In Christene Barberich’s Brooklyn Haven, Vintage Finds and Natural Light Are Tailored To Fit
The Refinery29 co-founder knows how to make the most of her space.
Published Aug 23, 2020 4:10 PM
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Christene Barberich can’t help but approach things instinctually—be it her Brooklyn Heights home, her wardrobe, or her role as global editor in chief and co-founder of Refinery29, the maverick fashion and lifestyle site that launched in 2005. In other words, she finds things she loves that both defy and define a genre.
Case in point: the two-bedroom apartment Barberich shares with her husband, Kevin Baxter, and their three-legged cat, Phoebe—with every inch being a testament to the power of good editing, skilled vintage shopping, savvy organization, and the art of marriage. Baxter, an architect who founded the firm Baxter Projects, oversaw the complete project two years ago. Barberich eloquently captures a sentiment shared by most New Yorkers when reflecting on the spaces’ transformation, “I moved from one crumbling apartment to another, there’s a certain charm in feeling you can make something out of nothing.”
Living with an architect makes a complete guts-to-girders reno easier, though, right? Not necessarily—at least for Baxter. “It was more stressful because it was my home. He wanted it to be exactly what I wanted—like a love letter to me,” Barberich explains. And at the heart of the apartment is the skylight above the living room and cozy lofted office, through which the space is illuminated, along with the massive picture window with views of the East River and Ellis Island. “Kevin insisted on Farrow & Ball’s All White,” she says. “I was nervous because it’s so light in here, but now everything looks like it has a lightbox around it.”
Other than the sofa and area rug, on which Barberich consulted with Suzanne and Lauren McGrath of McGrath II, nearly everything else is a vintage find or custom piece, such as the set of Mies van der Rohe leather-bound chairs flanking the bespoke dining table. There’s the eBay-sourced mid-century light fixtures hanging over the custom concrete kitchen counter, made by a third-generation Bay Ridge shop; the set of Milo Baughman chairs, redone in hot pink Ultrasuede, which playfully soften the industrial lines of the fireplace’s metalwork; and a gallery’s worth of artworks that Barberich has found on her travels, which sit alongside pieces from student artists at Savannah College of Art and Design.
But each item has a story and a purpose. “I have a real appreciation for legacy pieces,” Barberich says. “I like old things, but they have to feel contemporary. They can’t look stuck in the past.” Spoken like a true visionary.
Ideas For Maximizing Space
- White pegboard doubles as an organizer in the kitchen as a modern, and as a textural contrast on a living room wall. “As soon as Christene mentioned it, I knew the pegboard would be an interesting surface both graphically and functionally,” says Baxter.
- Put sleek shoeboxes on display, like Barberich did with extra silvery Sigerson Morrison boxes in her bedroom.
- Consider fashion art by hanging floral dresses against fuzzy coats (too large to fit in the closet) on the outside of your wardrobe doors.