such key rooms in terms of function. That was the case with this house, and so it was our initial jumping off point. When the house was purchased, there was an original four-compartment icebox in the kitchen that was located where the refrigerator is now. Previous owners had used it as a pantry and located refrigeration in the basement, but I decided that was untenable — and there was literally nowhere else in the kitchen or adjoining pantry that a refrigerator could be located. So, that decision was key in figuring out the rest of the kitchen design.
Secondly, there was a wall where the bar is now, creating a tiny dark “breakfast room.” The way it was isolated from the kitchen, and its size, made it a non-functioning space, so the next jumping off point was to open up that wall, creating a casual dining space. The upper cabinets, which had likely been replaced in the 80’s, cramped the space and blocked the light from the west window. I believe that maximizing natural light in the kitchen is critical, and not having any direct morning light made the space seem gloomy. So, I decided to remove all the upper cabinets, and utilize deep storage drawers instead, which are much more functional. The cabinets are from IKEA, with some custom details. The open shelving in the pantry area provides additional storage and visual interest.
There were three layers of flooring: fake brick pavers, then linoleum, then finally the wood subfloor. It wasn’t pristine, even after being cleaned up, but all of the authentic distressing and character add so much warmth to the space. To tie the kitchen in with the rest of the house, I had a beam with the same dimensions as the originals (in the solarium and at the stairs) constructed for the header that was created when the wall was removed. This repeats a key design element and creates an interesting contrast with the sleeker metal materials.
Your aesthetic is one-of-a-kind. In a few words, how do you describe the style of the home?
The interior style is eclectic and was informed by places I’ve seen and things I’ve acquired while traveling. I’m a big believer in high/low — my favorite pieces are vintage or thrifted and I love to mix them with high design pieces, such as the Wassily chairs in the living room. Also, I tend to keep my favorite pieces for a very long time, but I style and mix them differently depending on the house. In this case, the interior architecture is rich, on the heavier side (dark floors/woodwork, steel windows, beams) with many intricate details, so using saturated colors with layers of vintage textiles and rugs, collected objet, and materials with patina created the perfect vibe. I kept the original plaster walls a pure white — dark, moody walls would’ve felt too heavy.
Art plays a big part in the space. Can you share a few of your favorite pieces?
I love the ethereal origami mobile in the office, a gift from Oklahoma artist Klint Schor. For pure kitsch, I adore my thrifted collection of “Matadors on Velvet”. I’m very intrigued by the black/white Cubist-influenced painting in the living room — it was purportedly painted by a South American artist, and I would love to know the story of how it ended up here. My favorite sculpture is the welded steel piece in the living room corner by Oklahoma City artist Randy Marks; and the abstract 3-D piece over the living room mantel, entitled “Kafka Goes to the Bullfight”, is my work. Ideally, art should enhance the space, but also be personally meaningful.
Finally, we’d love to snag some advice for our readers. When working with a historic home, what are the top considerations you have to keep in mind?
I think the top consideration is finding the balance between futilely trying to work with and around what the current interiors are (aesthetically and/or functionally) and going too far in the other direction by knocking down walls and stripping out original details deemed too “dated” but that actually provide character – we’ve all seen “flippers” do this. Interiors that are period pieces and museum-like are such a turn-off, but so are white boxes with trite, incongruous details that will be tired in a few months.
So, I would say that assessing functional deficiencies and figuring out how the space can be used most effectively, based on the way the owners live, is a good place to start. Evaluating the floor plan and the circulation will determine to a great extent how much renovation is actually needed, or if the space can be modified cosmetically without major structural changes. For this house, the kitchen and baths absolutely had to be redesigned, but the living areas and bedrooms did not.
So much of rehabbing historic homes is about subtraction — figuring out what remodeling or renovation was done when, and then assessing whether or not it’s worth keeping or working with. It’s rare to find an absolutely untouched historic house, and many have undergone multiple renovations in different decades with varying levels of quality and aesthetic appropriateness. Often, to get back to the bones of a house, all of the various discordant elements have to be stripped away, so that you can start with a clean, authentic slate and create a cohesive, unified design scheme.