Sunday, June 4, 2023 Jun 4, 2023
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Interior Designers

The Story Behind Our Latest Issue’s Custom Walk-In China Closet

It's truly a treasure trove.
By Sarah Bennett |

When Caroline Ackerman’s was working with designer Tracy Hardenburg to create their University Park home, one of the homeowner’s requests was a special place to store her china collection, made up of pieces from her and David’s parents and grandparents.

“When I was growing up, my parents had this deep, walk-in china closet,” says Caroline Ackerman. “I’ve always wanted it.” And so, the project was tasked to designer Tracy Hardenburg—who found it, admittedly, a little traditional for her taste. But she took on the assignment with gusto. “I said, ‘Okay girl, if we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it,’” Hardenburg recalls. 

The result is a sleek space tucked behind the living room just large enough to house Caroline’s family collection of china and silver. Each grouping sits on a shelf of black velvet with lighting underneath. “I lined it with a dark color knowing that her pieces are very light,” Hardenburg says. Like in the bar, Hardenburg applied her same approach of mixing rough textures with smooth ones for visual interest: “Contrast is what makes things pretty,” she says. Caroline insisted on carrying over a chandelier from her old bathroom for added pizazz.

The finished product almost resembles a jewelry case, the way it illuminates the family’s treasures. But that’s just the point—for Caroline, what’s important is the sentimentality of the pieces themselves. In her previous home, she had the collection spread across four locations, so she couldn’t see it all. “If it’s packed away, you’re not going to use it,” David adds. Now, Caroline happily grabs her own collection of Haviland “Florentine Platine” when her book club comes over or her grandmother’s china, a Johann Haviland pattern with a Bavarian backstamp, for Easter. More classic lines make up Caroline’s and David’s collections from their families: Haviland “Matin de Jade,” Crown Derby “Old Imari” teacups from Caroline’s parents, Herend “Rothschild Bird” from David’s mother, and gold-etched Heinrich & Co. plates (“Tracy calls this my ‘Versace Versace Versace,’” Caroline jokes). “It really is all our family,” Caroline says. “I love it.”