Jennifer Fox and Tonia Omeltchenko won’t stop. Whether they’re on to the next client, project, or city, the duo that is Fox + Chenko Interiors is unstoppable.
Q&A With Jennifer Fox and Tonia Omeltchenko
Casaza: How did you get your start?
Jennifer Fox: My earliest memories always included homes and design. My favorite outings as a child usually involved a stroll through the furniture floor of a New York City department store soaking in every detail of a perfectly styled vignette or exploring outdoors for natural treasures that could be turned into works of art. One of my first DIY projects was creating a fabulous bathroom mirror framed with the oyster, scallop and jingle shells collected on my favorite Greenport, Long Island beach.
My professional start began in the apparel industry where I worked on both the sales and buying side of the business and quickly gravitated to the more creative merchandising and design side. I eventually made a move to interior design and felt like I had finally found my calling. I haven’t looked back since.
Tonia Omeltchenko: I tromped through every antique barn on the New York and Canadian border as a young girl with my family. My parents collected early American furniture and taught me to appreciate handcrafted work of different time periods, the beauty of different species of wood, and how to integrate newly acquired antiques into the décor of our home.
Similarly to Jen, my design background began in the NYC garment industry. I developed and styled textiles for apparel and had the wonderful opportunity for extensive travel to Europe and Japan. My foundation in design and textiles has led full circle to a new career in interior design.
JF + TO: A mutual friend introduced us and we’ve formed a strong interior design partnership. We enjoy collaborating on our clients’ projects and bounce ideas off each other as we develop our design. We make sure to keep the process fun and enjoyable for us and our clients!
C: How would you describe your style?
JF + TO: Organic and orderly. Some would think that those two descriptors are at odds with one another, as if an organic style is always wild or unrestrained. We see it rather as the relationship between elements that fit together harmoniously as necessary parts of a whole design. We like to introduce updated, modern silhouettes of classic furnishings fabricated from natural elements into our design projects. We’re inspired by the beauty of organic elements like the movement in the grain of a length of walnut, the vibrant color that a mineral can form within a slab of stone, the color variation in petrified wood, the rough surface of shagreen, evolving live finishes on metal, or the texture of grasscloth.
C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
JF: Everywhere! I’m inspired by nature, cities, main street towns, gardens, hotels, restaurants, historical homes, architecture, and technology. Examining the past, living in the present, and looking towards the future inspires me.
TO: Museums are my favorite source. I’ll always research an exhibit to check out on a weekend get-away or a major trip abroad, and it’s so easy to visit the many wonderful museums in NYC. I also bookmark inspirational Instagram posts and tear swipe from glossy magazines. Right now I’m obsessed with The Crown and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and am influenced by the fashion, style, and social culture of different time periods. I also take tons of inspirational photos wherever I am to curate my day.
C: Favorite room in the house? Why?
JF: The melding of outdoor and interior spaces create the most intriguing “rooms” in the house. There’s something enchanting about the privacy of a tucked-away terrace, the shade of a charming covered porch, or the refuge of a relaxed patio. They’re exposed to the elements yet defined and sheltered. Furniture, fabrics and rugs have come so far in terms of performance that these outdoor spaces can be beautifully and comfortably designed while being able to withstand sun, wind and water. Live greenery and flowers will thrive and should be liberally incorporated into any outdoor sanctuary!
TO: The foyer! I love creating a welcoming space that immediately reflects the style of the homeowner. There are a lot of design elements that can be layered into a small space to set a welcoming stage for the rest of the home: a special ceiling light fixture or beautiful lamp on a functional accent piece that provides a place to put your keys and handbag, wall covering in a textured or gorgeous pattern, decorative floor tile or wood flooring laid in an interesting pattern, and a gorgeous mirror to bounce all of the light around.
C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
JF: I’ve always been a stickler for rules of scale, and will without fail follow certain guidelines to achieve a perfectly proportioned and well-balanced space. Lately, though, I’m drawn to over-scaled, decorative lighting. There’s such a vast and varied selection of industrial, modern, glam, mid-century and classic lighting available in the marketplace now! Executed on a grander scale than what we are conventionally used to, lighting can truly become the showstopper of the room.
TO: Don’t be overly planned; take a bit of a risk! Have a bold inspiration that will inspire the rest of your design, but incorporate it wisely. For example, if you love a bright color like cherry red, use it in wall art, an accessory, or fabric on a chair. If you love an antique piece of furniture call attention to its uniqueness by mixing it with modern classics that are interpreted from traditional forms for a fresh look.
C: Recent project that inspired you?
JF + TO: We recently completed a master bath for a newlywed couple who blended four boys and two dogs into one busy and energetic household. They desired a tranquil retreat from the craziness of everyday life. Our inspired goal was to design a luxurious shared space, perfectly outfitted for two, where the couple could unwind, reinvigorate, and indulge the senses.
We began with the centerpiece of the space, a sizeable modern soaking tub, centered in front of the window and topped with a romantic glass drop chandelier. The husband, a self-proclaimed soaking tub fanatic, loves that it’s large enough to share with his new bride. We designed the custom shower to feature mirror image, adjustable massage showerheads and handheld shower fixtures which can be positioned to direct the water flow while standing, or relaxing on the built-in shower seats. We incorporated shower niches and product baskets to hold all necessities and framed a shaving mirror in the shower wall tile for the husband. The wife loves the color blue but requested we not use typical subway tile. We found a fabulous blue and neutral toned, large-scaled porcelain wall tile that harmonizes beautifully with the dynamic wall covering used in the main bathroom space. These materials work together to evoke the soothing movement of water. We gave the couple loads of shared storage space for products and personal items in a double sink vanity, highlighted with over-scaled antique pewter framed mirrors, and a glass drop light sconce that coordinates with the chandelier. A correlating makeup vanity was customized for the wife’s needs and is the perfect spot for her to apply cosmetics and style her hair. We believe that lighting and hardware are truly the jewelry of the bath so we selected sparkling glass knobs for the vanities and doors to complement the glass lighting fixtures. We tricked out a separate water closet with a spa toilet because even the closest of couples can use a bit of privacy!
C: Favorite pattern?
JF: Herringbone has become one of my favorite patterns to work with. It’s just so versatile! It’s at once textural and tailored in fabrics, carpets, wall covering and even tile.
TO: I especially love menswear-inspired patterns as I styled these for apparel fabrics when I worked in the garment industry. Houndstooth, stripe, windowpane, and yes, herringbone patterns are classic and translate well in updated colors and scale for home furnishings.
C: What is “good design” to you?
JF: Everyone has a different sense of style, but when the visual, tactile, and even scent and sound come together perfectly, good design has been achieved. Think of your favorite restaurant. It has a certain style. The décor, seating, music, and aroma all contribute to the vibe that you find so appealing. The experience in your home is the same.
TO: Good design is the essence of a style. It’s not overly done or complicated. You have to know when the design of a space is achieved and doesn’t need anything else to be complete.
C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
JF: The Swiss Family Robinson tree house. It would be magical to live in a family home of thatched roofed rooms connected by swinging bridges, high within the leafy branches of an enormous tree! Salvaged items from the 19th-century shipwreck would be interspersed with furnishings crafted from natural materials readily found. There would even be a salvaged organ, which would sound wondrous in an orchestra of handmade instruments. I can imagine being lulled to sleep by a gentle sea breeze.
TO: I’m heading to East Egg to the fictional, lavish mansion of Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great American Novel, The Great Gatsby! It’s thought to been located on the Gold Coast of Long Island, in Sands Point. I can only dream about the opulent glamour of this mansion in the Roaring Twenties, as beautifully dressed guests arrived in their automobiles for evening parties, dancing to jazz music beneath the sparkling chandeliers.
C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
JF: I’ve become much more of a casual host, although planning the menu, shopping early for ingredients and decor, and prepping ahead of time are still key to the success of even the most relaxed parties. Tip: I love using potted flowering plants in handcrafted vessels to set a seasonal tone for the table. They’re more economical and longer lasting than cut stems.
TO: I like to have everything I’m making prepped in advance so I can spend more time with my guests and less time in the kitchen. My husband loves to cook and grill, and we have fun planning the menu together. He always comes up with the best specialty cocktail, too!
C: Best advice for DIYers?
JF + TO: When considering a potential project, do your homework. YouTube is a great place to find inspiration and direction. Know when to call in a pro, especially when electric or plumbing are involved.
C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
JF + TO: Find a designer whose work appeals to your desired aesthetic. Make sure she listens and understands your goals and what you hope to achieve. A good designer can walk you through the costs and give you a realistic budget.
C: What is one design trend are you most excited about this season?
JF + TO: We’re really excited about the grid trend that we’re seeing right now across various mediums and products, in which negative space is highlighted. Glass windows and doors are striking when outlined in a dark color. Light, neutral walls are outlined with darker moldings, reversing the placement of recent color values. Modern interpretations of carriage light fixtures feature dark, bold framing around open filament bulbs. Furnishings, such as a Parsons table sit upon a contrasting open framework, and open shelving units contrast against a wall. A major plumbing manufacturer has just focused on this trend to debut a black grid faucet manufactured by 3D laser printer.
C: How do you take your coffee?
JF: Steaming hot or icy cold, depending on the weather, with half and half.
TO: First thing in the morning with lots of low-fat milk; and iced in the mid-afternoon if I need a pick-me-up! I like a closed drink container as I move fast and tend to spill…
TO + JF (in unison): And no sugar.
JF: We often finish each other’s sentences!