Homefront: Pretty Tough

Contrast is key for Queen Village designer Julianna Holowka, whose home furnishings and lighting skate the line between delicate and edgy.

Queen Village-based designer Julianna Holowka subscribes to tough love for the home. It’s a lesson she learned from her mom. “My mother went through a horribly bad ‘country-kitchen’ phase,” she says. “Growing up, our house was full of doilies, geese, ducks and bunnies.” Now, Holowka crafts furnishings and accents that are anything but precious: polystyrene-and-linen lamps that resemble maces, a spiked oak headboard, red-on-white cherub toile lampshades. It’s punk rock meets classic jazz, the Sistine Chapel encounters chaos theory—a melding of dichotomies inspired by the artist’s studies in industrial design, biochemistry, graphic art, and Italian art and architecture. So, if her Josephine lamp — polystyrene-and-linen white ellipses curling from a white shade — recalls old black-and-white photos of Josephine Baker holding feathered fans, if her Wave candles look like infinity signs, or if the headboard resembles a certain pair of heavy church doors down a back alley in Rome, well, it’s entirely intentional.

Currently, Holowka is sharing a space and collaborating with Colonial Wallpaper on Passyunk Avenue, custom-making each piece, day by day, one by one. “I’m still adding color, still adding texture, still switching materials,” she says. Each lampshade takes from four to ten hours to complete, and the work on the headboard was so intensive that she doesn’t want to guess how long it would take to reproduce it. She says there’s no set formula for her work, only inspiration, trial and error. “I love what I do, so I don’t even keep track of the time,” says Holowka. “It truly is a labor of love.”

Julianna Holowka, Philadelphia, www.juliannaholowka.com