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  • Karen Terhune Duncan

Cozy Inspiration

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

Even retired one needs an office. For me, it's about defining space. I like order and I like rooms to have a reason. And while plenty of extremely organized persons can easily flip the kitchen table to work space, I'm drawn to space that functions for a specific purpose. I prefer a reasonably clutter-free work space in which to write, cruise the internet or just pay bills. And since we'd decided that the room in the front of the house, that was formerly the formal dining room, was not going to work well for us as a dining room, I chose to make this space my office. It is filled with some of my most prized possessions.

The room has a nice bay window and had custom plantation shutters already there. I kept the chandelier and just raised it, to clear heads. It has a pretty tray ceiling and good molding. It's a nice perch for me in front of the house, so I can see the comings and goings of arrivals. I painted it a bronzy taupe that is a nice backdrop to my fun leopard patterns - items I've collected for my office for years. And the floors were refinished in the same deep chocolate as the rest of the house. I then had custom glass doors made that more define the space while leaving natural light in the hallway. I lacquered them black for more drama. There are a number of "leopard" print items because I think it's a fun pattern.


After all the furniture was out.

After all the furniture was out, we painted and refinished the floors

The size was good and I had a lot of existing furniture that would work well: a desk my father refinished for me 30 years ago, some chairs I loved from our previous living room, some framed prints that I adore, and a nice love seat that pulls out to a single bed, should the "overflow" of guests arise.

We designed and added glass panel doors to the room. The space seems more defined this way and it adds dimension to the gallery hallway and the entrance. The side glass panels are stationary and and the center two doors slide on a track.

My desk was the original "shipping desk" in my fathers business in Pittsburgh for 50 years. When my father moved his heating and air conditioning business from the old Strip District (which used to be the Pittsburgh warehouse district and is now a hip restaurant area of the city) to his newer offices near the river he updated the office furnishings, yet this old desk intrigued him. He'd taken up furniture refinishing as a hobby and decided to tackle this desk as a gift for me. Here is a polaroid photo he took of the desk just after he's stripped it. In his neat handwriting are the measurements and he sent me this photo updating his progress, taken in the back yard driveway of our old family home in Pittsburgh. I've taped that photo into the inside drawer of the desk. After he refinished the desk he drove it to us in NJ; that was 1987. I cherish this desk.

The Windsor chair belonged to Doug's grandfather, Augustin Duncan, who was a Broadway actor. He lost his eyesight at the age of 50 but continued to act till his death at the age of 83. This was his favorite chair and often brought to his theater dressing rooms in the 1920s and 30s. As a blind man I suspect that familiarity is critical. This too is precious to me.

These hand crafted plaster tile "Memory Books" are by Vancouver artist Sid Dickens and a gift from my best friends -

the other 9 of the Perfect Ten friendship. I adore them.

A very dear old friend, Robin Hutchins, owned an art gallery in Maplewood, NJ for many years. When she retired in 2006 she gifted me this gorgeous (and gorgeously framed) Paul Palnik (signed) serigraph print entitled "Someday". A wonderfully whimsical cartoon of New York with someone shouting from a high rise window the someday they were going to "own this town". It's so very Robin and so very much a good chuckle at the friendship we forged in the 1980s in a very male-dominated world where we bonded in solidarity. At one time in Robin's early career she worked for the gallery in the famed Watergate Hotel in Washington where this piece had been acquired originally. Her gift of this was and is very special.

I inherited a large pine armoire from my parents that has become the office closet, since a dining room has no closet,

and I needed storage space for supplies, books and files.

Posters from 2 of my all time favorite exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Chanel in 2005 and Poiret in 2007.

These pieces were from my mothers collection done by an artist friend of hers. It depicts Steamboat Springs, Colorado -

same view, different season. Steamboat is very dear to our family.

This sweet little rocker was mine as a child and I just can't part with it.

When I retired from Matters Magazine the remarkable team I'd worked with for years had this charming pillow made for me. It showcases eight of my favorite covers (of the 100's I'd designed in 27 years) with the sweet line,

"Karen, You Matter so much to us - We'll miss you - with love and best wishes from your team."

A treasured keepsake.

Dotted around the room are treasures from Doug's parents and his great Aunt Isadora. There are little momentos from my brothers, my sister-in-law, and my husband. It's a room where I am surrounded by my past and my loves. My computers, my papers, my calendar and a television where I can be heard screaming for the Steelers or some other sports team as I whittle away on my projects. I love this room.

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