Marcia Patmos' Modern Sense and Sensibility

House Tour

Name: Marcia Patmos
Location: Boerum Hill, Brooklyn — New York
Size: 750 square feet
Years lived in: 13 — owned

Three shades of gray (from pearly to charcoal) that define and ground, personal art hand-picked to delight, and an island forever banished to unlock a room's worth of living potential, all in a thoughtful, smart, economical and collaborative facelift that reshaped the space, but not the spirit, of a Brooklyn brownstone. It's always the perfect season to wrap yourself in the modern comfort and charming home of Marcia Patmos.

Like one of her own comfortable sweaters, the home of apparel designer Marcia Patmos is ready to wear and easy to like. Her "lightly renovated" home yielded a modern ease that anyone familiar with her knitwear and fashion collections won't be surprised by.

You can listen in on the conversation with Marcia here:

This was not a renovation rushed into. Marcia has lived in her home, atop a 100 year-old Brownstone, since 1998, and only recently decided it was time for a renovation. The goals were few, but important: make the space more livable for how she knew she already used it, tame and organize a collector's oft-inspired eye, and preserve the spirit of a home well-loved. Although many period details had been lost in a pre-Marcia 1980's renovation, enough remained to warrant a light hand.

To reach those goals, Marcia did what she's done successfully in the past: she sought out a creative collaboration. Friend, Architect and Interior Designer Robert Farrell was called in, to a home he had seen over years of friendship and dinner party tables. Says Robert, it was all about "trying to remain true to the character of the Brownstone, but live in a contemporary way."

Apart from minor reorganization (tucking a washer and dryer in a walk-in closet), the work focused on the front room, applied elements of storage, and some key subtraction. The first thing to go was the kitchen island, whose ghost is still seen in the revitalized original floorboards. Its removal was a counterintuitive move in a rectangle of a room that would seem to benefit from what an island could bring: clear division. "To make the whole thing a living space was a more economical, smarter use... where you could enjoy the open space all the time... But the island made it difficult to live there," Robert notes. Deliberate material choices (non-tile backsplash, seamless Silestone countertop) stripped kitchen elements to its pure geometry. Now, the kitchen fades away when dinner is served.

In the kitchen and throughout, track lighting, like lights on a one-set, but multi-act, play, spill onto three colors of gray. Marcia and Robert knew the base of the renovation would be gray, a color she loves to work with. Robert speaks of the grays like an architect: "We used them to enhance the spatial characteristics that were there already." Marcia spins it more personally: "I often wear mostly neutrals or mostly grays and then just something colorful," be it an ombré tissue scarf from her new gift collection, her own sea-blue eyes, or vibrant art. While Marcia knew gray would be the go-to, her collaboration with Robert yielded some bolder strokes than she might have reached flying solo. That dark entry was one of those gestures, where it was applied, another: to door, trim and wall. "If I had painted the door white, all of sudden it would get clutter-y," says Robert. That darkest gray hides the wear and tear of a busy life of bike tires and yoga mats.

Marcia's ease flows to her art collection, enviable but, like the home, totally approachable. There is a quiet presence and lovely color sense to what she collects. "It's friendly," Robert notes, spot on. "I didn't mean to start collecting," says Marcia almost apologetically. "Part of it is going to art school. You know all these artists," says the RISD apparel grad. Since she still travels in artistic circles, the same holds true.

Among the collection, a crystal-encrusted Haitian folk art flag, a WWII map, and framed swatches. She speaks fondly of each, for its connection to friend or moment. The Haitian piece, a gift from a UN friend; the map, her grandfather's (printed on silk so it could be tucked away in a soldier's pocket); and the mill samples, a historical connection to her life's passion. "Old mills used to keep a log of all their fabrics... by framing them, you can make them art."

Other art is more pedigreed, like the orange Julian Jackson in her hallway-turned-gallery, holding pride of place for the moment she realized her life allowed her to get serious about what she could purchase. She remains a fan of art auctions, like the annual one benefiting BAM which offered up a piece of fashionable serendipity: The pink portrait commanding the living room arrangement, she discovered only after an unexpected win, was fellow fashion icon Marc Jacobs.

Why do the spoils of this collector not overrun, run amok? That was a task for Robert. How do you help hone and edit for someone so personal about collecting, and so visually astute? "You have to respect the collector in your client," he says, then offers a tip: "Ask yourself... how can it be arranged so it's not clutter, it's intentional?" The answer was in groupings, and connecting the dots to make a bigger picture of the smaller. In the bedroom, for example, Robert positioned a drawing of a fox to gaze past the frame up to a neighboring piece.

For all the happy art and easy living, there's tension here... but the good kind. It's the lively back and forth between precise and not-so, vintage and new, and everything's the beneficiary. Marcia, "I love having some things controlled and some things random, left up to the person who's making them." Robert observes, "When you have this counterbalance of things that are sort of flat, geometric, neutral, clean-lined against, for example, a handmade rug, it make the 'handmadeness' elevated." Set not far from the precise geometry of the floating Vitsoe shelving, the living area's rug made from antique kilims, unwoven and re-loomed, illustrates that thought beautifully. "I kind of love that, something super slick next to something more rustic. It... balances everything out," says Marcia. Throughout the redo, that balance was meant to succeed "in a way that overall feels light and clean and modern," says Marcia. "It's really about, I think, what Marcia does in her collection," says Robert, here more observant friend than hired hand.

For all the planning and intent, this is a casual home with an unstudied feel. For anyone who ever felt that a "curated" home ends up stuffy or pretentious, Marcia's home makes a strong case for, well exactly the opposite. "It's your home... so hopefully you should feel comfortable there," says Marcia, relaxed on her equally relaxed sofa. "Especially in New York when you are running around all the time, often crammed in a subway with 800 other people... it's nice to go to your own private place where only the people you want are there, and you feel really good there." To Marcia, that means a close-knit community of Brooklyn artists, architects, and collaborators. It's a living definition of Home that fits Marcia perfectly. Robert notes, "That's very much who Marcia is... the quality of her friendships and the people she chooses to have in her life."

Listen in on the conversation with Robert here.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Clean and modern mixed with vintage and eclectic. It is light and airy and personal feeling.

Inspiration: Flea markets of the world. Grey walls with white trim... I was obsessed with this house that is part of a museum in East Hampton... the parlor room is painted pale grey with white trim.

Favorite Element: The light in the front room is amazing. And being on the top floor, it is very quiet and surrounded by trees. The skylights in the bathroom and back room are fantastic. The neighborhood continues to evolve in good ways since I moved in... cute, new places are constantly popping up.

Biggest Challenge: Storage space. And piles. I am a bad filer... hard to keep magazines, receipts, etc....under control on a limited number of surfaces. Of course, apartment looks best less cluttered.

What Friends Say: They want to live downstairs.

Biggest Embarrassment: I may have too many sweaters ; )

Proudest DIY: Dining room set was separately found and re-finished to match.

Biggest Indulgence: Vitsoe shelving systems and Turkish rug I custom ordered from Double Knot. It is handmade by artisans from vintage kilim wool with new design elements I requested.

Best Advice: Of all the good advice I got from Robert Farrell, my interior designer, probably the best advice was to remove an island that separated the kitchen area from the rest of the living room in order to open up my front room.

Dream Sources: Double Knot in Tribeca. Pearl River in Chinatown, "car boot sale" in a funny beach town outside of Amsterdam!

Resources of Note:

Architect/Interior Designer: Robert Farrell

PAINT & COLORS


LIVING ROOM

    • Wall-mounted credenza and bookshelf/desk units : Vitsoe
    • Custom Turkish rug: Double Knot
    • Vintage marble and cast glass coffee table: Yu Interiors, Ft. Greene
    • Vintage Danish modern teak chair: Flair, SoHo
    • Built-in cabinets: custom designed by Robert Farrell
    • Sofas: Modernica
    • Sofa slipcovers: Bettertex
    • Vintage chrome lamp from City Foundry, refitted with new lamp shade, Just Shades
    • Teak and ceramic planters: Modernica
    • Hanging planters: Sprout Home
    • Solar shades: Janovic Plaza
    • Fan: Modern Fan Company
    • Glass and wrought iron magazine stand: vintage Jean Prouvé
    • Reclaimed wood tree stump table: West Elm
    • Vintage glassware/vases: Modern Living Supplies, the End of History, flea markets, (classmate's) David Stark for West Elm
    • Artwork; Mary Judge, Elizabeth Peyton, Hugo Guiness, Deborah Forman, Will Yukulic, Victoria Burge, Diane Patmos
    • Fireplace mantel: Miggy Buck

DINING ROOM

    • Dining set: vintage furniture store that may no longer exist on Wickenden Street, in Providence, RI

KITCHEN

    • Cabinets, counter and stove: IKEA
    • Refrigerator ("super slim and snazzy!") Liebherr
    • Track lighting: Lighting by Gregory

BEDROOM

    • Wall-mounted drawers used as dresser: Vitsoe
    • Bed: inherited from friends who just received it as wedding gift and had to move to Seattle!
    • Custom upholstered headboard - designed by Robert Farrell, made by Bettertex
    • Tree stump side table: West Elm
    • Bench: White & White
    • Built-in ebony stained walnut shelves and closets: custom, Miggy Buck
    • Wall-mounted lights: Artemide
    • Fan: Modern Fan Company
    • Sheepskin rugs: IKEA
    • Artwork: Paint-by-number ocean scene: "tauk," great store in Montauk that is sadly gone; framed Haitian voodoo flag, framed henna stencil, pastel portrait of my great grandmother, etc.

BATHROOM

    • Shallow credenza sink and medicine cabinet: IKEA
    • Towel bars: Restoration Hardware
    • Lights: Lighting by Gregory, IKEA
    • Photography: Rosie Kanellis and Christina Hejtmenek, via BAM art auction
    • Patterned towels: Layla
    • Enameled tin soapdish/catch-all: (vintage) Layla

HALLWAY

    • Mirror: BDDW, via BAM art auction
    • Artwork: Michael Lazarus, Julian Jackson, Lauren Gohara

Thanks, Marcia!

Images: Patrick J. Hamilton

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