For Brooklynite Jill Singer, a second residence—in her case, a summer home in East Hampton, New York, purchased in 2013—offered more than just an escape from fast-paced city living. It provided an opportunity to display the growing collection of contemporary art and design she’d amassed while editing Sight Unseen, the online magazine she cofounded with Monica Khemsurov four years earlier. “My apartment was beginning to burst at the seams,” she says with a laugh.
Over time, the 2,500-square-foot bungalow getaway—which Singer shares with husband Brad Schneider and kids Jonah (9) and Isabel (5)—came to house an expanding lineup of the design world’s most up-and-coming names (think: Fort Standard candlesticks, a pink Michael Felix chair, and a Ben & Aja Blanc mirror). But it made its most significant transformation in 2019, when the couple hired interior designers Keren and Thomas Richter to round out a cohesive new look that merged thoughtful sophistication with breezy informality. “I wanted it to be pretty, clean, and relaxing,” says Singer.
However, as any parent can attest, pretty and clean don’t always go hand in hand with family living. Along with updating placeholder furniture and fully reimagining the owners’ bed and bath, the Richters increased the home’s kid-friendly quotient (and preserved its clutter-free calm) by turning an unfinished basement into a multipurpose room geared for out-of-the-way play. Jonah and Isabel’s bedrooms received small tweaks, too, but for Singer, who allowed the kids to cocurate their spaces, the key to design harmony lay in a balance of collaboration and compromise. “They know what they like, and they trust my taste, too,” she says. “In the end, they have veto power!”
Below, four takeaways from Singer’s design process with her minis.
Think Beyond Kids’ Brands
In Singer’s eyes, there’s more to kid-friendly design than just superhero prints and fairy-tale frills. “My philosophy is that almost anything can be a kids’ brand if it’s colorful enough,” she says, singling out grown-up-approved labels like Dusen Dusen, Cold Picnic, and Pieces, whose vibrant offerings are equal parts playful and polished.
Make It a History Lesson
It’s never too early to introduce the next gen to the classics—of furniture design, that is. “I’ve sourced things for my kids like Joe Colombo’s Universale chairs, the Rodney Kinsman Omkstak chair, and Murano lamps,” says Singer. Vintage treasures bring another layer of old-school charm to the mix—a red pencil lamp in Jonah’s room is one of the editor’s favorite additions—and there are deals to be had if you do your online research.
Create Space for Messes
A top-to-bottom overhaul of the home’s unfinished basement was a gain for the whole family. For Jonah and Isabel, the redesign resulted in a roomy new play area; for Singer and her husband, it offered tucked-away toy storage and an anxiety-free zone for kids’ clutter to live. “I wanted them to have their own world where they could go a little crazy,” explains Singer. The real icing on the cake? A collection of White Arrow–designed play shapes, inspired by wood building blocks but fashioned out of foam. (If custom isn’t an option, Nugget, Bobles, and KlipKlap all offer similar styles.)
Whenever possible, Singer makes design decisions a collaborative affair. Isabel, then only 4, chose the cotton candy–hued paint for her walls and ceiling, and when Jonah asked for a basketball hoop for his room, Singer discovered one they both liked: “Would I normally choose to have a basketball hoop in the house? Maybe not. But we found one that was nice-looking—a win-win!”
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