If this were a romantic comedy, boy would have met girl in an independent bookstore. But this being real life, the meeting was a little less cute.
Designer Jeff Barfoot came to speak at Fossil, where Shay Ometz just happened to be the senior art director for lifestyle photography. “Because of the things he said in his presentation, I knew I wanted to be with him,” Shay says. Not only did they share a design aesthetic, they also shared a love for books. “We were attracted to one another for that reason. We were anti-television, pro-book,” she says. Two years later, they merged collections when they married. “We had a lot of doubles,” she says, laughing.
In 2006, the couple got the news that they were expecting. They set out to find a house—and they found it right away in a Forest Hills midcentury modern. “It was the first house we looked at, and we knew it was the one we had to buy,” Shay says. Of course, they looked at 30 more. But in the end, they came back to the original.
What made it so great? Well, as for renovations, the majority of the heavy lifting was already done. “It was move-in ready,” Shay says. “The original owner had lived here until she was in her 90s. When she moved out in 2003, this cute couple bought it and redid the kitchen and built what was to become our studio in the backyard. They managed to keep the integrity of the house.” New touches such as stainless steel appliances and terrazzo marble mix well with original details like the light fixtures—all of which are controlled by a unified panel near the kitchen. “That took some getting used to,” Shay says with a laugh.
Once they moved in, they set about making the space their own—they changed the tile in the master bathroom and started thinking about paint. “Where we lived before, things were very bright. When we moved in here, we wanted the colors to be a little more sophisticated,” she says. They mixed subtle colors with their art collection—Jeff favors graphic posters while Shay is drawn to paintings and collage art. Many of the pieces are works of their own creation.
Their furniture is also eclectic. “I love Elle Decor UK—a mix of old and modern,” she says. She’s used that inspiration for her house. In the living room, for example, a sofa from Room & Board is complemented by an Ikea coffee table and chairs she found at Vinya.
The living room was also the perfect place for the hundreds of books the couple has amassed—well, most of them, anyway—perhaps the reason it’s Shay’s favorite room. The shelving along the wall is from Ikea. “I had them before we moved in,” Shay says. “And they fit the wall so perfectly. It was like it was meant to be. People always think they’re built-ins.”
In the backyard, the couple set up headquarters for Bee Things (bee-things.com), their screen printing business. “We knew when we bought the house that we wanted to make the shed a studio,” she says. “A year after we moved in, Jeff spent a summer putting in insulation, and we brought in electricity. We’d like to build a real 700-square-foot studio when we win the lottery.”
Shay and Jeff made some even more dramatic additions to the house—namely Calder, age 4, and Milo, 18 months. The neighborhood is decidedly family friendly. “We have the best neighbors in the world,” Shay says. “We have a play group for everybody here.”
So with the addition of kids, is the couple still anti-television? “We have one now,” Shay says with a sigh. “Since we have kids, we couldn’t refrain.” She’s even read a few books on the iPad, but she remains a purist. “I still prefer the physical book,” she says.
Styling by Jenny O'Connor | Flowers by Haile Wossen