FILLING UP THE SPACES AND MAKING IT A HOME by Sara Courtney
An interior design firm helps city folks transform their spaces
How does a house become a home? How does a newly transplanted couple arriving from the city to Maplewood or South Orange transform the rooms they will inhabit in a way that truly reflects them?
Scrolling social media endlessly for design inspiration can lead one astray from one’s own aesthetic, yet coming up with ideas to fill out the sudden expansion of square footage that comes from leaving a packed apartment in the city to a home in the suburbs can be a huge challenge. Many homeowners go on a buying spree and layer more and more furniture and decorative pillows in the hopes it will look right. But for Hollie Velten and Victoria Bailey-Adamson, who run SPACES, the warm, inviting interior design studio on Prospect Street, off Springfield Avenue in Maplewood, the process often begins with a glimpse into the past: an object of nostalgia, a family heirloom, to ground the design work in authenticity.
SPACES, the quaint studio brimming with ideas, has quickly become a staple of interior design. Velten and Bailey-Adamson aim to create rooms that inspire and reflect the personality and preferences of homeowners, and the local clients who work with them are delighted by the results.
Velten, who is from California, has a background studying dance and ballet at UC Santa Barbara. Bailey-Adamson is from England and worked for respected furniture maker Christopher Howe before turning to corporate advertising for many years. Velten focused on choreography before moving on to other creative pursuits, such as launching a clothing and jewelry line. “I was always a creative maker,” she says. Her mother had studied interior design and her father worked in real estate, so she had an appreciation from a very young age for the way design could transform rooms.
When she started SPACES, she felt there was room in the community to offer her approach to interior design. Wanting to move the client experience away from something that felt like a “transactional service,” Velten focused on creating a “really purposeful, thoughtful art craft process.” She was initially offering consulting to clients who reveled in her thoughtful approach and whimsical finishes. As her business grew, she began to look for a studio manager, someone who could not only help her manage the burgeoning business, but take it to the next level. “And that’s when I found Victoria,” she says. Introduced by a mutual friend, Velten and Bailey-Adamson immediately hit it off.
Their typical clients are recent transplants from the city to the suburbs, eager to live in a home that reflects their personal tastes, yet overwhelmed by all the square footage. They often come to SPACES for guidance, where they can choose from two services: a studio session or the full service. Often for DIYers, the studio session is a three-hour meeting in their studio where they can browse the fabric library and leave with a sense of direction on design. The full service encompasses interior design from beginning to end, and Velten and Bailey-Adamson often pair up their clients with selected tradespeople and craftsmen. They are there for their clients through the renovations and demolition and help them through what Velten refers to as “decision fatigue.”
“Our projects always have a custom build,” says Velten. “There’s always textiles and you will always see a play with proportion and line.” They find vintage pieces and uniquely crafted furniture, and avoid big box stores altogether. They steer their clients away from trends by maintaining a deadline for inspiration ideas – no more Instagram scrolling – and having the client bring in a talisman or a tray of materials they refer back to. “It’s just always a reminder for us to kind of go back to the original conceptual track,” says Bailey-Adamson. “We haven’t strayed, and they haven’t strayed.”
They recently guided clients on Jacoby Street in Maplewood through a total gut renovation of their kitchen. The results, featuring custom builds and whimsical light fixtures, are refreshingly different. The kitchen is home to a custom-made bench with an offbeat pillow on it, practically inviting kids to make it their go-to spot for pancakes and cereal. The floating shelves provide storage and their signature mix of playing with proportion makes the kitchen interesting and memorable, yet delightfully cozy. “We like something formal and then bring it down to earth,” explains Velten.
Another house involving custom built work is a home on Arcularius Terrace in Maplewood. The clients opted for SPACES’ full service interior design experience, and the formerly beige rooms are now striking and bold, and the homeowners love it. To achieve the custom builds in the living room, they worked with select carpenters on the design and the particular color of paint. The result is colorful and completely tailored to the home and clients.
A beautiful home they recently worked on on Grove Terrace in South Orange, features their whimsical play with proportion. The bright and cheerful living room is charming and cozy, with elements of the unexpected. “Our work tends to connect aspirations and nostalgia,” says Velten, explaining it’s a mix of genre and era, and their clients love this.
Ultimately, the interior designers at SPACES want their clients to feel good in their own home. “We want them to feel like it’s a place that home should be, a place that you yourself feel seen and heard,” Velten emphasizes. Whether clients have just arrived in the suburbs in a moving truck, or are looking to refresh a space that doesn’t quite feel their own, Velten and Bailey-Adamson are determined to guide them from a spacious house into a space that is truly their home.
“Ultimately our goal is to figure out and help define their story as well as the history of the house, and kind of blend that together,” says Velten. “We want them to feel like it’s the best version of them in relation to what is already there.” From homeowners looking to get inspired on hopeful DIY projects to residents facing a daunting full-scale renovation, the stable and joyful guidance from SPACES is sure to lead to a delightfully unexpected, yet highly personal, inspiring home.
Sara Courtney is a writer living in Maplewood. Yes, she once went through an HGTV phase.