On the way to Diego Olivero and Gonzalo Pertile’s apartment on a frigid Sunday morning, there’s no question that we’re in Brooklyn. The L shuttle bus roars by and twenty-somethings huddle for warmth while waiting for a brunch table. But on the third floor of the 1920 townhome, which smells faintly of dulce de leche, the sunny rooms evoke a global bazaar.
It’s no wonder since the residents are the co-founders of Meso Goods, a Guatemala City-based design and export company where traditional craftsmanship meets modernism. Chances are you haven’t heard of Meso but you’ve certainly seen the wool rugs, river rock sculptures, and other products it makes for popular decor chains such as West Elm and CB2.
Olivero, an industrial and interior designer, guides the brand’s aesthetic while Pertile brings expertise in international development and business strategy. Their venture is a “social enterprise” that improves the lives of more than 550 artisan families—including weavers, ceramists, and iron workers—mainly in Central and South America. For example, Meso Goods has increased the income of its textile partners in the highlands of Momostenango, Guatemala, fivefold since 2013.
The couple married in 2016 and moved to New York City last year when Pertile joined J. Crew as the director of corporate social responsibility. He and Olivero toured 40 apartments before leaping on their charming rental with 10-foot ceilings in East Williamsburg. “It checked all of our boxes,” Pertile says of the apartment, which includes an entertaining space, a home office, and convenience to the subway.
The couple also craved character and their home’s historical elements—stained-glass windows, detailed molding, and fireplaces—fit the bill. “[We wanted] something that was remodeled but that had that New York kind of vibe,” Olivero says.
With accolades that include the Public Medal from the London Design Biennale 2018, Olivero took the lead on decorating the apartment. His husband didn’t mind a bit. “We agree on everything except the height of pictures,” the slender Pertile shares with a laugh. “I’m a little bit taller than Diego, so every time I say, ‘Higher, higher!’ And he’s like, ‘No, this is perfect.’”
Comical squabbles aside, the two insist that their eclectic style evolves naturally, without a master plan. “It’s just pieces that we love,” Olivero says. “It’s effortless,” Pertile adds. Their magical mix includes souvenirs from trips around the world, handmade accessories that Olivero has developed, and modern furniture from companies with practices that are good for makers and the planet.
In the living room, the bubble-like Random Light by Moooi draws the eye up, and the Etni wool rug designed by Olivero for Meso Goods anchors everything below. The deep-seated Shelter Sofa from West Elm is clearly appreciated by Rasta, the formerly feral and dreadlocked dog. The Ring Chair, wrapped in dandelion wool from Design Within Reach, provides the white room’s boldest pop of color.
A sculptural Fábrica wooden chair cushioned with recycled tire rubber resides next to the ornate fireplace, whose mantel shows off Inca-inspired vases designed by Olivero, plus a beaded hat he bought from a street vendor in Peru. The one-of-a-kind coffee table has similarly exotic origins: it was sliced from an elephant-ear tree that fell on a friend’s farm in Guatemala. “Who designed it? Nature. We just added four legs,” Olivero says.
Beyond the original pocket door with an etched glass panel is Olivero’s small office, a niche filled with art supplies. The dramatic print over the desk is by the Guatemalan artist Rodolfo Abularach, who explored the human eye for decades. To the right resides a figure of Ekeko, a Peruvian god of abundance, to whom Olivero offers money and cigarettes.
In the dining room, Olivero sketches and paints at West Elm’s Mid-Century Expandable Dining Table topped with a resin sculpture by his mother, Lucia Rohrmann. He mixed Classic Café Upholstered Dining Chairs and Wire Frame Upholstered Dining Chairs in antique brass, also from West Elm. A large abstract painting by Mauricio Contreras-Paredes and a Sunshine wool sculpture by Meso Goods are standouts on the gallery wall.
In the crisp white kitchen, freshly renovated by the landlord, souvenirs such as the candombe musicians from Pertile’s native Uruguay peer down from the rustic shelves while the couple prepares comforting hilachas and empanadas. An altar clustered with candles and spiritual symbols occupies the decorative brick fireplace. “It’s a mix of traditions and cultures and beliefs,” Olivero says. “Every time we’re manifesting, a candle [lights] up.”
For a visual surprise in the bedroom, the couple flanked the Modern Show Wood Bed with asymmetrical side tables and lamps, all from West Elm. Calming gray organic cotton linens from Muji, a graphic lumbar pillow from Meso Goods, and a hand-woven alpaca throw picked up in Peru envelop the bed, while three ink drawings by the Guatemalan artist Marlov Barrios hang above it.
At the time of our February visit, the couple was bracing for another year filled with travel plans to Mexico, Morocco, Hong Kong, and more. If you ask Pertile, their deeply personal Brooklyn abode is a much-needed sanctuary between trips: “I would say wherever our art is, we feel at home.”
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