Name: Joe Ferrari, JV Mercanti, and Ripley
Location: Greenpoint — Brooklyn, New York
Years lived in: 2½ — rented
This creative couple fills their home with some high-end design, a little bit of kitsch, and lots of mementos from times past. They've put every inch of the space to work, even defining a purpose for a stairway to nowhere and the nooks and crannies inherent in New York apartments. With proud collections of everything from Broadway show posters to mermaid figurines, the home brims with vibrant personality and impressive organization.
A masculine red, black, and white palette runs throughout, and many of the large pieces of furniture stick to this scheme. There are some very important designer selections, like the Swan chairs in the living room, but lest you think JV and Joe take their decor too seriously, you may stumble upon one of the many nerd-boy collections as you wander through the rooms. This charming nest is insulated by lush gardens (at least by urban standards). The apartment sits on a street corner and the couple make use of their outdoor space by planting high-climbing vegetation, bright flowers, and even finding room for some seating.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Our style is completely eclectic. When we moved in together we combined a lot of furniture and edited out a lot of things. The process is constantly evolving. Mostly, we try to maintain a sense of humor about it and infuse that humor in surprising elements around the apartment.
Inspiration: We find inspiration everywhere: in art, in theatre, in design magazines, on HGTV, through Martha Stewart (post-prison, it's softened her), in nature (you know, like Diane Von Furstenberg in last year's AmEx ads), and all over NYC.
Favorite Element: The reclaimed half-moon mirrors over the mantle that we purchased at (the now-defunct) Angel Street Thrift on Guernsey Street for a ridiculously low price.
Biggest Challenge: The location of the bedroom, situated between the kitchen and living room. When this was a two-level home, what is now the bedroom was most likely a dining room. The built-in corner cabinet and shelves as well as the wall of windows made bed placement a challenge. Even bed size is a continued topic of discussion. For the first year and a half we moved the bed about a half a dozen times and we, finally, seem to have found the place it works best. Now if only we had purchased a queen-sized mattress. JV would like to add: Joe hates the couch (Todd Oldham for La-Z-Boy) that I bought with my former roommate some five or six years ago in lieu of going on vacation that year. I love it.
What Friends Say: "They throw killer parties and they're soooo handsome."
Biggest Embarrassment: We're always keeping our eye out for new art, especially sculptural elements. JV's father is an artist and we have some pieces of his from art school in the apartment as well as more recent work. Over the Labor Day holiday we were at JV's parents' house. We saw a horse's head sculpture in JV's father's studio and instantly fell in love with it. We knew it would look great on the mantle. Dad said we could have it and took it down off the shelf for us. When we put it in the car to take home, we discovered it was from Home Goods and cost $9.99.
Proudest DIY: The black dresser in our bedroom is a hand-me-down from Joe's family. It sat in a leaky garage for many years, then in an attic for a few more. The veneer was falling off, and one of the legs was held together with electrical tape. Joe began to work on it prior to moving to this apartment. During the move, the dresser fell apart and tumbled down a staircase, breaking another leg. At the new apartment, Joe stripped, sanded, and painted the piece using new hardware from Moon River Chatel. Now it stands against the only piece of wall we could make it fit, sans electrical tape.
Biggest Indulgence: The garden, if we can consider time an indulgence. We start to work in late March, and continue every weekend through June, prepping, cleaning, and planting. It's not until July when we can finally sit back and enjoy all of the work…right around the time when the temperature rises to a point where we need to start major watering every single day.
Best Advice: JV says: Think about where something is going to go before you buy it. Does it make you smile when you look at it? Can it serve more than one function? Is it pretty? When it comes to used books I have to think about whether or not I have it already. Joe says: before you buy something with the idea of refinishing or repurposing, make sure you're really motivated to do the work, or have the space to do it.
Dream Sources: Pretty much any store on Warren Street in Hudson, New York or the shops in High Falls, New York.
Resources of Note:
Our fathers — one a carpenter, one a sculptor. The big antiques mall/barn in Milford, Pennsylvania. Local shops like Moon River Chatel, Kill Devil Hill, and Le Grenier. Any used book store within a 30 mile radius of any place we've ever been.
Floors: The black and white tree rug in the living room is from CB2. The bedroom rug is from a Jonathan Adler sample sale three summers ago.
Entryway: We walk into what we've called the mud room. It houses plants transitioning from outdoors to indoors, tools, etc. Then the long hallway which holds our shoes, the stairway to nowhere (a la "The Seven Year Itch") which we've used to display antique family photos along the bottom and as storage for DVDs at the top. Next to the stairs are long rows of bookshelves purchased at Home Depot and organized in a way only JV understands, also filled with knick knacks and pictures. The very back of the hallway was converted into a hanging closet. JV recently reclaimed window cards from shows he's worked on to hang on one wall. The other walls have different photos and artwork from various people. JV loves the photo set of Marilyn Monroe performing in Korea in the early 1950s, and the photo of Janis Joplin passed out on a couch, clutching a bottle of Jack, are favorites. Joe loves the map of Brooklyn neighborhoods by Ork that JV gave him as a gift.
Kitchen: The majority of the kitchen is taken up by pre-existing IKEA cabinets. We love the wood countertops and the shade of stain on the cabinets. The kitchen also houses some of our favorite collections — 1950s ceramics (including a blue baker cookie jar that can't help but make you smile), Joe's collection of ceramic roosters, and a pair of Del Monte print ads.
Living Room: As with many New York apartments, the living room is our multi-function room: TV room, office, greenhouse, and bar. The exposed brick and mantle-piece are a definite focal point. Artwork in the room includes a favorite Rochester, New York artist, two Peter Max plaques, a Rufus Wainwright concert poster, some of JV's dad's work, and a black plexi light sculpture of a woman (who we nicknamed "Dottie") by a local Williamsburg friend. Joe loves the tall orange lamp from his parents' house. JV loves our collection of photo booth photos tucked into the frame of a Wonder Wheel print.
Bathroom: The bathroom has a subtle nautical feel that becomes more apparent when you open the door to the WC. Two walls are filled with mermaid memorabilia that Joe began to collect a few years ago. We continue to add pieces as we travel to new places.
Thanks, JV and Joe!
Images: Annie Werbler
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