A Prewar Brooklyn Home Marries Historic Charm with Modern, Artful Style
In Brooklyn Heights, stylist Erin Walsh fashions her apartment with an eclectic point of view.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:30 AM
Stylist Erin Walsh and her husband, fashion photographer Christian Högstedt, never pictured leaving downtown Manhattan, where studio shoots and work events are all conveniently close by. But when their expanding family outgrew a Tribeca loft, the couple considered decamping to Brooklyn.
Last year, they moved with their 2-year-old daughter, Matilda (and son Jude, now 7 months, on the way), to a prewar Brooklyn Heights building that was serendipitously located next door to a playground. The apartment, spread over two ﬂoors, felt like a step back in time, with its four ﬁreplaces and curving walls whose rooms once entertained a myriad of pastimes. “Our bedroom was an old gentlemen’s cigar room,” says Walsh. “The bones of the space are crazy. The ceilings are so tall and the moldings have entire narratives to them.”
The couple sought to maintain the original features with one exception: lighting. Högstedt, who shoots for publications such as Marie Claire and Vogue, understands the power of good glow. He replaced each of the pendant ﬁxtures to create a rosier, almost golden, light and painted and scribbled on paper lanterns from Pearl River Mart for a cool DIY moment.
Drawing on her expertise, Walsh saw the project much the way she dresses her clients—including Sarah Jessica Parker, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Thandie Newton, women who embrace vibrant palettes and prints on red carpets and in everyday life. “Our home is evocative of our style DNA,” Walsh explains. “It’s walking that line of clean and a little crazy.”
In the living room, a black-and-white–patterned couch serves as the focal point, along with a stark black daybed set by the windows, both covered in brightly patterned pillows. When paired alongside mismatched artwork, lots of plants, and coffee-table books neatly piled on almost every surface, the effect takes on a free-spirited feel.
“Your home is your sanctuary, so you want it to be cozy and calm,” says the stylist of ﬁnding the right balance. “But you have to be brave in your choices or else it won’t have personality.” Walsh, who also runs the multimedia platform Sbjct Journal, admits this sense of boldness is relatively new. She and Högstedt’s ﬁrst apartment was kept spare mostly due to her self-doubt in creating spaces that make a statement. “Over time I started to own my style and felt more comfortable being allowed to have an opinion,” she says. “Those decisions end up being the ones I love the most.”
The apartment’s art collection reﬂects that same personalized approach, where the couple’s most prized pieces are a nod to their storied careers. In the dining room, a photograph of Kate Moss posing on a bathroom sink, by Mario Testino (Högstedt was his assistant for many years), shares the room with a signed Irving Penn ﬂower print, which the late photographer presented to Walsh at a Vogue shoot years ago. The works join a high-low mix, ranging from fashion photography to quirky prints scored in antique shops.
The decor goal overall was a “Scandinavian meets Peruvian” vibe, where minimalist design gives way to layered textiles in the form of patterned rugs, alpaca blankets, and gigantic children’s pom-poms from Lima. (The couple traveled extensively to Peru with Testino, who introduced them to his native country’s centuries-old design craftsmanship.) Other ﬁnds reﬂect Högstedt’s Swedish heritage: Josef Frank pillows hail from Stockholm staple Svenskt Tenn, and various objets, such as brass candleholders and trays, are by Skultuna.
Ready to go bold in your own space? Ahead, Walsh spills her tried-and-true decorating tips for instilling a dynamic detail within any interior.
Find Art Everywhere: Walsh curated a mix of works that range from high-end fashion prints to ﬂea-market ﬁnds, adding visual interest and variety.
Get Funny: Bring levity to any room with quirky color, furniture, or art. “We love silly accents amid cleaner lines,” she says.
Layer It On: The stylist deftly combines different textiles—Liberty prints, John Derian bedspreads, Moroccan rugs—with an “organized chaos” approach to give each room depth.
Make One Thing Pop: Let a piece of furniture sing while the remainder plays a supporting role. “Choose your investment item and decorate to it,” Walsh suggests.This feature originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of Domino, titled “Tailor Made.”