Each Room in This Artist’s Brooklyn Apartment Is a Nod to a Distinct Era of Art History

published Oct 11, 2021

Each Room in This Artist’s Brooklyn Apartment Is a Nod to a Distinct Era of Art History

published Oct 11, 2021
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Bedrooms
Square feet
1100
Sq ft
1100

Name: Keighty Alexander, and Roland (8-year-old adopted kitty gentleman)
Location: Flatbush/Prospect Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn, New York
Size: 1,100 square feet
Type of Home: Co-op 2 Bedroom Apartment Built-in 1935
Years lived in: 4 years, owned

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Artist Keighty Alexander has owned this two-bedroom apartment located in a 1930s co-op building for four years. Already rich in architectural charm, she has also put a lot of work into adding her own personality to the space, much of that work with her own hands (and on a budget). “I learned how to lathe and replaster the walls myself — saving over 15k in repairs — after needing to update all the electricity; I hand cut and built the bookshelves in the middle of the night; upholstered a door; even extended the kitchen cabinets to make room for a new built-in dishwasher and longer stone countertops while maintaining the existing tile floors,” she lists. Not to mention she’s added rich paint colors, found furniture and accessories, and her own art.

Credit: Erin Derby

“As a compulsive traveler who was forced to slow down the last two years, it has been amazing to make this home a place that feels truly like me,” she says. “It is a shrine to the travels, friends, and art that inspire me, and is my oasis in the incredibly vibrant Flatbush neighborhood. It is unlike any other community I have been a part of in Brooklyn and I am extra grateful to have been here through 2020 and 2021, when a strong community was needed more than ever.”

Credit: Erin Derby

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Inspiration: I often say the vibe I’m going for is the home of a Time-Traveling Anthropologist. I grew up a military brat in a travel-obsessed family and studied 4D (performative installation and video) art at NYU and Central Saint Martins in London. Even though I am now primarily a painter, I still like to approach each project considering the environment and how things inhabit their space. In this way, I think the apartment fully takes on a life not just as a “Home” but also as a scrapbook and installation.

I hate shopping, and almost everything in the house was a family hand-me-down, scavenged on Craigslist, or straight up found on the street. The things that WERE purchased or collected intentionally are what shape the character of the home. Art by friends (and myself), tapestries collected from trips to Africa, Tahiti, and Mexico. Everything, even each mug or matchbook, holds memories from a trip or adventure.

Credit: Erin Derby

Each colorful room also unintentionally became a nod to three distinct eras of art history, just by the nature of the light and feeling the walls called for after being painted. The kitchen draws from the Dutch Baroque period; the bedroom adopted the air of the French Post-Impressionists like Gauguin and Rousseau; while the dark pink living took vibe cues from renaissance paintings. 

I also really love all styles of architecture so try to respect the bones of the building while renovating. I feel like I was able to restore or honor the Deco design elements while still bringing elements that make the home uniquely mine to the space. Without realizing it, the main colors of pink and green are even Deco staples!   

Credit: Erin Derby

Favorite Element: ROOMS. My Bed-Stuy apartment was a 750-square-foot studio I shared with my partner, and before that, I was always living with three-plus roommates. I know open concept homes have stolen a lot of people’s hearts… but I cannot be happier to have so many rooms. The kitchen is separate and means I can cook up a mess without contaminating the living space for the next 24 hours and the luxury of having a room that can act as a guest room and not even share a wall with my bedroom BLOWS my mind. 

I think anyone who was new to working from home last year can now appreciate how important it is to have a workspace that you “go” to that keeps things mentally and physically (even if just a few feet) separate from your real life. I think this is why I indulged in giving each room its own unique personality. 

Credit: Erin Derby

Biggest Challenge: When I lost my job only four months after closing and other projects had to move up the priority list (rewiring the whole apartment, and gutting the bathroom) I had to get creative with how to update the kitchen. I did this over the course of three years with careful planning and it ended up being my favorite room. Before moving in I removed the doors from one wall of uppers to create open shelving and a less contractor-grade feel and my partner and I went to the empty apartment after work every night to prep and paint the walls, trim, and cabinets. I feel the lush quality of the green with deep blue undertones makes basically anything look lush and romantic. 

I had more outlets and the electrical for a dishwasher added before I could afford the full renovation. Then two years later, to avoid ripping out the cabinets and needing to re-do all the floors, I installed a panel to the left of the lower cabinets so that the dishwasher could be installed at the end and allowed the countertops to be extended. Once the new marbled quartz was in, the existing ceramic tile floors became a neutral color rather than an off-putting tan. The details like getting an extra tall counter depth fridge and all stainless steel appliances, an oversized workstation sink, and fixing the gas line so that the stove could sit flush made the kitchen feel not just new, but luxurious, while the oversized brass ceiling light and black faucet make it feel modern. 

Credit: Erin Derby

There was also no door to the kitchen and the original 1935 steel door frame meant I had to customize a new door and hinges to add one myself. And all the dishware, furniture, and decor moved from my last place were collected on travels, or moved from my family’s basement… but they look at home here. 

Proudest DIY: Besides teaching myself to patch and replaster all the walls… I need to say converting the oversized gallery/hallway into a library! It completely transformed what many people saw as a waste of space. Such a simple DIY with such a big impact!

I am a research driven artist and on and off use the area as my office, and am always swapping out what’s on display over the credenza (which stores art supplies) based on what I’m working on. Anyone who visits cannot help but stop to look through the collection and I never tire of walking past them or looking out of my bed to the book room. 

Credit: Erin Derby

Biggest Indulgence: The schoolhouse lights in the hallway. I found the globes in the basement of a beauty school my grandparents ran for 50 years, where I also collected a lot of found material for my art practice. I had custom brass fixtures made to fit them, and when re-doing the electrical had the single centered hallway ceiling light covered in favor of two lights installed inline with the original archways. Not only do the lights look beautiful and bring more light to the library, but they look like they are original to the house. While the globes were upcycled and free, the fixtures were $650 and the added electrical work was about $400, making the lights very VERY worth it at $500 each.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I insist on there being at least one nude in every room! And building a wall that divided the living room, while technically removing a few square feet, made the space feel SO much bigger. I kept almost exactly the same floor plan and all the same furniture but so much functionality and usable space was gained. 

Credit: Erin Derby

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: This is going to sound super type A and controlling… but doing your best to curate and love EVERYTHING you own can make a small space feel endless. I enjoy being a maximalist who is a little messy, but past apartments have felt small and claustrophobic because I was always trying to hide/put things away in space that frankly does not exist in NYC apartments. 

When you love even the little silly things from your silverware caddie and mixing bowls to the bottle of your bubble bath is in, your “clutter” becomes simply a collection of things that make you happy and when they live out in the open. I hate labels and decant EVERYTHING so even opening any closet or drawer I have things I’m happy to have out be it from wooden hangers to splatter ware canisters. 

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? You do you! I have nothing against trends but I think people often get stuck in decorating for the lowest common denominator, especially in renovations. I think one feels obligated to pick colors or finishes that will offend the least amount of people. Most of us know first hand that everything has an equal and opposite reaction, even outside of Newton’s Law. If anyone is going to LOVE something, someone is going to HATE it… so you might as well love it rather than looking for a Venn Diagram overlap where some people will ‘like’ it. 

Resources

Credit: Erin Derby

PAINT & COLORS

  • Library/Hallway — Benjamin Moore “Swiss Coffee” and “Terrytown Green” 
  • Kitchen — Benjamin Moore “Lafayette Green”
  • Bedroom — Benjamin Moore “Newburyport Blue”
  • Living Room — Benjamin Moore “Burgandy Rose”
  • Flex/Dining Room — Benjamin Moore “White Dove” and “Wrought Iron”
  • All Doors — Benjamin Moore “Wrought Iron”
  • All Light switches and plates — House of Antique Hardware
Credit: Erin Derby

ENTRY

  • Mirror — Target
  • Sconces — Antique 
  • Candles — That tic-toc DIY 
  • Tapestry — Moroccan Rug

LIBRARY

Credit: Erin Derby

LIVING ROOM

  • Pierrot Sleeper Sofa — Bonaldo (Acquired free when former employer was emptying storage!)
  • Moroccan Beni Rug — Berberthings on Etsy
  • Record Shelves — IKEA (Wood bases discontinued)
  • Wall Mounted Shelf — Amazon via Craigslist
  • Mantis Swivel Wall Sconce — CB2
  • Brass Floor Lamp — Target (discontinued)
  • Maddie Coffee Table — Urban Outfitters
  • Tray Metal End Table — Local Store similar on Amazon
  • Pink Side Table — Grandparents basement (painted several times)
  • Faux Eames Lounge Chair — Thrifted
  • Sheepskin — New Zealand
  • Media Cabinet ​​— Craigslist
  • Brass Semi Moon Pulls —  Amazon (I needed to get different screws)
  • Tapestry — Otomi from Mexico
  • Wooden Lute — Trip to Morocco
  • Silver Backed Mirror — Found in Building trash Room!
  • Ceramic Gradient Vase  —  CKTC 
  • Hay Kutter Candle Holder —  Superior Merchandise Co.
  • Pink Blanket — Avoca 
  • Small Paintings — By Owner
  • All Pillows — By Owner
  • Large Portrait — Family hand-me-down
  • Hot Seat Knoll Poster — Gift From Designer Woody Pirtle
Credit: Erin Derby

DINING ROOM

Credit: Erin Derby

KITCHEN

  • Quartz Countertops  — Home Depot
  • Workstation Sink — Kraus
  • Kohler Faucet  — Home Depot
  • Ceiling Light  —CB2 (discontinued) 
  • Table  — Vintage folding card table 
  • Chairs  — Vintage Clifford Pascoe for Modern Masters Dining Chair
  • Ceramic Mezcal Decanter — Tequila brought home from Mexico
  • Dansk Pots  — Food52
  • Everything Else — Found/Vintage 
Credit: Erin Derby

BEDROOM

  • Bedside Tables — ​West Elm via Craigslist 
  • Armchair  — Houzz 
  • All Other Furniture  — Found/Vintage 
  • Ceiling Fan —  Hunter
  • Bedside Lamps —  DIY
  • Upholstered Door  —  DIY 
  • Black and White Tapestry —  Moroccan Rug
  • Pink and Blue Tapestry —  Tifaifai or Tahitian Wedding Blanket from Moorea
  • Dream Catchers —  Mexico (white) & New Mexico (Pink)
  • African Neckless Wall Hanging — Tafari Tribe, Brooklyn
  • Abstract Art — Paula Pogranizky
  • Female Portrait — By Owner
  • Rainbow Drip Vase (mug) — Feldi Studios 
Credit: Erin Derby

BATHROOM

Thanks Keighty !

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.