We sat down with Betsy Pokorny, a longtime client of Wolfe-Rizor, and Abby Rizor to talk about their ongoing partnership. Betsy and Abby have created three homes together over the last fifteen years. Betsy’s needs have changed- from working around small children to now a house full of teenagers, and styles have changed, but the two women have always been able to craft a home and a lifestyle that Betsy and her husband John love. Let’s take a look behind the scenes of the design process, to find out a little more about their shared philosophy and how it all got started.
Q: When you as a designer and a client are working together, from the beginning, have you had the same goal?
Betsy: I will say, John and I have always felt like we don’t want our home to be intimidating. We don’t want people to be overwhelmed when they walk in the door. Our goal is not really to impress.
Q: Right. You’re not trying to wow them.
Betsy: We just really want people to feel comfortable when they come in our home. And we are fickle. Our last home before was completely different than this home. So I think we definitely don’t feel like we’re ever completely done. We want the house to be finished but we know we’re going to constantly be changing, so I think that takes the stress off a little bit. And also too, Hattie and Abby are so great at incorporating a lot of the furniture that I got from my family. Very traditional French. My mom had very French flair so instead of saying, “Oh no, that doesn’t go with this look,” they’ve incorporated it. And I think it’s created a unique look for us.
Abby: Right. Well I think that makes something more interesting. Because when you just buy everything from the store it looks cold.
Q: Did you build special spaces for different pieces? Because some of those antique pieces look like they fit just perfectly.
Abby: We didn’t build it for those pieces, but before they built the house we did a floor plan to consider where some favorites would go. A lot of those things aren’t in the same place that we thought they would be. Really, until you get into a space, you may think something will belong, but sometimes it just doesn’t. So we find another space for it.
Betsy: Especially with the size and high ceilings of this home. The kitchen was such an important design, because it’s a long galley kitchen so you can’t move it around too much. And the table, I was very impressed because Abby’s like, “This is going to be the size of the table, it’s going to be square, and that’s going to be centered on the fireplace, which is see-through which is going to be the center.” And I just thought that was really cool, because I’d never started from scratch before with a new home.
Abby: We design for comfort but also to entertain, because John and Betsy have millions of friends. They had just moved in this house, and a week later they hosted a huge fundraiser. And they are very big philanthropists, they are always helping this town out. Really, their home, saying it’s open and warm, really reflects them. It really does say a lot about them. And that’s the truth.
Betsy: Thank you.
Abby: I mean, really, Betsy really is very, very … lovely. Lovely, that’s an old-fashioned word, isn’t it? My mom always says the word, “darling,” and my grandma used to say darling, and I’m always like, “How old am I going to be when I start to say darling?”
Q: So you guys started working together how many houses ago?
Betsy: Oh gosh. Was it the first house? Yeah, that was probably 15 years ago.
Q: And how many houses have you done now?
Betsy: Three. Yeah, the first house was more of a French hunting style, with a lot of dark grays … they were the ones who first introduced me to loving gray. They suggested that and I just ran with it. I love it.
Abby: So this is a very bold thing to do here. To paint your house almost black, which I’ve always wanted people to do that, but not many people are going to do it. So Betsy and John were willing to do it and I love it. We made a bold statement for Winter Park with this house, and it’s turned out really well.
To be continued…