by Jesma Reynolds
photographs by Catherine Nguyen
When Amanda May and her family moved to the Triangle from Italy three years ago, they had a bit of cultural adjustment to do. They’d left a beloved, tiny farmhouse nestled among Tuscan hills for a newly built, 4,000 square-foot house in a subdivision outside of Durham. Its vast rooms felt blank and empty. As an integrative health coach, Kundalini yoga teacher, and Reiki Master, May wanted to create a space that was sacred and inviting, so she enlisted the help of interior designer Lauren Burns, whose specialty is to incorporate what’s important to her clients.
“I always ask my clients: ‘Does this have meaning to you?’ ” says Burns. Trained at the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design in Washington D.C., Burns realized early on that the Mays’ eclectic style told a larger story – “where they’ve lived, where they came from,” and tried to tell that story through interior design.
“Everything in here is from someone,” May says. “Lauren knows a lot of my stuff is not fancy, but most is meaningful.” There are books from her adventurous grandmother who lived in Hollywood and traveled the world as a single woman in the ’40s; a mandala that her husband brought back from Nepal; a collage of a Madonna and child by her British friend and artist Susi Bellamy; and deer antlers that once belonged to her father. Burns found a place for all of them, and created rooms that are ethereal, magnetic, and inviting at the same time.
The house also has plenty of modern touches. In the former dining room, now a minimalist “lounge,” Burns installed a funky blown-glass bubble chandelier. It’s the place where May does energy and healing work with clients, including gong bathing, a form of sound therapy. On the wall hangs an abstract piece called Surface Beneath, by Taos artist K.C. Tebbutt. Painted with oils, mineral pigments, and ink on rice paper, its mandala design glows like a kaleidoscope as an LED light behind it changes color. Its “breathing light” is meant to bring focus and clarity to the viewer. “Nothing is here by accident,” says May. “Everything is intentional.”
That’s true throughout the house. “When you move and move and move,” May says, your home has to “come from within.” That, she says, is “how you make a house a home. When people walk in, I want them to be greeted with compassion and protection. They don’t have to buy-in or agree. It doesn’t matter to me, but there are some things that are universal – the cycle of life, compassion, and love, and where we find home – in our heart.”