An East Village Brownstone Where Every Floor Encourages a Different Energy
Upstairs is for socializing; downstairs is for recharging.
Published Mar 18, 2022 1:01 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
Interior design firm Studio DB usually only takes on start-to-finish renovation projects; it allows the team to make good on a total vision, from layouts to hardware choices. But when the creatives behind Bower Studios recommended principal designer Britt Zunino meet with a young couple about decorating their brownstone in New York’s East Village, she couldn’t pass it up. “What sold me was the owners’ presentation,” says Zunino. They had put together a PowerPoint presentation of furniture they already owned, wallpaper patterns they loved, and inspiration for each room. “It’s brave to show up to a consultation with fully formed ideas,” she adds—the duo was clearly serious about getting every detail right.
In the beginning of 2020, the duo followed the masses out to the suburbs. Then their offer on a dream Long Island modernist home fell through (the sellers got cold feet). Rather than prompting them to dig in their heels, however, the disappointment led Zunino’s clients to double down on the place they had always called home: Manhattan. That recommitment served them well—they found a classic brownstone within a few months.
Zunino’s brief was simple: Breathe some life into the stark (yet architecturally beautiful; just look at the spiral staircase) bones of the newly renovated structure. “The couple was really into bold gestures,” explains Zunino. “But they still wanted to feel calm when they came home at the end of the day.” Each room on the main floor has a unique take—the library’s yellow floral wallpaper and navy ceilings, for instance, can be seen in the adjoining mostly monochrome living room. (The powder room, on the other hand, is a soft pink.)
With no TV in sight, it might look like this couple doesn’t appreciate a good movie night, but in fact there’s a hidden projector screen built into the daybed alcove to the left of the sofa. During the day, the modular seating frames the custom marble fireplace. But when it’s time to catch up on their favorite shows, they simply reconfigure the sectional by moving the back panels. “It was a fun, five-minute design challenge,” says Zunino. “How can we make two focal points work at the same time?”
A formal dining table was abandoned in favor of an intimate nook complete with striped wood table by Fort Standard; there are also a few barstools in the kitchen down the hall. “The rooftop is beautiful, so all hosting would happen out there. They’re casual people,” explains Zunino.
As you traverse a star-studded tile floor to the terrace (the home’s second outdoor space), Zunino describes an energetic design shift. While the interior is intended for low-key lounging, the exterior spaces were made for gatherings big and small. The patio features a pair of Faye Toogood’s iconic Roly Poly chairs for morning coffee conversations and summer breakfasts (their plastic forms can withstand a little rain and wind). Upstairs, it’s party time with a large, picnic-style table and bright orange love seat.
Guests are greeted by a marble table in the lower level’s foyer, before they ascend the stairs, but the rest of that floor is the owners’ calm zone. Originally, one wall of the primary bedroom was clad in sleek, dark wood paneling, but Zunino convinced the couple to paint it white in order to reflect more light (the room has only two windows). “The one thing we couldn’t change was a pair of pesky speakers built in to the headboard,” she says. Her clients are grateful for one design decision the previous owners made: With the bed in the middle of the room versus against a wall, the mattress never gets hit with direct sunlight—ideal for lazy Sundays.
The couple was honest—and decisive—at the start, from stating where they would realistically eat dinner (the kitchen island) to voicing how they felt about wallpapering the guest bathrooms (it would only work because they wouldn’t see the patterns every day). Zunino recalls, “They did what made sense for their lives, even if that meant doing something different.”