Sherry Habif wanted to rev up her Brookhaven home to reflect her entertaining lifestyle and transform it into an exuberant wonderland. So she approached design team Julia and Ted Larrabee to travel the world for just the right textures, fixtures and furniture.
Habif is known citywide for her room decorations in many major hotel ballrooms and synagogue functions. She just has “the knack” (and storage crates of linens and centerpieces) to turn “plain” into color-soaked themes for family and friends’ celebrations. Her knowledge of baking and gourmet food preparation has been touted in restaurants and cookbooks. Her challah souffle and traditional vegetable kugels are the recipes of which legends are made.
From the designer’s end, Julia Larrabee mused, “We wanted to make a splash and used fantastical designs to balance the practical versus the indulgent. We brought in customized pieces from far away lands. The dining room drapes have imported crystals from Turkey and Italy. … All along the way we brought in strands of the earth in organic forms like birch, stone and properly resourced animal skins. …The first challenge was simplifying Sherry’s extensive collections without her feeling sacrificed. One key to this was mounting the wall art into simple lucite frames with brass brads on each corner. Let the art itself do the speaking.”
Step into Habif’s world of icicles, petrified wood and entertaining spaces.
Jaffe: Why did you choose to engage interior designer Julia Larrabee?
Habif: We had an extensive interview. I had seen her work in various homes and was impressed that I could not recognize it! I told her I wanted “NO BEIGE!” and at this stage in my life, I wanted to be bold, and even wild, but not outlandish. I aligned with her philosophy of what a home represents.
Jaffe: Julia, how did you go about approaching the renovation?
Larrabee: When Sherry came to us, she had collected a large amount of her life’s treasures from travels and especially art glass. Our job was to showcase it in a better format and, of course, update, glamorize and refinish the furnishings for a totally new look. When Sherry left for Europe, we came into the house and stripped the walls, installed the fireplaces. … Then the rest of the project was completed in five months.
Since Sherry is a grandma first and foremost, we used plush and sensual ultra-suede and velvet-like fabrics mostly in Blue Jay tones all double-treated for spills and curious little hands.
Jaffe: Relate how seasonality ties in the various rooms.
Larrabee: Sherry is such a strong woman, we wanted to translate the story of her life in an allegorical way. There are submeanings. She is always moving forward. The autumnal foyer, the summer den/game room, the icy cold wintery dining room, and the great room is full of its spring glory and new beginnings. The chandeliers reflect this also – wisteria, icicles, and so on. The five museum-quality geodes were separated with brass dowels, which are displayed on the south wall of the great room. We custom-designed the dining room rug to reflect a lake.
Jaffe: What do you collect?
Habif: Since he is local now, originally from Germany, I like Hans Godo Frabel, who custom-designed the dining room table centerpiece, a stick man sitting on an ice pond with raindrops. I also like Kosta Boda glass from Smaland, Sweden, and intense vertical silk thread sculptures by Myra Berg, “Quiet Oboes.” I go for thick textures, layers of oil on paintings like the one in the master bedroom (1995 Vienna) “Lovers Among Flowers,” where Angelo Modling also painted the luscious frame. I also am drawn to big “funky” flowers. I have accumulated Murano glass fruit, cherries and the like, so my granddaughter and I can have fun (carefully) rearranging.
Jaffe: Describe your master bedroom.
Habif: We went for a buttoned-up tuxedo and gown style with primarily ebony walls, lush comforter, Swarovski crystal, and my two mirrored vanities. There I added some Scarlett glass, vintage purses, and costume jewelry to pep things up. The floor is bamboo shaded in indigo. The ceiling was custom-designed by Julia to reflect the heavens and constellations. It’s almost cavelike in here. Even the pillows have great details of agate and crystal to be found in a grotto with all its sparkles.
Jaffe: You brought in many natural elements.
Habif: All of the animal skins were sourced from responsible and environmentally conscious suppliers. The console is cowhide.
The dramatic two-tiered cocktail table is petrified wood. The pillows are alpaca by Aviva Stanoff. The focal piece of the great room is a hand-placed birch forest from Colorado where the base changes colors to spice things up. We used sugar quartz in the den alongside ceramic tree trunk tables. The den fireplace is stone. The custom dining room fireplace is hanging on the wall, ventless, and runs on alcohol.
Jaffe: You were the catering manager of the renowned Coach and Six Restaurant on Peachtree. Do you use your home now for entertaining?
Habif: Always. … I cook for all the Jewish holidays. My annual Super Bowl party is a bounteous tradition.
I host charity events, lunches, coffees and baby namings. When it’s nice out, we open up the porch and patio. Note that my tables and some of the consoles have built-in gliding leaves that can add an additional 12 seats in minutes. The furniture is flexible with movable chairs for easy set-up.