Designer Annie Selke’s home is a labor of love—inside and out
All photos by John Gruen
Annie Selke is giving a visitor a tour of her home. As they pass through the living room and dining area, her guest expresses amazement at how much work has gone into its renovation.
“It’s a work in progress—always,” Selke replies. As designer and CEO of Pittsfield-based lifestyle brands Pine Cone Hill, Dash & Albert, Fresh American, and Annie Selke Luxe, Selke has spent the last five years redefining what home means to her. In 2010, she downsized from an eight-bedroom, 1880s shingle-style house to a two-bedroom, 1960s ranch house just down the road from her mother in Lenox.
In the spring of 2011, she was just settling into her finished “mid-century modern” home, as she describes it, when her mother unexpectedly passed away. After the devastating loss, Selke decided she would honor her mum by moving into her home. With little reservation, she embarked on yet another renovation adventure with architect and longtime friend John Gilmer.
As a lifelong Berkshire resident, Selke says the region has affected her design process. “What is the difference between urban living and country living? It’s mud. It’s mud and dirt and all those things. And it’s a blessing and a curse. You’re very much enmeshed to nature, and that’s one of the reasons I love living here.”
That love of nature is apparent as soon as her hill-top home comes into view. Bark shingles, made by North Carolina–based Highland Craftsmen, Inc., make up the exterior. The rustic look, introduced to Selke by Gilmer, is not only unique and eye-catching, but also extremely practical, lasting 75 years with no need for paint. Gilmer says the house now “feels much more integrated with the site,” drawing attention to the spectacular view that was Selke’s deciding factor in moving here—her mother’s gardens.
“Because she was a master gardener,” Selke says of her mother, “and she put so much work into this property, I knew I would not be able to drive by every day and see somebody not care for it the way she had.”
“The goal was to make the house work,” says Gilmer of their design process, “and open it to the outside, all the beauty [her mother] had spent years creating. That was her legacy, the gardens.”
After countless revisions on paper, Selke and Gilmer finally landed on a layout they call “version 21A”—one that would provide the view and functionality Selke desired. With the help of her contractor, J. Richardson Contracting of Cheshire, they took down a massive fireplace and two chimneys, put in all new windows and 12-foot sliding glass doors, opened up the stairwell, and added a new master bath, dressing room, screened-in porch, and an over-the-garage workout space. What was once two separate rooms is now a large, open space encompassing the kitchen, living room, and dining room.
Selke’s touch can be felt throughout each room of the home, where she employed a mixture of her favorite styles into a light, welcoming look. “I loved the Swedish antiques,” she says of some of her mother’s prized pieces, “and I loved the mid-century modern stuff, so I was like, ‘Well, I think if I keep the palette neutral, I can use both in the same space.’ And that’s what I’ve done. It’s definitely a personal reflection, and every piece does mean something to me.”
The home is filled with favorite items, from the indoor/outdoor poufs on her patio to the intricate rugs pillows from India sitting at the foot of her bed. In the master bedroom, luxurious, European-crafted bedding from her newest venture, Annie Selke Luxe, is paired with a custom headboard and hand-painted Chinese panels that Gilmer found for her in California. Playful portraits of her beloved dogs by local photographer Amanda Jones are displayed in the stairwell; and upstairs in her grown daughter’s bedroom, custom-painted fabrics by Peter Fasano help create a space that is equally girly and sophisticated.
While she certainly has her pick of rugs to choose from, Selke is currently displaying an array of PET selections from the Bunny Williams collection—a collaboration between the iconic interior decorator and Dash & Albert Rug Company—made from an eco-friendly, wool-like material. She loves that they can stand up to her home’s dog traffic.
In the backyard, Selke has taken pains to preserve her mother’s vision while making the area work for her. When she needed to enclose a portion for the dogs to run and play, she agonized over what type of fence to use and just where to place it. She now has some much-appreciated help in the landscaping department. When her fiancé, Mark Dove, moved in, he brought an endless supply of home-improvement knowledge, culled from his time working on a family farm, in the Air Force, and as a real-estate investor.
“I tell her,” says Dove, “I don’t know anything about colors, but if you show me what you want built, I can build it.” Dove is now overseeing the clearing of a large piece of neighboring land Annie acquired, logging it, and building a shed, fence, and barn for the two horses that her daughter, an equine-science major, will bring home.
Looking out over the gardens from her patio, Selke still feels her mother’s presence. To her left, she points out a special spot in the garden. A year after her death, a package addressed to Selke’s mother appeared on the doorstep. It contained two Prospero roses, ready for planting. “I have come to believe that these roses are a sign of Mum’s wishing me success in her garden, in her house, and in my life,” Selke wrote on her company blog, Fresh American Style, where she chronicled the renovation, “and that she is decidedly taking this journey with me.”