We trailed Nina Kooloian Tegu, proprietor of Studio Hop, home. And what did we find? The sunny lair she shares with her husband and son reflects her personal aesthetic—just like her Providence shop—in every way.
Passersby see a modest house the color of a faded rose. But almost everything inside this endearing North Providence home, which Nina and her husband, sculptor Peter Tegu, built seventeen years ago on farmland where Nina played as a child, is vintage, handcrafted or salvaged. The savvy couple snagged their eight-and-a-half-foot, yolk-colored sixties sofa, which they attribute to American designer Edward Wormley, at the Brimfield Antique Show. The living room’s boomerang-shaped coffee table arrived via another shopping trip. Floating on top is a handmade bowl and a cache of antique Japanese fishing knives. The latter, says Nina, remind her of birds.
The streamlined credenza showcases some of son Eli’s creations and favorite collectibles. A signed Chagall painting—“It may or may not be original,” notes Nina—hovers above, flanked by a pair of wire display forms from the twenties.
A Closer Look
Fourteen-year-old Eli follows in his creative parents’ footsteps. His delicately carved sticks (above) bear Mother’s and Father’s Day greetings. The painting was a gift from New York-based artist Elizabeth Line. An audacious fiddleheaded musician, also by Eli, was born as a school project.
In this house, small treasures are life’s joys: The antique Japanese teapot (left) was a gift from Nina to the family. “You fill it through a hole in the bottom. There’s no stopper. You upright the pot, and this magic spiral-like interior somehow prevents
the water from spilling out,” she explains. The vintage egg cups are part of Eli’s collection. The striped creamer and sugar bowl are by Providence artist Dwo Wen Chen, a regular at the shop. And those Italian cucumber dishes? “Perfect for my cucumber and yogurt soup,” Nina says.
Uncanny at spotting jewels the rest of us let slip by, the Tegus balance their sassy retro finds with plenty of mementos. Take, for instance, Eli’s ceramic fruit (right), which rivals the real thing. Or the whimsical copper bouquet (below) Peter fashioned for Nina’s birthday using lightening cables. One flower holds a Nova Scotia beach stone at its heart, a sweet reminder of a family vacation.
The glass-topped propeller table was discovered at an antiques fair. And when Peter, who frequently claims the vinyl-and-leather armchairs for nighttime reading, needed a light, only a lamp by textile artist Cynthia Treen—vintage teak base teamed with handmade drum shade—would do. A nearby Deco painting on glass, which was unearthed in Westerly, affords the living room corner an extra spark of color.
A Closer Look
“I’m always researching and discovering new designers. It’s part of what I love about having a shop,” says Nina. This stunning circa-1957, walnut-veneered bent-plywood chair with sweeping arms is by Norman Cherner. The wavy wool rug beneath is one of the few belongings the couple deigned to buy “new.”
A saucy wrought-iron table with a handmade tile top (right), lugged home from Manhattan, marks the entrance to the dining area where the gallery-esque vibe continues. Neutral walls and plenty of light provide an unhindered backdrop for the generous teak table and clean-silhouetted chairs. “We couldn’t believe we were lucky enough to find a 1950s set with eight seats,” Nina— who loves to gather family and friends—beams. “We’ve always been recyclers and savers. We’d even stockpiled most of the windows we used for this house while we were living in a loft. We thought we might build some day.”
Here, as in all the rooms, art plays a prominent role. Among the Tegu’s heady mix: Peter’s sculptures (a “mermaid” made of vintage auto parts greets visitors in the entry), aged finds, paintings by friends and photographs. Never mere decoration, each piece, like everything else, has an engaging story to tell.
A Closer Look
Fish, like the twin vases brimming with tulips (left), are another of Nina’s passions. “Their faces just really speak to me,” she explains. “And the color, of course, too.” Yellow is a prime hue (you’ll notice at the shop) for this design guru. The stout vase at the center, which gives the duo visual weight, is Weller pottery. The old oil painting of birds (above) turned up in Massachusetts.
– Photography by Nat Rea