You may know Phoebe Robinson as a fiercely funny, unapologetically intelligent, multi-hyphenate entertainer—she's a comedian, author (her second book, Everything's Trash, But It's Okay, comes out Tuesday), and co-host of the podcast and HBO special 2 Dope Queens—but she just added another impressive line to her resume: homeowner. And in New York City, no less.
Phoebe and her boyfriend, whom she affectionately calls #BritishBaekoff, had just moved into their new Park Slope space when Apartment Therapy stopped by for a tour. Let me tell you: one step into the apartment, you're immediately struck by its cozy, homey feel, its beautifully designed details, and the insanely impressive windows.
"We wanted to have space, we wanted to have a nice view, and we wanted it to be cozy, because he travels a lot, and I travel a lot," Phoebe says. "And so what I really liked about this place was the layout is really nice, things are kind of separated but it doesn't feel like overwhelmingly big. And the minute we walked in here I just fell in love with the giant windows. I love natch light and every room was just like glowing and I was like okay, okay, I can see living here."
One thing she needed a little help with though, was executing the design. "I don't necessarily know how to tie a room together, like I can get cute tchotchkes, but I'm not an overall design person," she explains. So she turned to an interior designer to help transform her new apartment into a home. But not just any designer, she enlisted one of her best friends, Karen Asprea. The two met during their college years at the Pratt Institute and have been friends ever since.
Timing was perfect—Karen is in the midst of transitioning her career to focus more on private homes—and their deep friendship added a layer of trust to the design process. "I told Phoebe from day one, things are going to go wrong, you may want to strangle me at some point, but we will love each other no matter what happens," Karen says. "And to be honest with you, working with her was the most amazing experience and has solidified for me, my career move."
That's not to say the entire design process went off without a hitch; Karen had to talk Phoebe down from a few impossible-to-execute ideas.
"I've been watching a lot of HGTV and that's like not what a designer wants to hear, because it means, 'Oh, this person has a lot of ideas and they don't know how to execute them,'" Phoebe said. "So for the office I was like 'Karen, what if we got a sliding barn door?' And she was like 'You literally don't have the infrastructure to pull that off. This is New York. Leave the doors as they are.'"
Barn doors aside, Karen helped Phoebe and #BritishBaekoff create a space that felt uniquely them, and combined their personal tastes into one cohesive home.
"I think it was a lot of just me being more colorful and him being like, 'Okay if you make everything colorful, maybe in a year you're not gonna want to have a purple couch or bright orange side table,'" Phoebe said. "So, it was a lot of making sure we muted it a little, but still had some life."
There was one major compromise the two had to make though, and unlike most couples who focus on things like paint color or rug size, Phoebe and #BritishBaekoff's compromise centered on something a little more unexpected: The band U2.
"I'm a psycho U2 fan, and The Edge's wife has a gallery in Venice, California. And I was gonna be in LA at the time they had a show to sell these photos he took, with the proceeds going to charity. So I was like, 'Bae, I'm gonna go check out this gallery' and I knew I was gonna buy pictures, but I didn't tell him. I was like 'I'm just gonna go look at some stuff,'" Phoebe said. "And then I get there and I'm like freaking out and I FaceTime him and he's fully at work. So he kinda saw the pictures, and he was like 'Oh, these are actually really good' and I was like 'Okay cool, byeee.' And then I got four, so I got one of Bono, one of Larry, one of Adam, and one of The Edge, and he was like 'You can't hang all four in the apartment, because that's a lot.' And I was like 'Okay, that's fair.' And he was like 'No U2 in the bedroom. I don't wanna look over and see Bono when I'm like watching TV in bed.'"
So Phoebe hung the Bono photo in their shared office and the photo of Larry in their second bathroom. Will the other two make an appearance at some point? Only time will tell, but she did confide in me that she might try to hang one more in the living room next time #BritishBaekoff is out of town (but if he asks, you didn't hear that from me).
The U2 photos are just one of the ways Phoebe and #BritishBaekoff's personalities shine through in the space. Everything from the wall color, to the lighting, to the decorative accents feels like them. But nowhere is the melding of their personal styles more clear than in the masculine-meets-feminine office space.
"Phoebe has such a fun, amazing personality, so the pieces in here are all classic in a way but still fun and energetic. You see these pops of her everywhere," Karen explained. "And the desk is so #BritishBaekoff. We tried to get a good balance of both of them in the space."
"It's like masculine and feminine in a really, cool modern way," Phoebe added.
So what sold #BritishBaekoff on the space as a whole? One key thing was the physical layout of the apartment. "The actual floor plan of the apartment was what really got me straightaway," he said. "Walking into a hallway and not straight into a kitchen is a big thing, I just knew that I could live there."
To really make the most of that entryway space, the couple created a little vignette with an on-trend round mirror, a velvet bench, and artwork. "We really wanted to have a space where you could walk in and be like 'ahhh I can breathe for a second,'" Phoebe said. So it just makes you feel like you're walking into a cozy home."
The importance of coziness was something that carried through in my conversation with Phoebe, Karen, and #BritishBaekoff, but it wasn't just talk. The whole apartment feels inviting, warm, and yes, cozy. Velvet accents abound, from the gorgeous blush sofa in the office, to the blue velvet dining chairs, to the mustard velvet chair in the bedroom.
Speaking of that mustard chair, fret not clean freaks, there's no chance it will transform into a dreaded clothes chair. "They forbid it," Phoebe said. "I will take clothes out of the dryer and set them on the chair while folding, but I've been warned. Because that could just turn ugly real quick, and it's supposed to be the fun statement chair of the house, so I want it to shine… but call me in six months."
Keeping unnecessary clutter (and work) outside of the bedroom was particularly important to the couple, both of whom travel on a regular basis, so they have a place to recharge when they're home.
But at the end of the day, keeping the home's theme and budget in mind was of equal importance. "I always say Solange on a budget is the theme for the apartment," Phoebe explained. "Like, we can decorate, but as you know it can get really expensive. So, we just wanted to have nice textures that can kind of make it look more expensive than it really is."
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Fun and eclectic, but also sensible like someone who has all their bills set to autopay. #HellaGrown
Inspiration: Our inspo is "Would cool black people like Solange or Michael B. Jordan wanna chill here barefoot and eat Lorna Doones with us?" And obviously, when I write "our," I meant "mine" as bae would never think something so ridiculous. In all seriousness, he and I watch a lot of HGTV design shows and so we really just want our place to look like the "After" on a renovation without it looking staged. Like, on point, but with personality.
Also, I looked on Pinterest and Instagram to see how, for instance, the Vogue Living Instagram account would design a room then compare and contrast that to what I saw on Pinterest, which is rooted more in how the average person who doesn't have an outsized budget can make a cozy and beautiful home.
Favorite Element: Walk. In. Closet. If you love fashion and/or are obsessed with "Sex and the City," a WIC is the dream.
Biggest Challenge: Finding an L-shaped sofa that fit in the space we had. It's a tight fit because the way the living room is shaped, but just because we are tight on space doesn't mean you have to sacrifice comfort and style. And the couch that our interior designer, Karen Asprea, found proves that.
What Friends Say: Considering that I live in NYC, they say we've made it and that it's so beautiful and adult. That's closely followed by, "We can't believe your apartment is so put together already!" And that was—#PunAlert—by design. A few people I know told #BritishBaekoff and I that the one thing they regretted when they purchased a home is that they didn't have it decorated before they moved in because once you're in your home and you get swamped with work, it's difficult to map out a room, go shopping for it, or make renovations in a way that won't disrupt your life. So we took that to heart and decided that we wanted the apartment as turn key as possible, so we worked with Karen to get everything designed and ordered, so that the apartment was about 75 percent together before bae and I moved in.
Biggest Embarrassment: My designer picked a beautiful lounge chair for the bedroom and had to lecture me about it not becoming a catch all. I'm a reformed slob! What can I say.
Proudest DIY: #BritishBaekoff putting together the sound system and light designing the whole apartment with Phillips Hue bulbs with different moods.
Biggest Indulgence: Custom designed millwork for the walk-in closet and bedroom to maximize our storage. Also, we chose to do automated shades and curtains from The Shade Store.
Best Advice: Hire Karen!
Dream Sources: RH Modern. We chose a super luxurious king bed from RH Modern in upholstered velvet for the master bedroom.
PAINT & COLORS
We used Benjamin Moore's Stormy Monday (2112-50) on the walls in most of the apartment.
In the master bedroom, we used Portland Gray (2109-60) on the side walls. There is also a graphic banana leaf print wallpaper in cream and ochre on the accent wall behind the bed. We got that off Etsy.
Acacia Wood 40" Mirror — CB2
Moon Round Flush Mount Light - CB2
Fontainne Bench - West Elm
Desi Smoke Flat Woven Rug Runner 2.5'-7' — Crate & Barrel
Canvas Print - Abstract Expression — West Elm
Never Let Me Go II Wall Hanging — Society6
Andes Sofa — West Elm
Solid Basketweave Throw — West Elm
Mineral Area rug — West Elm
Adrian Media Cabinet in Charcoal — Room & Board
Minimalist Floating Shelf in bronze — RH Modern
Rachel Kozlowski Mallard Duck Table Lamp — West Elm
Palazzo Medium Mableized Planter — CB2
Trigg Large Wall Vase — CB2
Throw Pillows — West Elm
Tchotchkes & Incense — CB2
Plants — The Sill
The kitchen millwork and appliances were part of the newly built condo building. With walnut veneer cabinetry and polished chrome hardware. We did purchase some accessories from Food52
Less Black Wall Clock — Houzz
Kitchen Island Light — From CB2, but currently out of stock
Light Bulbs — Aspen Brands Pendant Light
Leonelle Sofa — Anthropologie
Abstract Lise Rug — Anthropologie
Carlson ii Narrow Storage Tower — CB2
Cooper Mid-Century Leather Swivel Office Chair — West Elm
Vito Bust Statue — CB2
Dang 2 Drawer File Cabinet — AllModern
Pascal Bunching Tables — Crate and Barrel
Ceramic Nature Rabbit Table Lamp — West Elm
U-Brands White Large Farmhouse Monthly Dry Erase Board — The Container Store
U-Brands Natural Square Cork Bulletin Board — The Container Store
U-Brands Black Square Chalkboard — The Container Store
Desk — Custom designed
Throw Pillows — West Elm & CB2
Tchotchkes — CB2
Framed Art — All from Minted.com except for The Lumineers' platinum is from #BritishBaekoff's collection and Bono photograph was purchased from a special auction The Edge had in 2017.
Modena Bed with extended headboard in vintage velvet Slate Blue —RH Modern
Bedroom custom millwork — European Kitchen Center
Banana Leaf wallcovering from ThinkNoirWallpaper — Etsy
Tulip Chair in Gold velvet — Anthropologie
Alexa nightstands — West Elm
Luxe Wool Bench — Anthropologie
Smooch Carved Hand Woven Area Rug — Perigold
Lim 13.5" Table Lamp — Perigold
Ceramic Nature Pineapple Table Lamp — West Elm
Sphere & Stem Floor Lamp — West Elm
Wall Art — Minted.com and Etsy
Haven Asia Teak Stool — Bed Bath & Beyond
Teak Bathtub Caddy — Bed Bath & Beyond
Framed Art — Larry Mullen, Jr. photograph was purchased from a special auction The Edge had in 2017.