Melissa & Phil's Collections of Contrasting Cultures

Melissa & Phil's Collections of Contrasting Cultures

Aaron Able
Jul 29, 2010

Name: Melissa & Phil
Location: Brooklyn Heights — Brooklyn, New York

Our apartment is a 1,000 square foot pre-war in Brooklyn Heights. We share it with an anti-social Pomeranian named Munchie — as you can see, he is one of the best design elements in the space. Our home is full of mementos and informed by our past, our travels, and our walks through the streets of New York.

We do not have a design background. We are ordinary people who draw inspiration and comfort from what we live with. The apartment came together in an organic way, much like most people's living spaces do. It's filled with objects that mean a lot to us and that have a provenance. They are not expensive, but each piece has a story to it.

Our Style: Our style is colorful and quirky, a mixture of street finds, travel souvenirs, and the bold art that my husband and I favor. It also represents our contrasting cultures — my husband is British, and I am Southeast Asian.

Inspiration: Travel always refreshes our points of view. We've been to Brazil, Argentina, Japan, and Southeast Asia, among other places, and always bring back a souvenir, whether it's a small token or a fresh take on some color or texture.

Favorite Element: Our favorite element is the turquoise green master bedroom. The room came that way and we were going to paint over it after we moved in; we were uneasy with such a strong color. But we found ourselves loving it and the way it made our art pop.

Biggest Challenge: The hallway to the bedrooms is a foot and a half wide, so we have to think twice before we get any furniture. Much of it has had to be assembled on the spot, or else scaled to fit (and one armoire has had to stay in the living room — I measured wrong). Also, we have to resist the urge to get another painting or picture, unless we move to a loft, which is not an option.

What Friends Say: Visitors remark that the dining chairs don't match. Some find this charming, others wonder if we are too cheap to replace them with a proper set! The chairs are either from the flea market or were found on the street, and we are too attached to them all to get another set. Also, people always notice the wolf head made of rope that we got at a flea market in Rio de Janeiro and that hangs over the kitchen entrance.

Biggest Embarrassment: Neither of us has the heart to get rid of any books, though in New York, people leave them out on the sidewalk all the time. We just keep acquiring more, and our shelves are overflowing. Same with CDs.

Proudest DIY: I reupholstered the old piano bench in the hall myself, after spotting it in a ratty state on a sidewalk for $20. We also put the wheels on the dining room table ourselves, minutes before visitors came to call — a giant accomplishment for two people who are not particularly handy.

Biggest Indulgence: Our biggest indulgence is getting stuff framed. In every instance, the frames cost more (sometimes ridiculously more) than the art itself, but using a skilled framer can turn anything into a work of art.

Best Advice: Do not get too hung up on trends or styles or what the design professionals say. Trust your instincts and go with what you love — after all, you'll have to live with it. That being said, think on something a day or so before you acquire it, especially if you have a small space. You have to be your own curator.

Dream Source: We can spend a lot of time in second-hand stores and flea markets. I've been spending way too much time trolling Etsy — so many arcane, fascinating objects.

Thanks Melissa & Phil!

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