The owners of this spacious duplex loft—a writer who works at home and her filmmaker husband—told me they were envisioning a tranquil environment where they could raise their family and be creative without too much “visual noise” or distraction. But their two children had a very different idea of what constitutes domestic bliss. The son wanted a room inspired by World Wide Wrestling. The daughter, who was seven at the time, told me that she wanted her room to be decorated like “parakeets with a little touch of bunny.” Just in case I didn’t get it, she arrived at our first design meeting with a packet of inspirational images of birds and rabbits.
I have always believed in including children in the decorating process (as long as their parents are willing to go along). So in her upstairs bedroom, the bird was the word. Paint colors were matched to coral and aqua parakeet hues. Her bunk bed was designed to look like a birdhouse and paired with the sweetest wallpaper with little birds perched on trees. We even found a ceramic planter shaped like the head of a bunny and filled it with flowers. The tropical palette extended to the children’s library on the same floor, which was lacquered in a deeper turquoise shade of parakeet.
This modern aviary was in contrast, of course, to the parts of the loft that the kids share with their parents. The clients made a specific request for “no color” but did want their home to feel cozy and textured. The all-white space took on a new depth with the simple trick of staining the window surrounds a dark shade. Furniture and accessories in natural materials like walnut, linen, boiled wool, and cashmere made the neutral space feel grounded. Even here there were playful touches: the minimalist kitchen, where the open shelving is in live-edge reclaimed wood, got a backsplash in chalkboard slate (there is always a cup of white chalk on hand for writing or drawing on the wall).
But back to the kids: when they first toured the apartment they noticed that the owner was caring for several rescued turtles. The children were under the assumption that the turtles would come with the loft (not the case, but I’m sure stranger things have been negotiated in New York City real estate!). The parents came up with a fabulous solution: they commissioned the American Museum of Natural History to create a series of six dioramas showing the stages of a turtle’s life in its natural habitat. These were installed in the hallway leading to the children’s library.
In the end, the entire project was completed on time in just eight weeks—more of a hare’s schedule than a tortoise’s pace, but in this case quick and steady won the race.