Global, Hand-Crafted, Old-World Style in Brooklyn

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Anita Jeerage)

Name: Andy Isaacson
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Size: 700 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Owned

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Walking into Andy’s open and bright apartment, you immediately feel transported to another world. Somewhere relaxing. And the more time you spend in Andy’s home, the richer the details. You’ll find an old chair from Yankee Stadium, stamps from Soviet Russia, public health posters from Laos. His unique collections fit harmoniously in a modern, comfortable space.

(Image credit: Anita Jeerage)
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Andy is a writer and photographer, and his work takes him to fascinating places around the globe. As you may recall from this house call, his place is the lower apartment in the same brownstone where he was raised. When he moved back to Brooklyn after many years in San Francisco, he had a blank canvas to fill with furniture and artifacts he loved. But along with finding great pieces, Andy clearly put a lot of thought into the flow and function of each room. For example, the dining table has a great bench that opens into the seating area of the living room – offering additional seating and open environment.

It’s clear that Andy really uses each room in his home. Each space has a distinct style, yet the details help tie things together. And the efficiency and comfort also make it a great spot for entertaining – especially in the gorgeous backyard. When I visited, the yard was covered in several inches of snow and the cold wind kept me inside. But Andy sent over a few photos of the garden in full form (included in the slideshow) – and it was easy to imagine spending many hours there when the weather warms up.

(Image credit: Anita Jeerage)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic, global and clean, with a balance of vintage, modern/handcrafted, and foreign/tribal elements.

Inspiration: For starters, I was inspired by the apartment’s historical “bones,” a circa 1845 townhouse with dark wood trim and windowsills. From there: colonial hotels; rustic farmhouses; Turkish baths; cigar lounges; African safari lodges; Moroccan decor; retro-chic Brooklyn restaurants; the Explorer’s Club; 1950s Havana or Haiti, as I imagined it; my dad’s scotch drinking, in the 1980s; Japan; mid-century modern; Shawangunk Mountains, in upstate New York; desert tribal tents; Mediterranean landscaping and living; BDDW.

Favorite Element: I enjoy the distinct sense of place that each room evokes (for me, at least). The office, for instance, is dimly lit, reddish-brown, textured with brick, leather, and woven fabric, and decorated with artifacts collected from around the world. The bedroom is bright, white, and comfortable, with fluffy down and shaggy wool and references here and there to colonial hotels in Asia (as well as my own photographs from Asia) and a Serengeti safari—a staycation vibe. The bathroom has a Finnish sauna bucket as a trash can, Turkish towels and a vintage copper soap carrier for a hamam—the small, windowless room transports me, in a token way, to the baths.

Biggest Challenge: I love to cook, and the tiny kitchen—more like a kitchenette—forces me to make do with only a small amount of countertop. There’s only room for one cook in there at a time. I can’t indulge on appliances (blender vs. food processor), or apocalypse preparation (because of the limited pantry). On the other hand, I appreciate the space efficiency, and being made to pare down.

What Friends Say: Friends often remark that the home is attractive, but I’m more concerned with how it makes them feel. One friend said it has a “seductive comfort.” Another once called it “cozy, a refuge.” There’s a good vibe to the place. Careful, considered design—making a space out to be “just so”—often comes at a cost of homeyness (that relaxed look of being fully inhabited), but I think the home reflects enough of my personality and life to feel comfortable and warm.

Biggest Embarrassment: I’d say it’s having any rules at all for my guests. As a matter of good hospitality, I dislike imposing any—I don’t have a “shoes off” policy, for example, and would prefer that guests feel totally relaxed—but with nice things around (light linen fabric, sensitive wood surfaces) I have to insist on things like coasters and placemats. There’s really nothing extreme or out of the ordinary, but it’s still embarrassing to have to be “that guy.”

Proudest DIY: In homage to my grandfather, an avid skier and ski merchant in Colorado in the 1950s, I mounted a pair of his wooden alpine skis to the wall beside the front door, screwed on vintage brass hooks, and made a coat rack.

Biggest Indulgence: The Abd El Kader candle by Cire Trudon, one of the oldest French manufacturers of candles and a former wax producer to the royal court. The scent, they say, is inspired by Morocco–mint tea, tobacco, vanilla, cardamom and clove. I happened to walk into a store in New York that was burning it and was immediately struck by the evocative fragrance; I felt it would be perfect for my office. Then I felt foolish buying a $90 candle. But I did, anyway, and have done so again. I love it. Although it still feels like such an indulgence, so I only burn it for short periods at a time!

Best Advice: While navigating the infinite (and overwhelming) choices of furnishings, I kept coming back to my mother’s simple advice: “Just get things you’re going to love.” Too much attention to what works, matches, fits, is stylish, etc. and you can lose sight of the one criterion that really matters: do you smile when you see it?

Dream Sources: BDDW. I really like their sofas, mirrors, dining tables and linen fabrics—all of which were beyond my budget, unfortunately, but inspired some custom pieces I commissioned.

(Image credit: Anita Jeerage)

Resources of Note:





  • Ellis Bed, Crate & Barrel
  • Indian Side Tables from Journey, Brooklyn, NY
  • Celadon Porcelain Crackle Lamp from One King’s Lane
  • Fanimation Belleria Ceiling Fan
  • Kasbah Wool Rug, West Elm



(Image credit: Anita Jeerage)

Thanks, Andy!

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