Dorothy Parker observed 95 years ago that “you never get used to New York.” However, there are specific characteristics that Big Apple residents are eventually attracted to, like frogs swimming in boiling water. They include trash heaps, tourists, subway vermin, and, most of all, tiny living quarters.
One Manhattanite was fortunate enough to land her dream home in 2004 – a tiny one-bedroom of 490 square feet in the borough’s historic West Village. Although not quite as large, the house was sylvan in its views of lush backyards and red brick townhouses. It also provided a sanctuary from the rigors of being a psychologist in clinical practice. After almost two decades of living there, it was time to claim it as her own.
“I loved the location, and I loved the light and the feel of my apartment, always,” the owner states. “It had just been done, you know, without a lot of personal touches.”
To bring her home to the next chapter of her life, The client enlisted the creative team she had hired to develop her psychological practice a few years ago, Method Design and interior designer Nina Barnieh-Blair. “I had so much fun working with all of them, and it was just such a joy that, when it came time for this project, they were people I trusted and wanted to work with again,” she says.
The key to Method’s plan was to define the apartment’s layout. The flat was blessed with a row of windows facing north and a bathroom walled off; a galley kitchen obstructed most of them. Method Architects, an architectural company attracted to the client for its sleek and warm interiors, pushed the wall off the bathroom and added an open-plan kitchen to ensure that the entire residence could be lit with a single corridor of light. The apartment layout was now in place; it was time for Barnieh Blair to create her magic.
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Barnieh Blair, who enjoyed a profession in the business world in London before moving to New York to pursue interior design, views her designs as “an “emotional and practical response to a space.” “I was brought up in Ghana by my grandmother, and one of the things that I love and that carries on in me is that process of storytelling, this whole idea that a home is telling the story of the person who lives there,” she adds.
In this project, the story started to unfold as soon as the client saw an enthralling photograph taken by an artist from Minneapolis, Alec Soth. “I’d seen it a million years ago on Artsy, and it just stuck with me,” she declares. “And when we went to Sean Kelly Gallery to see it, I loved it even more.”
“You can always tell in a client’s eyes,” the designer says.
The abstract portrait of a woman before a colander of overly ripe strawberries–subsequently became a linchpin in Barnieh-Blair’s design. For example, the rough surface of the strawberry was transformed into a soft pink tufted sofa made from Ligne Roset. Hiroko Takeda incorporated greens, bright whites, and gold into wall weavings, a mixed-media work created by the Artist MyoungAe Lee, and small tables made by Matter Made.
Barnieh-Blair also incorporated the colors of the trees’ canopy into the design, ranging from an emerald-tiled shower and built-in storage units in the bedroom to stool-like seating around that kitchen’s island. “Go in and you feel like you are sort of on a roof terrace somewhere,” she declares. “We joked internally that we were going to make a modern Parisian treehouse,” the homeowner says.
The newly designed kitchen, complete with crisp white cabinets, copper pendant lighting, and a trio of bar stools, was highly beneficial during the pandemic. According to the client, she made an intimate group of people to break up the isolation. The kitchen has been used to its fullest. “[Before the renovation] I never felt great about inviting people to my apartment,” she explains. “But now I can invite my family and friends at my house for dinner and even a part of the clinical staff was in the area enjoying pizza and drinks last evening. Everyone is relaxed to walk into on the island.”
While Marie Kondo’s client Marie Kondo disposed of most of her furniture to prepare for the remodel, a handful of precious items are left. For example, on top of her mattress is a photo taken by Toby Burrows of a woman jumping jubilantly across a lush field. “I feel like that’s a nice vestige of my younger life,” the customer declares. Even though she’s within her home, her feet are securely on the ground.