While in graduate school, Rustam Mehta and his wife Aude Jomini would drive by this spaceship building in Guilford, Connecticut, on their way to the beach. Built in the 1980s, the now-iconic building has 13 apartments, and when one became available, the couple jumped at the chance. Here, Rustam gives us a peek inside…
On spotting the building: Aude and I went to Yale for architecture, and we’d drive by this building and crane our necks. People still do this! When I’m working in the garage, strangers will pull in and ogle and ask, ‘What IS it?!’ Back in school, after seeing the building for years and years, I noticed a Zillow real estate listing, and we went to the open house just for fun. We ended up making an offer.
On fun neighbors: What I love about the building is the amazing variety of people who live here. It’s not just young creatives, but instead a retired tugboat captain, a pilot, a cop, the owner of the best wine store in town… really wonderful, interesting people.
Sofa: Hem. Coffee table: vintage, similar. Orange pendant: Ferruccio Laviani for Kartell. Art behind pendant: Phil Lique. Art on stairwell: Brian Chippendale. Red and blue art: Christopher Mir. Blue prints: Kevin Van Aelst. Throw pillows: made by Rustam’s mom. Blue throw blanket: Nathalie du Pasquier for American Apparel. Multicolor throw: Goodwill, similar.
On a cat-friendly sofa: We literally picked our sofa by holding fabric samples up to our cat, who is extremely fluffy and gets fur on everything. He’s a grey British shorthair — you touch him and fur just emerges off him. His name is Fur! Luckily, our sofa plan worked. We got a modular one with real wool upholstery from Hem in Denmark.
On the best white paint: The apartment was originally pumpkin-y fall colors, so we repainted it white. Of course, as two architects, we started overthinking it — which white should we do??? The building faces north/south, so the sunlight is mostly indirect. In shadows, the undertones of white come out; if you use a paint that’s too blue or yellow, you can get a murkiness we didn’t want. So, we ended up with the purest white: Delicate White by PPG. (Benjamin Moore Super White is also good.)
On a glowing room: The pendant lamp is from Kartell. I bought it at the MoMA Store when I was working at the Brooklyn Museum as my first job, and I used my discount to make it possible! You get direct light coming out the bottom, but the whole room glows orange.
On a special pizza night: At night, we build lots of fires and read books, or even draw. Years ago, we actually got engaged in one of the famous New Haven pizzerias — Modern. People are always like, awww, did you put a ring in the pizza? But really we just kind of chatted about it: We’ve been together a long time, should we get married? And then we were like, did we just get engaged? Then we went out and made out in the parking lot. It was all very informal.
On creating plants: My dad has gotten into plants, and I’ve developed our plants from cuttings from him. You just take a cutting and put it in a jam jar with water, and it develops roots; it works well with succulents, which are more than half of our plants. My favorite might be the tall, crazy, gangly one, called a pencil cactus — it was tiny at first, but now you’d need a truck to move it.
On family passions: My dad also made the firewood rack. He was a Wall Street trader and never a fix-it kind of guy. But in his retirement, I was working on my car and realized I needed to learn to weld; and my dad was like, ok, I’ll split a welder with you. I was like, what? You’ve never changed a lightbulb! And he exploded from there. Now he has a store with his own homemade furniture. It’s a cool second chapter for him.
On cooking at home: My wife is a salad sight reader, she’ll look in the fridge and see beets and invent something. She likes the therapeutic peeling of a million vegetables. We love the Ottolenghi cookbooks, and we also subscribe to Bon Appetit. Their graphic design is off the hook. I love mapo tofu — a spicy dish with ground pork and tofu — and they had a weeknight recipe; I was like, this will be a terrible ketchup version of it, but it was wonderful. Every weekend, I make buckwheat crepes. I use the Joy of Cooking recipe to the T, and it’s perfect. This is the suburbs life!
On calming lighting: Our apartment has so much recessed lighting, like every four inches. I got LED bulbs, but my wife hated how cold they were. Finally, I found Philips Warm Glow LED bulbs — they kick ass. When you dim them down, they get warmer and feel incandescent. Now we have LEDs everywhere. Regular lightbulbs burn out too quickly and are way less efficient.
On a perplexing kitchen: You take a couple steps up into the kitchen, and the flooring changes directions. You kind of feel like you’re floating. Right now, it’s 80s laminate, but we can’t agree on how to change it. You get stuck when you have two architects!
On a lamp collection: For my office, I go on eBay and search ‘mushroom lamps,’ and now I have a small collection. Of course, you’ll find ridiculous lamps that look like toadstools, so you have to sort through those. But there are also thousands like this one [pictured above] for $20 to $50. They have good 60s vibes.
On unexpected rugs: I was reading the design site Sight Unseen a while back, and they recommended looking for rugs at Land of Nod. Even though it’s a children’s store, you can really find good things! They have great designers.
On a coveted chair: While working on a big architecture project, you sometimes do a ‘sit test’ to choose furniture. I was designing a college’s computer science building and sat in a million office-y chairs. I picked the Sayl because it has a cool, flexible back, the colors are nice, and the base is actually aluminum, not plastic. The chairs are expensive, so when Aude found some on eBay, I was like, no way, they’re not real. So, she ordered one instead of two. And it turned out to be real! Now, when she leaves for work, I wheel it over from her desk to mine.
On work: Our architecture firm is split between Brooklyn and Connecticut. My partner Tal and I have known each other since we were same third-grade class. [Here’s a photo!] We stayed in touch, and it all came together when we both became architects. Our projects include everything from an Italian restaurant to a countryside home to this Brooklyn townhouse.
On a home that flows: We love that the apartment has almost no doors. The rooms are separated by steps and alcoves and corners. My office is around the corner from the living room; the bedroom is just up stairs. There’s no door, but you feel like you’re in another world. The bedroom has exposed beams, and the walls and windows slant in. It has a very nautical vibe.
On meaningful bedding: When Aude and I first got together, I gave her a Marimekko dress for her birthday. She looks really cute in them. Then, when we got married, we had a low-key wedding in my parents’ backyard. We had a seven-minute ceremony followed by free-form drinking and hanging. But people were still like, we need to give you presents! So, I made a little registry with basically these Marimekko sheets. We love them. It makes the whole room feel cheerful.
Art across from bed: Eve Perry.
On a simple bed: I like the ease of a bed without a headboard; just buy a nice mattress and that’s all you need. We also like minimal bedding. My old boss coined the phrase ‘pillow salad’ — like, when you get in bed and throw twelve pillows on the floor! We skip the pillow salad-y stuff.
On intense art: The art shows a scene from a movie. It’s a little scary. When my wife first put it there, I was like, oh, I don’t know. But I trusted her and now I love it. She’s big into the art community and always finds cool things for our home.
On a sweet reading lamp: I put a tiny 25-watt lightbulb in the lamp, so it’s friendly to your partner if they’re sleeping. I love the way the room looks at night with just that one lamp; it makes a little pool of light over the bed and everything else is dark.
Art: Ronnie Rysz. Duck: Jacob Tucker. Lamps: vintage.
On a pro design tip: My biggest tip is to not buy too much stuff from one place at one time. Looking back at these photos, I’m like, wow, I’ve had that bed since college, I’ve been toting that table around forever… You throw out the junk over the years, but you keep the wonderful things with personality. And then one day, you look around, and you realize that your house tells the story of the last 30 years of your life.
Thank you so much, Rustam!
P.S. Many more house tours, if you’d like to see. Craving color? Here’s a Seattle home and a Hudson Valley cottage. Love the outdoors? Check out this Sonoma house and a spot in the Japanese countryside. Want tips for small living? Here’s a Toronto loft packed with clever storage solutions and a 500-square-foot family apartment in Brooklyn.