A Living Curio


Taylor Abess of Parlor Interiors honors the history of her family home with a seamless marriage of materials, art and design

A custom light sculpture by Michele Oka Doner—created from native seeds that were gathered by hand then cast in bronze and molded into a sinuous serpentine shape—dangles over a brass and walnut dining table by Valentin Loellmann surrounded by sculptural chairs by Rooms Studio. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

Whether moving across the country to pursue a career in fashion, reinventing herself as a bicoastal interior designer or turning a stately residence into a luxurious yet livable family abode, Parlor Interiors’ founder and creative director Taylor Abess loves a challenge. Founded in 2017, Parlor Interiors works across the continent, curating highly customized, distinguished spaces that are void of trend, infused with art and craftsmanship and honor the architectural integrity and historical origins of each place. Currently they are helming a full renovation of a home in Santa Barbara, overseeing the interior design of several houses located in Mexico’s Montage Los Cabos private residences, conceptualizing a restaurant in Southern California and finalizing two residential projects and a retail space in Miami.

In the formal living room, three of Steven Haulenbeek’s Ice-Cast Bronze series mirrors hang over a 19th-century marble fireplace discovered in London. Vintage sofas covered in a Pierre Frey fabric flank Thomas Duriez’s Ring coffee table. The oversize 1970s vintage chandelier, as well as the coordinating wall sconces, were crafted in Czechoslovakia. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

When searching for her own family’s home in Miami Beach, Abess and her husband, Matthew, wanted a space big enough to welcome their energetic young sons. They fell in love with a Mediterranean Revival– style home built in the 1940s that gave nods to classicism without any loud embellishments. “There was a bit of a pushback against excessive ornamentation, like you would have found during the deco or moderne periods. You’d certainly start to see a bit more classical revival in public buildings,” says Matthew Abess.

The juxtaposition of a painting by Brazilian artist José Milner, Marcin Rusak Studio’s kaleidoscopic Flora Table, which features flowers set in resin, and two Travertine Partera Stools by EWE Studio form a compelling tableau in one corner of the living room. The Tamegroute vase is from Tighemi Concept. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

In contrast to the couple’s previous space in L.A.—a standard spec that Taylor and her team infused with character and personality—this house offered the perfect complement to the her vivid imagination and appreciation of the past. “We really love the idea of preserving homes,” Taylor notes. “And although my firm, Parlor Interiors, works with ground-up new builds, preservation definitely has a place in our heart. And that is how we wanted to live.”

A 19th-century American mirror with an elaborate carved frame bounces light around the cozy family room and reflects Dmitriy & Co’s Masson sectional sofa and Videre Licet’s Astral Projection 2 coffee table, both of which sit atop a mohair sable rug from The Rug Company. Photos by Nicole Franzen.
On the family room’s opposing wall, Taylor created a custom built-in bookcase to showcase Matthew’s collection of ancient artifacts, mostly from Asia, that were traditionally used to forecast the future. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

Because of the home’s age, significant renovations were needed to bring it into alignment with her vision—and 21st-century building codes. The electrical needed an update. “There was cloth wiring. We discovered support beams shorn off their cross beams with wedges of wood holding them together,” she remembers. A smart home system was installed, its speakers deftly hidden from sight. French oak floors were laid. The ceilings were reinforced to accommodate the new lighting fixtures, including a custom sculpture chandelier by iconic artist Michele Oka Doner that dominates the dining room and a Czechoslovakian glass chandelier that illuminates the living room.

A bathroom on the main floor that opens to the exterior serves as both a powder room and a cabana bathroom. Fabscarte’s textural Tender Flora covers the walls. It’s paired with a vanity by Devon&Devon, a Gregory Nangle mirror and sconces discovered at Wexler Gallery. The Lisa Eisner fixtures are from The Future Perfect.
Photos by Nicole Franzen.

To enlarge the second floor’s primary suite, they extended the living room just below it; capped the new bedroom with a pitched roof that echoed the one in the kitchen, creating a restful aerie. A powder room that also opens to the pool was added; its black-and-white checkered stone floor mimics the one she laid on the patio, linking the indoors with the exterior. Taylor redesigned the placement of the kitchen appliances to achieve a more gracious flow and installed handcrafted details including a new hand-cast iron banister that borders the home’s circular staircase. “While we leaned into the home’s classical style, I wanted to create something timeless that blurred the line between the old and new,” she explains. That idea extended to the home’s interiors, which welcome a mix of modern art, ancient artifacts, antiques and impressive decorative arts that are backdropped, with few exceptions, by dark floors and creamy walls. By incorporating pieces whose provenance spans across centuries, it showcases the Abesses’ flair for seamless juxtapositions.

In the kitchen, two intricate custom armoires flank a polished quartz-topped island. The Inga stools by Thomas Hayes are upholstered in Pierre Frey’s Koala. The floors here and throughout the house are French oak.
Photos by Nicole Franzen.

Witness the dining room. Black walls throw the spotlight on a handcrafted piece by Michele Oka Doner, Matthew’s childhood family friend. Weighing in at over 600 pounds, it was created from native seeds that were gathered by hand on a family property then cast in bronze and molded into a sinuous serpentine shape. The glowing fixture hovers over a brass and walnut dining table by Valentin Loellmann and sculptural chairs by Rooms Studio.

Notice the formal living room where, against custom moldings and a paneled ceiling designed as a tribute to the home’s history, Taylor gathers an assortment of pieces. Three of Steven Haulenbeek’s Ice-Cast Bronze series mirrors hang over a late 19th-century marble fireplace whose cloudy coloring speaks to the Pierre Frey fabric that covers the curved-back vintage sofas, the abstract pattern of a rug by Atelier Février from The Invisible Collection and an exuberant painting by Brazilian artist José Milner. That fireplace’s Victorian origins are shared with two hat display cases that now showcase pre-Columbian art; those pieces were found in Monterrey, the birthplace of the marble used for the Partera stools.

A Fortuny pendant dangles over Atra’s sculptural Atlas dining table, which is surrounded by 19th-century Spanish Revival–style dining chairs. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

Now observe the breakfast room. Here, a Fortuny light dances over a modern table by Atra and a cluster of 19th-century chairs. “It’s like a continual conversation where everything speaks to each other and where the pieces are treated respectfully but not so reverently that you lose sight of their function and what their purpose in the space is,” says Matthew. “I think to that end, there’s no distinctive feature you see in the house that occurs in isolation. It’s always in conversation with some other elements of design.”

Matthew’s study was designed to showcase his vast collection of rare books and manuscripts. It houses a 19th-century carpenter’s workbench, a Dmitriy & Co daybed and a custom bookcase and is finished with corbels fashioned from ink-dyed marine rope.
Photos by Nicole Franzen.

His own study is testament to that. A 19th-century carpenter’s workbench, a Dmitriy & Co daybed and a custom bookcase, finished with corbels fashioned from ink-dyed marine rope, welcome the weight of his constantly expanding collection of extremely rare books and manuscripts.

The home’s circular staircase is bordered by a hand-cast iron banister. “These details reinforce the link between the home’s past and present,” Taylor explains. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

It’s a lesson the couple have passed down to their sons. “They understand how to treat these objects and approach them with curiosity,” Taylor shares. They’ve also absorbed her flair for design, by helping choose their bedroom’s teal paint and commandeering an elegant bathroom, polka-dotted with circular cream-and-black tiles and originally intended for guests, as their own. “There were very few design decisions that were made in this house without Taylor at least nominally consulting with our children,” Matthew notes.

The Abesses’ sons chose the teal blue shade that washes their bedroom walls. The matching beds are by Thomas Hayes; their canopies are fashioned from rope-climbing nets. The Forma rug was found at The Rug Company. Photos by Nicole Franzen.
The boys’ bathroom showcases black-and-white tiles from Commune’s Circle Drop collection for Exquisite Surfaces. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

The couple’s own bedroom is a calming retreat of strong simple shapes washed in shades of cream. “The pieces are heavy in scale but light in color,” Taylor notes about the room’s furniture, including the custom cabinets, bed and nightstands she designed with multidisciplinary artist Mark Grattan and an armchair by Marta Sala.

The primary suite showcases Stephen Antonson’s Olympia chandelier that dances over the Docked en Rio bed and custom bedside tables by Mark Grattan. The Talisman Loop sconce is by Apparatus. Photos by Nicole Franzen.
The primary suite’s his-and-her sinks were created from Demilune vanities by Maitland Smith and discovered on 1stDibs. Photos by Nicole Franzen.
In the primary suite’s bathroom, a Roman and Williams Guild Oscar Flushmount illuminates a freestanding tub by Devon&Devon which is perched on a floor created from Tabarka Studio’s Levantine 2 collection in black and cream. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

The thoughtful design continues outdoors with the lush landscape the couple curated together, using almost entirely native plants. “It was very important to us to not only create a flow between the inside and the outside but to also create a true ecosystem,” Matthew remarks. “So we have multiple species of endangered birds that are nesting here, and butterflies from all over.”

The black-and-white checked floor that surrounds the pool nods to the era in which the home was originally built. The ceramic stool was found at Mindy Solomon Gallery. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

The overall effect is of a home that seems suspended in time yet that works perfectly for the couple’s active, modern family. “If every design is an experiment for living, then a home is an experiment in living better together,” Taylor remarks.