Hakarl & Jili Build a Family Home

Hakarl & Jili Build a Family Home

Jill Slater
Jun 6, 2012

Name: Hakarl and Jili
Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Size: 800 sq. ft., 1 bedroom condo
Years Lived In: 2.5 years

When it comes to design, and life, Hakarl says he avoids anything "too predictable." Examples that come to mind? He hand-painted a white garden fence on the dining room wall. He and his partner are raising their twin girls together with a lesbian couple who live in an apartment a few floors up.

Loyal Apartment Therapy readers may remember Hakarl's incredible hand-drawn wall murals and his excellent design style from house tours past, Apartment Therapy's second book, or the 2006 Small Cool Contest.

Since I last saw Hakarl, he and his partner have spent years negotiating the challenges and anticipating the perks of what it would be like to raise a child with Hakarl's old friend and her partner. It was important that all four could become friends and work together as a family. When everyone was comfortable with the arrangement, they took the plunge and ended up with twins! During the planning years, Williamsburg had transformed into a child-friendly neighborhood. Both couples were able to stay in the neighborhood they loved, but decided to stop renting and buy units in the same building.

The transition to parenthood was significant for all involved, but Hakarl had one additional task at hand — creating a new home in a bland, white-box condo. Hakarl refers to it as "condo shame." He would have loved a place that came with history and character, but has found a way to create these from scratch. In the bedroom, Hakarl added picture frame molding painted white against a steel gray wall. In the dining room, he painted a wall mural that evokes an outdoor garden, and in the office corner, the family story is told through trompe l'oeil picture frames with photographs affixed to each.

The girls spend their days at Hakarl and Jili's, and then sleep upstairs with their moms, who own a 2-bedroom apartment. Creating a child-friendly home isn't too different from a child-free one for Hakarl. He and Jili are committed to living in NYC, so they are past the 'disposable furniture' phase. If Hakarl owns something he likes, he is going to want to look at it. The only thing in storage at this point is the china. Hakarl and Jili have "made peace with [our] stuff" and understand that it is going to get dirty. Part of the girls' education is "to learn to respect things," Hakarl says.

This is the first apartment Hakarl has owned, and he loves that he can take (even more) liberties with its redesign. It's hard to gaze in any direction and not see a gorgeous vignette, a design innovation, or an impressive DIY project. His use of color is fantastic. White-box no more, this home is both sophisticated and a whimsical wonderland for adult and child alike.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Style: Fun, vibrant, comfortable and personal.

Inspiration: My mind is always "on". A few weeks ago I caught a glimpse of an amazing interior set on TV — 3 days later I had sat through the entire first season of 70's TV show McMillan & Wife to get every camera angle of their house. It was well worth it: now i have enough home improvement projects in my head to keep me going for a couple of months…

Favorite Element: The pops of colors throughout the space.

Biggest Challenge: We had outgrown our party pad, and I knew that our new space would have to work for a whole new set of family activities. Fast-forward 2 years: instead of a bar cart, you'll now find stacks of coloring books, yoga mats, and a mobile crafts station. Our friends still love to drop by, but nowadays it's more about family dinner and games.

What Friends Say: You drew these by hand? Do I have to take off my shoes?

Biggest Embarrassment: The bathroom — it hasn't changed since we moved in.

Proudest DIY: Our wall of hand drawn picture frames. It's the perfect backdrop for everything from our parents' wedding pictures to the girls' first ultrasounds.

Biggest Indulgence: The couch from Room &Board — hands down the most comfortable piece of furniture we've ever owned.

Best Advice: Let some time pass by before you commit to big-ticket items. When we weren't sure about a bed I found online, I outlined the headboard with masking tape on the wall and kept it up for a couple of weeks before being convinced it was the right size. Wish I would have taken measurements of the elevator, too…

Dream Source/Resources: I'm in love with ASH Home, an impeccably curated furniture/art/accessory store and recent addition to our hood (147 Metropolitan Ave). Every time I visit I see something new, and I rarely leave empty handed.



    • Lamp: Future Perfect
    • Table: Horseman Antiques
    • Red Stokke Chairs: Craigslist
    • White cabinets: Ikea


    • Blue Dot Desk: Future Perfect
    • Chair: Two Jakes
    • Lamp: The Junk Shop


    • Shelving unit: Housing Works
    • Rug: overstock.com
    • Couch: Room & Board
    • Pink Log Table: Future Perfect
    • Kids Chairs: Ikea
    • Red Crafts Cart: Housing Works


    • Bronze coat hooks: Urban Outfitters
    • Mirror: Ugly Luggage
    • Console Table: The Junk Shop
    • Zebra Ottoman: Tepper Auction House
    • Lampshade: DIY
    • Wallpaper: found on the street (!)


    • Chair, Rug, Bronze Bedside Table, Lamp: Jonathan Adler
    • Bed: overstock.com
    • Covers: Michael Kors
    • Easel: found on the street
    • Lamps: Housing Works
    • Curtains: fabricguru.com

For more details on Hakarl's kitchen, check out Hakarl and Jili's Room for Family on thekitchn.com
Thanks Hakarl!

(Images: Jill Slater)

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