Erin Hiemstra of Apartment 34
Erin Hiemstra of Apartment 34 had no problem settling into a slower pace of life in the Pacific Northwest, a stone's throw from where she grew up summering when her family stumbled upon an available listing. We spoke with Erin about her inspiration as she transformed her builder-grade home into a space that reflects her taste, lifestyle, and the idyllic natural setting of Puget Sound.
Where do you live and how long have you lived there?
My husband and I happened upon a listing in an idyllic setting in the Pacific Northwest just about 90 minutes north of Seattle. Not only is the property in a beautiful, slightly far-flung corner of the world, but it’s also a particularly meaningful spot for me. The house sits a stone’s throw from little-known Puget Sound beaches that I grew up combing with my mother and grandmother when I was small. I was thrilled by the thought of getting to share this undiscovered area with my seven-year-old son and bring my family back to a place that meant so much to my childhood. Wanting to be closer to immediate family in the wake of the pandemic, this spot also serves as a central gathering place for our families. We thought we’d undergo a quick three-month spruce-up of the property in order to be with our nearest and dearest during these uncertain times. The discovery of major water damage and significant disrepair extended our renovation timeline, finally allowing us to move in for the summer of 2021.
Who do you share your home with?
My husband, seven-year-old son, French bulldog Luna and an ever-rotating mix of grandparents, aunts and uncles and dear friends who stay frequently.
Describe your home’s aesthetic in a few words.
As this house is adjacent to the beautiful beaches of the Puget Sound, it would make sense to define her as a beach house, but I did not want to fall into that cliche. Instead, I set out to demonstrate how you can imbue your own personal style and design aesthetic into any type of space rather than feel forced into a tired design theme. I set out to achieve what I’ve deemed Elevated Coastal Chic. I honed in on a Scandinavian, design-forward influence decorated with a collector’s mindset and just a dash of Pacific Northwest-influenced patina.
What inspirations did you have on your mood board when you were planning the décor?
When it came to giving this house its facelift, I took a lot of inspiration from the coastal homes of Scandinavia. It's very common for families in Scandinavian countries to have a "summer house" where they enjoy the endless daylight hours and the amazing landscapes. I was drawn to their neutral color palettes, use of natural materials and that “hygge” touch. I set out to create a similarly refined, elevated but relaxed vibe. While the house itself didn’t feature the modern architecture I crave, I infused modern elements throughout the house, putting in a minimalist European-inspired kitchen, clean-lined furniture, mid-century vintage and timeless modern designs from lines like Flos and Noguchi.
With social media at our fingertips, it’s easy to get side-tracked by the endless design possibilities. How did you ensure your vision remained cohesive?
For every space I design, be it for myself or for a design client, I always start by creating a vision for the space and work backward, refining that dream scenario down to the smallest details. But this isn’t only a visual exercise. You also want to hone in on how you want your home to make you feel and you keep that feeling at the core of all your design decisions. On average, you make over 400 design decisions in a single room, but if you center both your visual and contextual plan in your design process, you'll ultimately be happy with the final outcome, as the choices will all be aligned with your ultimate goal.
You’re known for your impeccable personal style. Did your fashion sense influence any of the decorative choices in your home?
Fashion has long been a major influence in my life. I would say I fell in love with fashion long before I started dipping my toe into design. As I’ve gotten older, I feel like both my personal style and my design style have grown and evolved simultaneously and I can no longer really tell which one is influencing the other more. I’ve come to realize that I only want timeless, high quality, elevated pieces in my closet and that is also really what I’m drawn to for my interiors projects as well. The investment will always pay off in the end.
What were some of the biggest transformations you made to the house to make it feel like your own? On the flip side, were there any features you wanted to keep intact?
Sadly, this house did not offer any immediately obvious architectural gems. She is a builder-grade spec house built in the late 90s and featured all the very typical features of American suburban-style homes. Think orange-peel textured walls, faux-walnut cabinetry, ill-conceived layouts and low-quality fixtures and finishes. If I could have started from scratch I probably would have, but that was not in the cards here. We needed to work with what we had. I decided the biggest impact would be reimaging the kitchen. By removing two walls (that were not loadbearing) I was able to double the size of the kitchen and create a contiguous great room that fully embraced the home’s stunning water-front views. The modern kitchen from Danish brand Reform completely changed the entire feel of the house and set the tone for the decorative choices made in the rest of the spaces. So even though we only repainted in most other rooms, the house feels nothing like it did when we began.
Is there a room you find yourself gravitating towards?
While it’s really hard for me to pick a favorite space in the house, the primary bedroom and bathroom are airy, light-filled spaces featuring simple, clutter-free designs that just feel like a breath of fresh air. I can feel myself relax immediately upon entering.
Tell us about some of your favorite pieces in the house. What objects or personal mementos are bringing you the most joy?
While I certainly can point to Scandinavian and even Japanese design influences in the pieces I selected for this house, my primary design rule is to simply select what I love - no matter whether it's aesthetic or providence. When I do that, I know that everything will come together and simply work. It’s a bit of organic alchemy, but it’s always fun to see the final space come to life. It's actually the mixing of a variety of design styles, time periods, and combining vintage and new pieces that create interesting juxtaposition and depth in a home. I love that as I look around, I spot art created by someone I know personally, a bowl from a local gallery, candles purchased from a girlfriend’s boutique, as well as things like light fixtures and furniture from design firms I’ve long admired. I also don't consider my designs to ever be complete. A home is a living thing. It's ever-evolving - just as we are!
What do you love about your neighborhood? How does it inspire you creatively?
This house is located in a rather rural area, so I am constantly inspired by the little beach communities and small historic towns that dot the coastline. Bringing a bit of nature inside is what softens and further personalizes the space. A new foraged branch in the living area can completely change the mood of the room.
Any tips for disconnecting and unwinding from that busy, outside world at the end of a long day?
I’d like to say that I have wonderful personal rituals like mediation, a good book and a favorite tea - and sometimes those do come into play, but as a mom of a young son, I often fall back on a good red wine and Netflix and chill. I have no shame in that!
Finally, we can’t help but ask – what is your favorite Armadillo rug to have underfoot?
I don’t know if I can pick a favorite Armadillo rug - I only want to keep adding more to my collection, but the Sahara Nook Runner in my kitchen and the Malawi Nook in my primary bathroom - it is so soft underfoot!