I’ve always been inspired by hardwood-paneled interiors, from the dark, imposing banqueting halls of Tudor England to the charming wainscoted cottage parlors of 19th-century New England to the sleek walnut-sheathed offices of Mad Men-era Manhattan. So I was delighted by a new library/media room I saw recently in an East Hampton beach house that uses oak paneling to perfect effect.
The work of John Stedila and Tim Button of the New York City firm Stedila Design, the warm and inviting room, whose walls are covered with solid cerused oak (also known as limed oak) panels, is part of a complete renovation they undertook of the 1920s beach house. The paneling was chosen to match a handsome pair of 19th-century English oak doors that, together with their simply carved frame, were installed as an elegant entrance to the library. “We stripped the paint off the doors and frame and then cerused the honey-colored oak,” Button says. “This restored antique architectural element really determined the design of the rest of the space.”
A Connecticut workshop fabricated the new white oak paneling, which was then installed by a master woodworker. The golden hue of the cerused wood, which gives the room a light and airy, modern feel, is echoed by the oak floor, the natural sisal rug, and the cotton and linen curtains and sofa upholstery. “Our goal was to keep everything simple and straightforward, so it wouldn’t fight the doors and the paneling,” Button says. One wall comprises floor-to-ceiling book cabinets, their oak doors inset with classic chicken wire rather than glass, a nod to the house’s rural location. The books, however, consist of nothing more than their bindings set into the doors, since the cabinetry itself conceals a powder room and media center.
While the cerused oak of the doors, paneling, and cabinetry looks beautiful now, it will become even more so over time, acquiring a wonderful patina as it ages—just like the paneling in those Tudor halls, Cape Cod cottages, and Madison Avenue offices that I like so much.
135 East 55th Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10022