Name: Malene Barnett
Location: Bedford-Stuyesant; Brooklyn, New York
Size: 3,000 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years lived in; 6 years owned
One barely has to enter the home of luxury carpet designer Malene Barnett to appreciate her eclectic and refined design sensibility. Years before meeting Malene at a book launch in Soho, her home caught my eye. As a neighbor and frequent passerby, several design elements jumped out at me within the few seconds it took to ride my bike or walk past her home. There is the white-washed brick façade, unique to her historical Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone block. Stately turquoise front doors, the only ones like it within a liberal radius, continue to distinguish hers from the rest.
Malene’s home and décor aesthetic is an exercise in being bold. The daughter of Caribbean parents and a self-proclaimed wanderlust, she unabashedly gravitates toward colorful and global décor accents. Once inside Malene’s 19th-century home—which took her nine months to gut rehab—you will find a muted version of the bright turquoise that greets you at her front and vestibule doors. This softer turquoise continues from floor to ceiling throughout the entire living room and kitchen spaces. The white cabinetry and marble countertops echo the serene color scheme first introduced on the home’s façade. Malene carries this theme of cool blues and whites into her spa-like master bathroom upstairs. The entire bathroom, which is a full-sized room in its own right, is comprised of wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling glass tiles, as well as a handsome custom vanity that could easily double as a sideboard in another context.
Malene attributes her design inspiration to her heritage and travels (she spent three months backpacking solo throughout Southeast Asia), but ultimately her home is a reflection of her very own personality: welcoming, bright, and intrepid. She knocked down walls to create a cohesive and modern living space, while showcasing seemingly divergent décor accents, such as vintage African masks and contemporary Buddha door handles, alongside one another. Where Malene dared to push the design envelope, she designed accents from scratch, exemplified by the wrought-iron railings in the front and back of her home. Malene has achieved this, and so much more, to perfection in her Bed-Stuy “modern global” townhome.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Modern Global Style
Inspiration: The Caribbean is the dominant inspiration throughout my home. I really wanted my home to feel like the Caribbean because my goal is to one day have a house in the hills overlooking the ocean. So in the meantime, I'm walking on teal floors. My home is also a space where I celebrate the places I've been in the world. Cut outs in the kitchen display a lot of pieces I have collected throughout my travels. I spent three months traveling throughout Asia, where I collected hand-painted celadon teacups for example, which are displayed there.
Favorite Element: It’s hard to pinpoint one favorite element because I have several. But they all revolved around wanting a house that stood out on the block. That starts with my deep turquoise front door. Inside my home, the floors are stained throughout.
Biggest Challenge: While gut renovating, realizing that things don't go as planned. The entire process took almost two years: nine months to get the permit approved and then one year for the renovation. I finally moved in at the end of 2009.
What Friends Say: Besides “whoa!” they find it to be very peaceful and calming here. They feel at home and always want to come back. But the key is zen and they all want to stay in the bathroom.
Biggest Embarrassment: This would have to be the deck, or better yet, the lack of one outside of the kitchen/dining area. But I ran out of money!
Proudest DIY: The textile headboard made from silk embroidered fabric from my last trip to India. It wasn't purchased with the intention of making a headboard, but I later came up with the idea.
Biggest Indulgence: Again, there were plenty. The kitchen hood, bathroom tiles, floor to ceiling, custom front door, and the gas fireplace were all major indulgences.
Best Advice: Don't be afraid to be different. Your home is the only place in your life that you get to personalize based on your taste, and your taste alone.
Dream Sources: I like to shop local, at Peace and Riot for example, which curates a modern product and global aesthetic. Their merchandise is always changing and it's the closest experience for me to that which I had while traveling overseas.
Resources of Note:
- Iron gate: Custom
- Paint: (Front door) Benjamin Moore 2056-40 Cool Aqua
ENTRY PAINT COLORS
- Foyer walls and ceilings: 2017-60 Pale Daffodil
- Hallway upper & lower levels walls: 2016-50 Melon Popsicle
- Stairs & Spindles: 2017-40 Sweet Orange
- Buffet table: My mother’s first piece of furniture
- Two-piece Gold coach: Consignment store
- Couch pillow: xnasozi
- Statues: Senufo sculptures from a friend’s collection
- Black and white photographs: Alaric Campbell
- Wall tapestry: Nepal
- Mirror: Home Goods
- West African birthing chair: From a friend’s collection
- Paint colors: (walls and ceiling) Benjamin Moore 2047-60 Ocean Spray; (Fireplace wall) 2049-40 Peacock Blue
- Bedroom console: From Junk! in Greenpoint
- Bird and basket: Tag sale
- Headboard: DIY from a silk embroidered textile I bought in India
- Oatmeal mudcloth pillow: :ocal designer, Peace and Riot
- Bed pillows: Peace and Riot and xnasozi
- Paint colors: (walls and ceiling) Benjamin Moore 2069-50 Blue Orchid; (doors) Minwax water base wood stain “wild berry”
- Yellow stool and bust: HomeGoods
- Vanity: Custom
- Sinks: Wayfair
- Paint color: (Pocket doors) Benjamin Moore 2077-10 Magenta
- Hood: Elica, an Italy-based company
- Counters: Ikea cabinets with marble countertops
- Beaded table: DanceAfrica Festival
- M+B Letters: HomeGoods
- Paint: Benjamin Moore 2045-70 Soft Green
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(Image credits: Nasozi Kakembo)