Home has plenty of room for the kids AND an outdoorsy collection

SEATTLE — And now, A Western folk ode to some newish Western folks:


The first space Steven Rinella and Katie Finch shared didn’t have much space at all: an 800-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn, outfitted with “hand-me-down furniture, from stoop sales,” Finch says.

Her job with Amazon blazed their trail West, where they initially rented a Tudor in Madison Park before discovering a new, unmistakably modern option in Magnolia.

“We had never thought about a modern home,” Finch says. Once they did, Rinella says, “I was opposed to it.”

The vista is spectacular, though, and with three levels, 3,400 square feet and four bedrooms, there’s plenty of wide-open territory for a family (they have three kids, ages 2, 4 and 7).

They staked their claim, then mapped out a plan to balance the modern aesthetic with “warm and cozy” furnishings, materials and finishes.

Step One: They hired interior designer Joy Rondello of J+Studio, whom they met through the national, customized designer-matching service Homepolish.

“I work full-time, and Steven travels,” Finch says. “I told her: ‘Please tell us what to do.’ ”


“Steven and Katie wanted to start almost completely from scratch with their new home,” Rondello says. “To complement their lifestyle, they wanted to have a space that is low-maintenance and chic, and to find a way to incorporate Steven’s skull and hide collection in an elevated way.”

At this point, now that we’ve mentioned “skull and hide collection,” you might be wondering: Whoa. That Steven Rinella? The outdoorsman/hunter? The writer? The “MeatEater” host? Yep. Him.

And this Steven lives who he is: His amazing collection — there is a fascinating story behind each piece — is a central focus of the decor.

“We had all of these since our Brooklyn apartment,” Finch says. “It started to look like the Museum of Natural History.”

Their Magnolia home does not. Though there are some excellent design dioramas.

“Steven got a tag to hunt a buffalo,” Finch says (one of his books, “American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon,” chronicles that 2005 Alaskan adventure). “That skull is over our bed, and its hide is at the top of the stairs.”


Also on display are pieces from New Mexico, New Zealand, Alaska and Mexico — and from Rinella’s childhood in Michigan: One particular deer skull with an arrowhead stuck in it “was always lying around the house as I was growing up,” he says.

Rondello pioneered all sorts of design techniques to incorporate them. In the entry, where an elk skull with massive antlers hangs over a custom blackened-steel bench, “We went big with a mirror to go with the size of the skull,” she says.

An American buffalo skull from the 1750s — Rinella found this one in Montana, where “a tiny bit was sticking out of the ground,” and then had it radiocarbon dated — sits on a custom shelving unit Rondello designed to display more than a dozen skulls (Dall sheep, musk ox, black bears, javelina) next to the living-room fireplace.

Close by, beaver pillows on the sofa prove, “Fur and hides are the perfect way to keep a modern home warm,” Rondello says. “Neutrals are a good backdrop for skulls. And, since the skulls are a little rustic, we contrast them with more modern lines to showcase and balance them.”


Balance speaks beautifully here. “Because we have three kids, we needed to make sure nothing was too precious,” Finch says. So, this truly is a home of range — from meaningful pieces to practical fun:

— “The kids have the whole basement,” Rinella says. A brilliantly colorful playroom lined with floor cushions lures all three with a built-in wall desk, bench, cabinets and giant magnet boards.

— The collage/TV wall in the family room, above drawers that organize/hide toys and essential Nerf equipment, will keep growing as the kids do, Rondello says, adding mementos and memories.

— Funny how this happens, but Nerf pieces keep ending up in the mesh of the huge, round Moooi pendant light over the dining table. “It came in a big box, and I thought it was glass,” Rinella says. “One of the kids takes a slingshot to it, and I thought, ‘Why no sound?’ It’s childproof! You can hit it with a football; it takes all kinds of abuse.”


Well, rats. Sometimes they are. But! No matter the Western weather, the whole family explores and enjoys the outdoor experience — sometimes, even, from the inside.

“Some things are a little more outdoorsy without being as obvious,” Rondello says — like the botanical wallpaper in the powder room (“One of my favorite things,” Finch says.).

Even closer to nature, the whole wild West looks especially wonderful from the rooftop deck, where Rondello designed all the outdoor seating (which Rinella built). And a backyard deck off the family room is perfect for romping, or picnicking on a table (also made by Rinella). “We had the playhouse connected to the deck built custom, because you can’t say, ‘Go play on the roof,’ ” Finch says. “We’re maximizing fun with limited space.”

All spaces considered (and they have been), “This is our ‘adult’ home,” Finch says. “It’s the house we were always waiting to have.”

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