Step Inside RHONY Star Brynn Whitfield’s Never-Before-Seen West Village Apartment
If you’re lucky, she’ll play you in chess.
Published Aug 2, 2023 11:45 AM
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Brynn Whitfield is sure she has the best view on her block. When the longtime public relations consultant and new cast member on The Real Housewives of New York looks out her living room window, she can see directly into one of the stately single-family brownstones on her West Village street. And through the paned glass is what appears to be a spidery Serge Mouille ceiling lamp, a new version of which goes for a cool $8,500 at Design Within Reach. Even though her prewar apartment is a fraction of the size, Whitfield decided she needed one of her own, so she went to West Elm and bought a look-alike for roughly $400. “Now we’re twinsies,” she says with a laugh.
Now she’s finally able to show it off. Shortly after Bravo approached Whitfield about joining the show, she went to her building management to get permission for filming and the answer was a firm “no” (so instead, all of her scenes are captured in other people’s homes or around the city). But here we are. When Whitfield really wants something, she makes it happen. Yet another example: For a long time, she held off on investing in her dream copper cookware, thinking it would make for a great wedding registry addition one day. “Then two years ago, after another breakup, I was like, screw it, I’m buying myself the pans,” she says.
She’s been that way since she was a kid growing up in Indiana, where she and her siblings were raised by their single grandmother. On Sundays, when the newspaper would arrive, they’d skip to the furniture advertisements and announce which pieces they’d buy if—when—they could afford it. While in college at Purdue, as everyone else scoured Target for new dorm decor, Whitfield riffled through flea markets and her grandmother’s basement in search of secondhand scores. She hung her Strokes posters on the walls, used a cut-up sari to spice up the bland ceiling panels, and swapped the landline for an old-school rotary dial phone. “Hoping and dreaming of having a nice house one day stuck with me,” she shares.
The fact that Whitfield’s one-bedroom is a rental hasn’t stopped her from making updates—the kind that can be easily reversed when she moves out, at least. The green-tiled floor in her tiny galley kitchen wasn’t her speed, so she found peel-and-stick squares on Amazon to put on top. It only took her a few hours, during which she even took a Zoom call. “I think that day I just told people I’m going to be off video,” she says. Her time-saving trick? Lay all the black pieces down first.
Partway through painting the cabinets and walls in Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room Pink, however, Whitfield almost backed out of her plan. “I did two coats of this greenish gray primer, and for a day I left it because it reminded me of one of my favorite shows as a kid, The Nanny,” she recalls. She only pushed forward with the muted rose color because she had already paid for the expensive paint cans. Although, once she got the idea to swath the ceiling in the hue, too, she realized it was still the right move. A portrait titled The Smoker hangs in the center of the picture molding she nailed up after painstakingly sawing the Home Depot–sourced trim by hand. “I wish I had bought an electric saw. It was like going to Barry’s Bootcamp,” she jokes.
The tool has since been filed away alongside her measuring tape, which she uses even less frequently. Whitfield reveals she’s eyeballed almost everything and got it right on the first try. “It’s my weird superpower,” she says. The banquette just outside the kitchen was admittedly a tight squeeze (it took three strong nudges to get it into the nook), but it was a necessary addition in her eyes—it’s the foundation of her main entertaining space. When friends come over, she’ll turn the chair at her vanity-slash-desk around and use it as extra seating at the table.
One such friend: Fellow season-14 castmate Jenna Lyons, whose interior style she’s admired for years (she spotted her old Brooklyn brownstone in the pages of Domino back in 2008). “I remember thinking, one day I want to have a townhouse and be giving my child a bath while wearing a ballgown,” says Whitfield, who joked to Lyons when she first arrived that her brass-and-velvet–filled home is the “bootleg” version of Lyons’s SoHo loft. The former J.Crew creative director gave her blessing right away. “She took a call in my room and was lying on my bed looking around, touching things,” recalls Whitfield. “To me she’s just Jenna, but at that moment, when it came to design, I was like, she’s Jenna.”
Her costar’s perch, an upholstered bed frame from CB2, didn’t require a kick in order to fit into the space, but it did take Whitfield a while to come to terms with having to crawl over her mattress to close the curtains. “My first place in New York was a six-floor walk-up on Thompson Street where my bed touched all three sides of the room. I promised myself I’d never do that again,” she says, “but I really love this bed.”
While the closet opposite the windows is technically deep enough to step into, it’s not the spacious walk-in you might expect a RHONY star to have. Whitfield makes up for the lack of storage by keeping all her off-season clothes (along with her expansive collection of antique books) in a Manhattan Mini Storage unit and tucking shallow bins underneath the bed. “Mostly I just wear jeans and a baseball cap because I can’t be bothered to do the ‘great rotation,’” she confesses. It wasn’t until she hit the nine-month mark of living in the apartment that she added shelves to the random jut-out above her doorway, completing it with a Beauty and the Beast–inspired ladder. Her shoes deserve a proper home, too.
Dates have to wait a while to see that project—or her whole apartment, for that matter. For Whitfield, inviting someone to hang out means you’re really getting to know her. “I can be very flirty and fun and silly, but then you come to my house and it’s more serious,” she says. Classical music dominates her playlists, she talks to her orchids (she heard it helps them grow), and chessboards are scattered around her living room (Whitfield took lessons once a week for a year, long before The Queen’s Gambit premiered).
One of her most prized possessions is a U.S. Census record tracing her father’s lineage back to a slave plantation in Marion County, Alabama. When Whitfield, who is biracial, found out her family members had worked in the kitchen, she decided to hang it above the doorway in her own. “I’m not hiding it, but I also don’t need people to walk and see it and go, ‘What’s this?’ It just means something to me,” she shares. In a fire, she says, it’s the first thing she’d grab.
“I used to think, I want to move to New York. I want what I see in the magazines. Now I’m proud of what I have after not being proud of it for a while,” says Whitfield. The next big thing, though, is always on her mind: “I have my eye on the brownstone across the street.”