The Insider: Nordic Edge in Park Slope

This is The Insider, Brownstoner’s every-Thursday look at a recent interior design/renovation project in the borough of Brooklyn. It’s written and produced by design journalist/blogger Cara Greenberg. who also writes The Outsider, Brownstoner’s new garden series, Sundays at 8AM.


SOMETIMES IT TAKES a view from the other side of the world to shake things up a little. In Brooklyn, with our wealth of historic architecture, interior design often veers toward the [yawn] traditional. In this 5-bedroom triplex, created from two apartments in a modern building, native Norwegians Anna Cappelen and Nina Wolff, founders of the SoHo-based design firm Curious Yellow, have introduced “a rock’n’roll aesthetic” to the proceedings, says Victoria Arnan-Fretheim, a designer in the four-woman shop. (The company’s name comes from a 1967 Swedish film that broke ground for its sexual candor.)

Their trademark blend of unusual materials, rich textures, and wide-ranging styles is evident. Romantic elements bump up against hard-edged ’70s, graphic patterns against all-white Scandinavian practicality. “We like to mix it up, cross borders, balance eras and idioms,” says Victoria Arnan-Fretheim, a designer in the four-woman shop (the fourth member of the team is Chloe Pollack-Robbins).

The architectural design, including a breakfast area with angled plywood walls, a mudroom fitted out with storage, and all other built-ins throughout, are the work of architect Ole Sondresen.

See and read more after the jump.

Photos: Margrethe Myhrer


Walls of drift elm in the double-height living room hide floor-to-ceiling storage. The TV disappears behind sliding panels. Floors are stained walnut. The existing hanging light globes came from Design Within Reach. Standing lamp in the left hand rear corner is from AllModern.

 

The clients’ own classic mid-20th century furnishings include a sofa from Roche Bobois, and a Noguchi coffee table and Eames plywood lounge chair from Design Within Reach. The textured custom rug is from Mastour Galleries. Throw pills were custom-made with fabrics from Designers Guild and Mood Fabrics.

 

The dining table is from City Joinery, the chairs from Knoll. The arc lamp comes from White on White, the rug from Rug Company. The photograph is by Tim Walker.

 


The all-white kitchen, opposite the living and dining rooms on the other side of the staircase, has Caesarstone countertops and a Wolf stove. Onda bar stools from Design Within Reach; lotus flower chandeliers from a vintage store in San Francisco.


“The breakfast nook is an ‘exposed edge’ plywood assembly and we think of it as a room within a room,” says architect Ole Sondresen. Located next to the kitchen on the main, or middle, floor of the triplex, there’s a built-in banquette covered with fabric from Kravet; throw pillows from Marimekko. The Eero Saarinen tulip chairs and table base are from Design Within Reach.


 

A home office with walls of walnut veneer at the rear of the main (middle) floor becomes a guest room with a drop-down Murphy bed, above.

 

An existing staircase leads to the master suite on the mezzanine above the living/dining areas. There’s a new stair directly below it, connecting to the ground-floor level that was incorporated into this new triplex. Walls in both stairwells are papered with Imperial Trellis from Schumacher.


The top-floor master bedroom, with Jewel of Spring wallpaper from Osborn and Little, is furnished mostly from Design Within Reach, including the bed, lights, and nightstand. Bedding from Restoration Hardware.


The yellow Arne Jacobsen Egg chair and ottoman in the master bedroom, which is an open mezzanine above the kitchen, looking down over the living and dining areas, are from Design Within Reach.


The custom master bath by Curious Yellow features a walnut veneer vanity with sinks from WS Bath Collections and low-lead single handle faucets from Dornbracht. The Luxor gray stone wall tile is from Ann Sacks.

 

On the lower level of the triplex, where there’s access from the street, there’s a mud room with custom built-ins.

 

The George Nelson desk and Eames chair in the ground-floor guest bedroom are from Design Within Reach.

 

The guest bedroom rug, by Hokku Designs, is from AllModern, as are the Lights Up! Soiree table lamps. The Star Laser cut pendant lamp comes from PureModern. The other furnishings were the clients’ own. Green birch-tree wallpaper is from Sonia’s Place (212) 355-5211 in the D&D Building, the pillow from Inhabitat.

 

There’s a second living room on the lower level, in addition to the green-papered guest room, another dining area for casual meals, a children’s playroom, a full bath, and an exit to outdoor space. The lower level floors were given a whitewash to brighten them up. Furnishings include a lucite table lamp from George Kovacs and Bellini Modern Roza coffee and end tables from AllModern.

 

The table in a casual dining area on the lower level is the “Cobble Hill” from ABC Carpet and Home; the plexiglass chairs are custom. Mirror from More Mirrors, cowhide rug from Design Within Reach. The Superordinate antler pendant lamp above the table is from Roll & Hill.

 

A glass-walled wine storage room on the lower level is conceived as a decorative visual feature.


MAIN FLOOR PLAN

MEZZANINE/MASTER SUITE

 

LOWER FLOOR

 

 

Find the whole archive of The Insider, going back to September 2011, right here.

 

 

 

36 Comment

  • “In Brooklyn, with our wealth of historic architecture, interior design often veers toward the [yawn] traditional.”

    what do you mean “yawn” traditional. get out here with that stuff cara!

  • “interior design often veers toward the [yawn] traditional.” Say what? Virtually every property featured in this column has the same “quirky-mod” design. White kitchens, open stairs, flat-topped double sinks, pale walls accented with 60′s-style wallpaper… I marvel at the sameness of the designs, and wonder if it’s that all the designers read the same magazines, or went to the same schools, or use the same suppliers.

    There’s a hegemony, all right, but it ain’t “the traditional.”

  • Er, it’s often cookie-cutter modernism that I find a yawn, but to each his own. Here, this seems nice enough, though not my thing. It might already seem to be just a touch on the trendy but starting to look dated side. But that doesn’t really matter if the owners love it. In any case, there are things to learn from here, such as that Murphy bed.

  • Er, it’s often cookie-cutter modernism that I find a yawn, but to each his own. Here, this seems nice enough, though not my thing. It might already seem to be just a touch on the trendy but starting to look dated side. But that doesn’t really matter if the owners love it. In any case, there are things to learn from here, such as that Murphy bed.

  • All Scandinavian furniture looks alike. Your sofas look fine but those chairs aren’t comfortable, especially the ones at the island.

    Kitchen and bathroom are both beautiful.

  • All Scandinavian furniture looks alike. Your sofas look fine but those chairs aren’t comfortable, especially the ones at the island.

    Kitchen and bathroom are both beautiful.

  • cara: why don’t you feature tastefully restored brownstones here? i can’t think of a better audience.

  • Hey, send me some leads to traditional interiors that are exciting, if that is not an oxymoron, and I will be glad to feature them!

  • When i started my first job, my boss had an Eames chair in his office, a real one. he bought it with the money he made by buying Knoll stock on its IPO.

  • how come there’s no IKEA stuff in this renov?? would’ve expected to see some. could’ve yielded some savings on what must’ve been big budget. Not my cup of tea but it looks nicely executed.

  • 4-bedroom triplex, well that’s something to work with.
    It’s really two apartments with their own living rooms and kitchens that are joined by stairs right? Interesting lifestyle choice.
    It is a bit confusing figuring out what’s where but overall it looks very nicely done. The built-ins and furniture are beautiful. I like the oak veneer storage wall. The downside of so much of the same sort of furniture is that it makes the apartment look a little like a showroom for Knoll or Design Within Reach. Perhaps a tad over-designed using just one design note. But nice.

  • Mopar, not as nice looking but you can get a murphy bed kit and install that inside a closet with bi-fold doors. it wouldn’t be nearly as nice as this but then it wouldn’t be nearly as expensive as this either.

  • I am inspired to take my Saarinen tulip chairs and matching table out of storage. They really are classics. If only I had a four-bedroom triplex…..

  • Have you still got the bell bottoms to wear while entertaining with them, Minard??? :)

  • Yes, these are all starting to look alike to me too, but that’s “the look” right now, like avocado kitchens in the ’60s and antique oak everything in the ’70s and ’80s, or Woody Allen’s NYC interiors of the same period. What I think is somewhat new is that most people seldom hired design professionals until recently. Maybe “most people” still don’t. But we are seeing the ones who do on websites and in other media outlets. So rbcg has a point: the designers all go to the same schools, and some start businesses designing the stuff that others doing the planning use and still others in design media feature.

    That said, there are always corners in the photographs of the Insider that have images I stop to linger over and think about how what’s there could be adapted for one of my places. I also always love looking at the ways people use color, even whites. Even Rauschenberg’s “all whites” are full of color if you look at them a while.

    The light in this apartment is to die for, and I loved the dining area and the pink rain boots and scooters in the Brooklyn version of a “mud room.”

  • Yes, these are all starting to look alike to me too, but that’s “the look” right now, like avocado kitchens in the ’60s and antique oak everything in the ’70s and ’80s, or Woody Allen’s NYC interiors of the same period. What I think is somewhat new is that most people seldom hired design professionals until recently. Maybe “most people” still don’t. But we are seeing the ones who do on websites and in other media outlets. So rbcg has a point: the designers all go to the same schools, and some start businesses designing the stuff that others doing the planning use and still others in design media feature.

    That said, there are always corners in the photographs of the Insider that have images I stop to linger over and think about how what’s there could be adapted for one of my places. I also always love looking at the ways people use color, even whites. Even Rauschenberg’s “all whites” are full of color if you look at them a while.

    The light in this apartment is to die for, and I loved the dining area and the pink rain boots and scooters in the Brooklyn version of a “mud room.”

  • I do think that the overall look would be enhanced by one or two pieces of non-modern furniture.
    I want to like this, but it seems too cold and doctrinaire. I suppose the owners’ business is selling this sort of design, but even then, if it was me, I would like to come home to something a little different.
    Some nice American oak pieces would help a lot. Or at least a vintage dish or bowl….anything to break the uniformity.

  • i also take issue with the slight against “traditional” interior design, which is a nebulous term anyway. what would traditional interior design be? wood furniture with turned legs vs. white lacquer parsons tables? an actual millwork scheme vs… no millwork at all? or interior design that was considered ‘modern’ in 1830?

    to me, this place looks like it was decorated by popular vote at apartment therapy. it will look dated in literally under 5 years. but i suppose if you have the budget to buy all your furniture from DWR in the first place, you also have the budget to replace it all as the trends come and go.

  • I agree with those who yawned at this. Also, it would be nice to see some more affordable homes on here.

  • I agree with those who yawned at this. Also, it would be nice to see some more affordable homes on here.

  • I think Cara does a great job, I like this weekly feature. You go girl!
    By the way Cara, Brooklyn Hts house tour this weekend. You could see some interesting design. Last couple of years there have been some fantastically done houses. Nothing for the budget-conscious though.
    I think house tours are a great way to see what’s out there.

    • minard, i’d like to check out the brooklyn heights tour to see how it compares to the fort greene tour from this past weekend.

      the fort greene tour was sort of a let down. they showed us a brownstone on washington park that was hideous. all cheap modern design with a glass curtain wall in the rear. the owners didn’t even make their bed or put clothes on their children for the tour. another brownstone that was covered wall to ceiling in wallpaper. a modest clapboard on cumberland. then a small brick with a great garden on adelphi behind olea.

      cara, you should speak with the owner of 321 adelphi about featuring her garden or house. real cool woman. she helped start the green hill food coop and also started “the hill” when it was in print. i think she would be happy to do it.

    • minard, i’d like to check out the brooklyn heights tour to see how it compares to the fort greene tour from this past weekend.

      the fort greene tour was sort of a let down. they showed us a brownstone on washington park that was hideous. all cheap modern design with a glass curtain wall in the rear. the owners didn’t even make their bed or put clothes on their children for the tour. another brownstone that was covered wall to ceiling in wallpaper. a modest clapboard on cumberland. then a small brick with a great garden on adelphi behind olea.

      cara, you should speak with the owner of 321 adelphi about featuring her garden or house. real cool woman. she helped start the green hill food coop and also started “the hill” when it was in print. i think she would be happy to do it.

  • I agree. Despite all of our comments here that oftentimes border on insulting and not just snarky, this is probably the thread most anticipated the whole week. Thanks, cara.

  • Rarely are the houses featured “my” style but I appreciate the choices others make and always find something to enjoy. Here I like how they used wallpaper as a design statement.

    I too consider The Insider my favorite brownstoner feature.

  • Rarely are the houses featured “my” style but I appreciate the choices others make and always find something to enjoy. Here I like how they used wallpaper as a design statement.

    I too consider The Insider my favorite brownstoner feature.

  • Thanks, folks, glad you’re enjoying the series overall… and feel free to snark away. Makes for a livelier discussion than an amen chorus of “oooh, love it!”, which is what you see on many design blogs.

    What I think of as ‘traditional’ is ersatz Chippendale and wing chairs, rockers and hooked rugs, Colonial reproduction stuff from Ethan Allen, an attempt at an old money look because it’s “safe,” plaid sofas and paintings of horses in gilded frames, etc. Perhaps my view of traditional is too narrow, but that doesn’t seem to have any place in unavoidably hip 21st century Brooklyn.

    I’m by no means a modernist. I have no problem with the decorative arts of much earlier eras, and I do love a mix. I appreciate Victoriana, Arts and Crafts, and all kinds of other styles. Just this morning, I happened to visit the 1780s Osborne-Little House in East Hampton and saw three rooms full of original early American furnishings in their proper setting, against wood paneled walls and under low beamed ceilings, and found it absolutely gorgeous (I’ll do a post on my own blog soon). I also love Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the late 18th century Powel House in Philadelphia. That kind of traditional is fine with me.

    Again, show me something beautiful and/or interesting in the ‘traditional’ arena, and I’ll be delighted to cover it.

    I don’t agree that any two of the houses I’ve featured so far in The Insider series “look alike,” although there are certain furniture and decorating tropes that keep repeating tiresomely. Here’s a very funny blog that pokes fun at such cliches: http://fuckyournoguchicoffeetable.tumblr.com/
    The thing is, I genuinely like many of them.

  • Thanks, folks, glad you’re enjoying the series overall… and feel free to snark away. Makes for a livelier discussion than an amen chorus of “oooh, love it!”, which is what you see on many design blogs.

    What I think of as ‘traditional’ is ersatz Chippendale and wing chairs, rockers and hooked rugs, Colonial reproduction stuff from Ethan Allen, an attempt at an old money look because it’s “safe,” plaid sofas and paintings of horses in gilded frames, etc. Perhaps my view of traditional is too narrow, but that doesn’t seem to have any place in unavoidably hip 21st century Brooklyn.

    I’m by no means a modernist. I have no problem with the decorative arts of much earlier eras, and I do love a mix. I appreciate Victoriana, Arts and Crafts, and all kinds of other styles. Just this morning, I happened to visit the 1780s Osborne-Little House in East Hampton and saw three rooms full of original early American furnishings in their proper setting, against wood paneled walls and under low beamed ceilings, and found it absolutely gorgeous (I’ll do a post on my own blog soon). I also love Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the late 18th century Powel House in Philadelphia. That kind of traditional is fine with me.

    Again, show me something beautiful and/or interesting in the ‘traditional’ arena, and I’ll be delighted to cover it.

    I don’t agree that any two of the houses I’ve featured so far in The Insider series “look alike,” although there are certain furniture and decorating tropes that keep repeating tiresomely. Here’s a very funny blog that pokes fun at such cliches: http://fuckyournoguchicoffeetable.tumblr.com/
    The thing is, I genuinely like many of them.

  • *Minard – could you point me to information about the Brooklyn Hts house tour this weekend? Would love to check it out!

    *Cara – I agree with these folks – your column is really fun and gives me a glimpse of houses I would never see – you really are an “insider”. And lively, snarky discussion is much more interesting.

  • Permits, you are right on the mark. I’m in touch with the owner of 321 Adelphi and it’s coming up, both house and garden.