A Modern and Minimal Pennsylvania Home
For interior designer Chrissy Norman, what started as a high school hobby has flourished into a lifelong passion. While her resume lists impressive design education and experience, you only have to take a tour through her home to see the talent on display. By pairing neutral tones with unique textures, Chrissy has managed to create a minimal and modern dwelling that’s anything but cookie-cutter. Below, she takes us through how the design of her 1950s-built home unfolded and the challenges of renovating a historic space while still preserving its original character.
Tell us about your home. How did you find it and when did you move in?
I had been scouring online for months, but I skipped over our current home several times because it just seemed too small and in really bad shape. But after losing out on four other houses, we finally decided to see the space in-person. Despite it being a bigger project than we wanted, the house had a lot of potential and we fell in love with all the greenery surrounding it. We closed in September of 2020, got to work and moved in the following April.
How would you describe your home aesthetic in five words or less?
Organic modernism meets sophisticated comfort.
What drew you into the world of interiors?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved design. My grandparents managed a pretty high-end interior design store in Wheeling WV. My mom was always helping people with design projects, and I participated in Pittsburgh historic foundation revitalization competitions in high school. Interior design has always been a part of my life in some shape or form, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to make it my career.
"Interior design has always been a part of my life in some shape or form."
You have some incredible art throughout your space. Could you share a few of your favorite pieces throughout the home?
My parents took my husband, Tyler, and I to an art auction right after we moved into the house. We went just for fun, but then fell in love with a few things that we couldn’t leave there without. The two pieces in the kitchen are original Warhol lithographs from his “Wanted” series. We liked the Warhol connection to Pittsburgh and knew the simple but strong pieces would work anywhere in our house.
The large circular piece is actually a table top and technically we’re just borrowing it from my parents. They purchased it years ago from the interior design shop where my grandparents worked but didn’t have anywhere to use it. The artist etched the pattern in bronze and then buried it in dirt to get the patina. The texture is so beautiful and I love having something to display that’s been in my family for so many years.
Could you share a bit about your design approach?
Functional needs come first, then, I work through the big questions: How does it all fit into the footprint? Where will sight-lines be most important? What scale is right for fixtures, furniture and design elements? Once the floor plan is set, design details begin. I strive for a specific feeling throughout a home or building. I start by compiling inspiration images into a document. As I add in, if it doesn’t feel cohesive, it gets removed.
The inspiration stays visible, so I can make sure that it continues to feel aligned. I’m not tied to any particular design style, and get excited by so many ideas, so it’s important to reel myself in every once in a while. A few times for my house, I would fall in love with a material, but it just did not work with the overall style, so out it went (but I still saved it elsewhere for future projects).
How did you discover your style and what works for you?
There are three things that I always stick to when designing:
- Work with, not against the architectural style of space.
- Keep to the plan: style, tone, palette.
- Protect negative space.
- Extra credit: have some fun!
What were some of your design priorities or must-haves as you were building?
Must-haves: A lot of natural light, higher ceilings, and an ensuite bathroom.
Priorities: Fully integrated refrigerator, a calm palette that wasn’t boring, and some fun, unexpected finishes.
"Design is like personal style. We don't all like the same things, but each style is beautiful in its own way."
Any fun facts or interesting tidbits to share about your home or the design process?
The ceilings were less than eight feet high when we bought the house, so vaulting the front part of the house became the most important part of the renovation. The beams and the posts were always part of the plan, but later we found out that we needed a cross brace on the side walls as well. I was terrified it would look terrible. But it ended up adding depth and detail that I now love.
When we purchased the house, it looked completely cleared out. But when we started to demo, we realized that the attic was stuffed to the brim with the previous owner’s things! We kept some decor items so that they could live on in the space.
How have you been staying inspired and energized these days?
I really find inspiration from each client. Every space has its own needs, each client has their own ideas and there is fun in putting that all into a puzzle and seeing how it fits together.
For energy, I’m trying to step away a bit more and find time to travel again. Whether a get away with Tyler or meeting friends, it feeds my soul in a way that nothing else can. New cities, great food and art museums give me a solid reset.
Tell us about your Schoolhouse picks. Could you walk us through a few of your favorites and why you selected them?
The Donna Collection is my top pick. I never thought to use a metal shade because I thought a lamp was meant to give out light, but after seeing it in person, I just loved the shape and style so much I had to have it. And after having it in my home, I can confirm it’s perfect. It gives off just the right amount of light for an intimate, moody vibe. I loved it so much, I put the pendants above the island.
The Edgecliff Pull is up there too. The weight of the hardware is so sturdy, the proportion overall is right for so many cabinet fronts, and the curved back of the handle is so much nicer to grab than a squared back. I’ve sourced a lot of hardware, and I can’t find anything that compares.
Last but not least, the Luna family. It's sleek, clean, and easy. I did three of the 16-inch sizes above our dining table and have a surface mount above my bathtub.
Finally, do you have any tips for those renovating or designing their own home?
Stay true to your vision. So many people tried to talk me out of things I wanted and I knew would be great, but I stayed the course and cannot be happier that I didn’t change my mind.
Images by Tyler Norman Photography