Aside from a handful of pieces carried over from the clients’ last place, every single part of this Crown Heights, Brooklyn, apartment is brand new. And while starting essentially from scratch may sound daunting, designer Keren Richter welcomed the freedom that came with the project.
“[It] had some lighting fixtures that were inexpensive versions of what ‘rustic’ would look like, and a lot of paneling. The color story was cream, warm, exposed brick—it was just reading kind of 2008,” says Richter, the co-founder and creative director of design firm White Arrow, of what the apartment looked like before. “One of the first things we did was paint all the brick with this chalky plaster and make all the millwork matte, so there’s this interesting texture throughout the home but it’s quieter. It plays nicely with all the black hardware going on in there.”
The two-bedroom apartment benefitted from a relatively recent developer update; but while there were no glaring problems with the space and it was clean and modern enough, Richter and her team gave it a completely fresh look to suit the needs of the clients.
From the mundane (new plumbing fixtures) to the statement-making (new marble checkerboard flooring in the kitchen) to the artistic (original artwork sourced from a network of impressive artists), the 1,200-square-foot home was transformed to something more style-forward and custom.
Seriously: White Arrow even custom made a few of the standout pieces, most notably a gorgeous marble dining room table that oozes luxury and glamor.
The clients, a young couple with very few items they were bringing with them to the new home, were on board with taking their time with the design, allowing Richter to carefully choose every tiny accessory or massive pendant light that went into the space.
“They wanted the design language to feel sophisticated and elegant, but at the same time comfortable. They were interested in bringing in color and texture, but [still] making it feel cohesive and sophisticated,” says Richter. “They were into using a mix of vintage and [items sourced] from independent designers; very supportive of taking some chances but also investing in high-quality pieces from smaller firms.”
A blend of those special finds and more functional, customized additions—like a TV in the dining room that retracts back and forth to be seen from the living room, or a custom Murphy bed in the office-slash-guestroom that looks like a Shaker cabinet by day—make this apartment feel like home. Read on for more on how Richter created the artful space.
Did you have a specific source of style inspiration in mind for the space?
I love Shaker design, so we took from that with the peg rail and the cabinetry in the guestroom.
In the living room, we were trying to figure out a way to unite the space, since you have the kitchen, the living room, and the dining room all in one area. We tried to come up with a color story that would read very harmoniously—it’s sort of relaxing, but definitely also playful.
Speaking of color, it’s fair to say that blue seems to be a prevalent choice in this home. Why did you choose that as a base?
Blue is sort of my go-to! It’s such a soothing color and quite flattering. That might be why I use it in New York apartments; New York is such a stressful place, I think it might be a subconscious thing [I do] where I’m drawn to more calming colors, rather than fluorescent pink.
Can you tell us about all the art in the apartment?
We were very instrumental on the art decisions, which was really satisfying because I come from an art history background and I worked as an artist—I still do art, and I have a lot of friends who do art. So it was great to pick pieces by artists that we really respect and make sure they work harmoniously with the furniture. The David Black photo over the bed is so cool.
We love all the statement lighting! How did you incorporate it in the space?
I have been obsessed with Billy Cotton’s lighting for so long and I was so happy that we could finally use his work in an interior we were doing. I think that was the very first light we selected. I’m also a big fan of Anna Karlin’s work—she’s very talented, and was another designer we were really excited to use. There’s a lot of really great lighting design happening right now.
One of the things that’s so nice about using statement lighting is that it draws the eye up. It can make a space a lot bigger. And since it’s not being handled, there’s less of a chance it’ll get wrecked—your lighting is like a beautiful piece of jewelry, and it’s pretty much going to be fine.
How did you approach closet design?
For the man, we did custom walnut cabinetry so that he would have really good storage for his ties and belts and all his shoes. For the woman, we wanted to create a space that has lots of shoe storage and then also a custom dresser; they’re all painted blue to match.
What are your tips on designing or organizing your closet to maximize functionality?
I think that having good lighting in your closet can be very helpful. Even if you can do some kind of LED light that comes on when you open the door; then you can actually see what you have.
Have all of your hangers be the same—it instantly makes everything look put together.
I’m also a big advocate of culling your entire wardrobe. Once a season or once a year, make some decisive moves about what you’re keeping and what you’re not keeping. I’m often pushing Marie Kondo on people. Love what you live with, and then it won’t feel so cluttered. Even [doing] silly things, like tying all your shoelaces together on your shoes… be nice to the things that you keep around you. If you really love them, you should treat them well.