David & Susie's Harlem Renaissance

David & Susie's Harlem Renaissance

Catrin Morris
Apr 13, 2012

Architect David Mabbott and his wife, artist Susie Reiss, bought a cookie cutter apartment in Harlem in 2005. Working in stages, they re-designed the duplex to accommodate a studio for Susie, a new office for David's firm, and more functional bedrooms for their two children. The clean, warm spaces reflect a balanced blend of Susie's love of color and David's love of wood (he's a former furniture maker).

The first priority was to carve a painting studio out of the spacious living room on the upper level. David, a principal of Mabbott Seidel Architecture, did most of this construction himself on nights and weekends. "It was hard to cut into the open space, but it felt right as soon as I was able to get to work and still be a mom of young kids by having my studio at home." recalls Susie. A transom and skylight fill the studio with light, and new studio walls define the floor into living, dining and playing areas.

The furnishings are a mix of custom and reclaimed furniture. The coffee table is from David's former life as a furniture maker. The painting collage is Susie's. The chairs were found at a church sale and reupholstered. The BoConcept sectional was purchased only after an older sofa from Susie's parents finally collapsed. The carpet is a remnant cut to size.

The lower level renovation continued the transom theme, bringing light and air into an otherwise dark hallway. The yellow foyer wallpaper by Jocelyn Warner (peeking through in the playroom image) and the quarter sawn Douglass fir floors create more warmth. Pocket doors save space. and David's office was opened up with glass fronted double doors.

The children's bedrooms are separated by a sliding wall of Douglas fir. FLOR tiles and Charles Webb beds mean no heartache if art projects go awry. David built the bookcases, and the globe lights are from an Artemide sample sale.

The kids' bathroom is simple yet playful, with penny tile and a medicine cabinet designed by David's firm, Mabbott Seidel Architecture. "Although finishes changed, we saved money by keeping the original fixtures." said Susie.

David and Susie continue to work on smaller projects around the apartment — lighting, bookshelves, furniture and storage. David has his eye on the kitchen for a massive overhaul. But they are waiting until they are ready to take on the big stuff again. "Should we mention that our marriage almost ended when I was finishing the studio?" David jokes, "Two words: drywall dust."

(Images: Mabbot Seidel Architecture via Houzz)

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