This story originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of Domino, titled “In Her Element.” Subscribe to be the first to receive each issue.
“When things feel easy, it means you’re on the right track,” says Caroline Z. Hurley. The artist and textile designer founded her namesake home textile brand around 2010 and later opened a shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, offering pillows, blankets, and fabric by the yard in natural materials and minimalist geometric prints. “At the time, I was making block-printed linen pieces to use in my paintings,” she explains. “I didn’t know I was starting a business.” One thing led to another, though, and a big-enough-to-change-everything order came in, switching her focus to launching the company. “I believe in hard work, but I’ve also learned to ride the wave knowing something great is on the way,” she notes.
So in late 2018, when it was time for her and then fiancé/now husband Alex Crane to talk cohabitation, Hurley only had to look at one apartment: the expansive three-bedroom in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood that Crane had been sharing with friends. The bones of the building appealed to her. “I loved my old place,” she says of the rental in Manhattan’s West Village she had called home for more than 15 years. “But Alex’s was beautiful, very spacious, and affordable, so it made a lot of sense. It felt like the option with the most flow.”
Even so, to shift the vibe of the loft from live-with-friends to domestic bliss, Hurley had some work to do. Balancing the hardwood floors with lots of white transformed the long, narrow 2,500-square-foot space, as did swapping small, old fixtures for bigger, brighter options and trading traditional doors for sliding barn doors that can be left open. “People may think I’m crazy, but when I walked in, there was a heaviness in the air,” says Hurley. To remedy the situation, she burned salt and sage and played sound currents every morning for the first three months. “It feels light and fresh now,” she says. “It’s definitely a palpable difference—at least to me!”
Hurley’s passion for feng shui also came into play. “It’s the aligning of energy in a space so that there’s a constant flow for creativity and never any stagnation,” she explains of the age-old Chinese approach to decorating with benefits. The system revolves around spatial relationships and the four elements, and in its most textbook form can involve pots of lucky bamboo and laughing Buddha figurines. But for Hurley, this translates into creating a similar feeling with items that are more representative than literal, like keeping all of her jewelry in her prosperity corner and making sure the entryway has a water element, such as a vase of fresh-cut flowers, and a grounding element, like the iron arch from her hometown of Memphis. “I’m a big believer that when your home feels good, your life feels good, too,” she says.
Testing out this theory, Hurley lives with her popular block-printed pillows and blankets, prototypes, and vintage treasures that she picked up at flea markets and shops around the neighborhood. “I like to use pops of color, but I need the big pieces to be neutral,” she says. Accents of bright indigo and black stand out against a range of ceramics in dusty pastels, adding texture and dimension. Above the extra-deep living room couch (which Hurley chose specifically so guests would be “sort of forced to lean back and be cozy”) is a pair of wood-and-metal quilt hangers she designed to easily rotate the textiles on display. Currently, her cream-and-peach tapestries feature layers attached to a canvas by a single thread, so when the air blows, “it looks like laundry in the wind.”
Scattered throughout is custom furniture of Hurley’s own design, a new venture that came about organically when she saw a need: “It was really hard for me to find pieces that weren’t $7,000 or wouldn’t fall apart in a year.” With simplicity and function in mind, she sketched her media cabinet, entryway credenza, and bar, then handed the drawings over to a woodworker, who brought them to life in plywood. (Some of these items, as well as a desk and Donald Judd–inspired chair, are now available online from her brand.)
To really concentrate on a project, Hurley heads to her studio in nearby Red Hook. “When I saw the building, it felt right, but the space I ended up taking was in bad shape,” she recalls. After negotiating with the owner, she was able to do away with the black ceilings and bust through a wall that had been covered with cinder blocks to create another window. “I need everything to be white right now,” says Hurley of her work environment. “I’m easily distracted, so it’s vital that my surroundings feel crisp and free of color.” Inside the 3,100-square-foot industrial loft, she dives into her fine arts practice and finds inspiration in her ever-growing stash of fabric scraps, bolts, and rolls she’s been collecting since high school. “Now it’s all housed under one roof and I’m able to spread it out and see everything,” she says. “They all carry their own stories and memories for me.”
While some might choose creating a welcoming home over optimizing a work zone or vice versa, Hurley sees them as equal priorities. “The places you spend the most amount of time in have the biggest impact on you,” she says. And with calm and grounded spaces like these, it’s easy to want to go with her flow.
More From Our Fall Issue:
Lena Dunham Finds Her Happy Place
Hand-Painted Wallpaper Sets the Scene in This Dreamy Manhattan Apartment
We Should All Emulate John Derian’s Casual Approach to Entertaining