House Tour: Chad and Ed's Warm Neutrals

Brooklyn

Name: Chad McPhail, Ed Droste
Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Size: 1 bedroom, 500SF + 150SF w/ roof garden
Years lived in: 2, rented

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Stepping inside Chad and Ed's Williamsburg apartment, there was an instant shift in our mood. Set on a quiet street in Brooklyn, the space is filled with light and soothing colors, and is impeccably arranged; As Chad works as an interior designer, this comes as no surprise...
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They've done a lot of work here, and it shows beautifully; retiling the kitchen floors, stripping the entry door, installing a new butcher block counter in the kitchen. There's even a small roof garden, which they've recently begun to plant.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the space is how well it manages to invoke more tranquil parts of coastal living while somehow remaining totally in the context of the neighborhood. It most definitely feels like "home".

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How Would you define your style?

I like a variety of decorative styles, but I love it more than anything when a space reflects the history of the people who live there. In our apartment, I tried to mesh my background and Ed's. So you get Maritime-y New England and 1960's California put together. Also, even though its a contradiction, I try hard not to over design things. A room that evolved naturally over time feels a lot better to be in than a "decorated" room.

What is your greatest inspiration?

When I was growing up in California, my sister and I spent a lot of time at my grandmother Vera's house. She was an artist and her house was a mix of mid-century pieces, her own paintings, my dad's ceramics from his days at Cal Arts the 70's, Mexican folk art... all kinds of interesting stuff. She had a large role in shaping what I like. And then more recently, Ed's family's house in Massachusetts has been really inspirational. It's this magical 100 year accumulation of family art, found objects and worn out furniture... it looks almost too perfect to be authentic. Its the kind of place World of Interiors magazine would sell their soul to photograph, but it has just grown in over time from four generations of inhabitants living there. For a designer its like the impossible goal-- a space that functions perfectly and looks great, and is not designed at all.

What is your favorite element of your home?

The windows on three sides facing mostly southwest mean we get sunshine all day. Also, a lot of the original details are still here: the molding, tin ceilings, the bathroom tile. It is rare, especially in this neighborhood, to find a place that hasn't been "renovated" to within an inch of it's life, Home Depot-style.

What is the biggest challenge of your home?

Storage. One 9' long closet for the two of us, jammed full, is tough. We have to be super organized, and we rent a storage space. Whenever something new comes into the apartment, something else has to go out.

What do your friends say about your home?

That it soothes.

What is your home's biggest embarrassment?

I am not sure it's embarrassing, but I do really hate the crappy hollow-core doors at the bedroom and bathroom. If I had the time and the patience, I would love to replace them. But its not easy to find antique doors that are the right size and look good.

What DIY project are you most proud of?

Actually, the front door. Doors again. I stripped the paint off the inside. It took four sessions of applying the goop and paper and pealing and scraping away for 5 days. It was a nightmare, but it looks awesome now, right?

What is your biggest indulgence when furnishing your home?

When we moved in, there was linoleum in the kitchen that can best be described as the color of rotting flesh. We lived with it for a while, then I couldn't take it anymore and I painted it, which was a disaster. Eventually we tore it up and replaced it with a simple black vinyl. Redoing a floor in a rental apartment is stupid, I know, but we just had to do it. The vinyl is easy to clean and so its practical with the dog around, except that it is black, so every hair shows up. We sweep a lot.

Best Advice:

I guess to be as personal as possible with the decorative elements: family pass-downs, found objects, things collected from travel. Stay away from retail chains for the most part, but don't be afraid to use Crate & Barrel or Room and Board for a thing or two. They are practical and relatively well priced. You don't want your space to look like a West Elm catalog, but no need to be a design snob.

Dream Source:

Getting something from a family member or friend that is one of a kind, and means something to you (and is free!) is the best. The shops I like spending time in (but rarely actually buy things from) create a faux version of this: John Derian and Paula Rubenstein, for example. They have beautiful collections, but oh man, will you pay for that aura of authenticity.

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Appliances: What we found here is what we got. The stove is really old-- 1940's I am guessing. The landlord offered to replace it and we begged him to leave it here.

Hardware: Olde Good Things in Manhattan has great antique knobs and locks.

Furniture: Combined flea market finds, hand-me-downs from friends and family, and a thing or two from Room & Board. When I was looking for something specific, ebay.

Accessories: Our number one accessory is plants. Sprout, a garden store on Grand Street in Williamsburg, is really great.

Lighting: Again, mostly flea market and hand-me-down lights. The store B-4 It Was Cool on Houston has a great selection of antique fixtures if you want something special. Be prepared to pay four times what you should, though.

Rugs: Ours are from a trip Ed took to Morocco.

Tiles & Stone: The bathroom tiles are original 1930's. Someday I would like to install a backsplash in the kitchen of Moorish tiles. There is a website called Casbah Decor (nice name, I know) that has a good selection of well priced newly made Spanish and Moroccan tiles. The original antiques are really expensive, but they are art.

Window Treatments: The panels in the bedroom I found at a thrift store and added the trim at the top and bottom. We got the roller shades and wooden blinds from Smith and Noble online. They are customizable and you can get them quickly and relatively inexpensively.

Bed: Bedsteads, a British company that makes antique style beds to your specifications. Our old bed was an antique metal frame from ebay, and was really beautiful, but too tiny to fit anything bigger than a small child. We had this one made. Its really too big for the room, but sleeping well is more important than a cute bed frame.

Artwork: Our friends and family! the pastels in the bedroom are Will O'Brian, the photo in the living room is by Patryce Bak, my grandma Vera did the collage above the Ms. Packman machine, Ed's great-grandfather did the small oil paintings in the kitchen and above the sofa, his great-aunt drew the colored pencil drawings there, and his great uncle Carl Pickhardt did the abstract piece on the dresser and the charcoal above the sofa.

Paint: Ralph Lauren paint is not the best quality, but they have the best colors. I actually saw the color for the living room in a magazine. I never thought I would like a room painted gray, but I actually really love it now.

Flooring: The wood floor is your standard rental apartment oak, except in the kitchen where we put down the vinyl tiles from Aaronsons Flooring. Under all of it is a really great old wood floor. When we replaced the floor in the kitchen, we found the original wood and were tempted to tear up the whole place. Our landlord would have killed us.

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