An Artist’s Modern Brooklyn Loft Is the Perfect Backdrop for Her Bold, Big Art — House Tour

Name: Nicole Martinez and Ian Phipps
Location: Williamsburg — Brooklyn, New York
Size: 1,000 square feet
Years lived in: 2.5 years, renting

The word “loft” gets thrown about a bit these days, but Nicole and Ian’s apartment in Williamsburg is the real thing—an old factory building with soaring ceilings, exposed concrete floors, and genuine industrial character. It’s the perfect backdrop for their collection of mid-century furnishings, comfy textiles, and colorful art, much of which was created by Nicole herself. It’s just as hip as you would expect a Williamsburg loft to be, but warm, lovely, and lived-in, too.

The apartment’s spacious main room contains the kitchen, dining, and living room. (The bathroom is right by the door as you enter.) The main room has no windows, but it’s still full of light, thanks to two transom windows that let in sun from the adjoining bedrooms. The bedroom doors, an addition that Nicole and Ian made to the apartment, are from an old synagogue: They provide privacy while also allowing light into the living room, and the hot pink panels at the bottom add a touch of unexpected color. Another thing that adds color to the space is Nicole’s art. In each room, an oversized piece provides a focal point, and a feast for the eyes.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: The decor in our apartments has been different depending on where we’ve lived. We had a lot more antiques when we lived in a pre-war building in Boston. Now that we’re in a loft space our furniture is more industrial and modern. But I guess the constants have always been neutral basics, colorful textiles, and big art. I have to stop myself from buying more kilim rugs, Turkish towels, batik pillows, and fabrics with pompoms or embroidery. I’d be perfectly happy living in a yurt.

Inspiration: My architect grandfather, Humberto Alonso. The formative years of his career in Cuba in the ’40s and ’50s were spent experimenting with modernist design on the traditionally colonial island. My grandparents live in Miami now, and their home is a time warp to 1960. Their furniture is still 90% mid-century from the actual mid-century: solid teak everything. It’s awesome, and their art is colorful and abstract. I have a tiny to-scale model of a home that my grandfather designed for me on my bookshelf. The design has high ceilings for plenty of art and there’s a central courtyard so every room has a view of the garden. Every time I look at it I’m reminded to keep working hard so I can one day afford to build it.

Favorite Element: How spacious our place is. Having space in NYC is definitely a luxury we don’t take for granted. (Our previous apartment in Brooklyn was 480 square feet.) We also have these huge doors that were originally from a synagogue and have hot pink panels on the bottom. I initially hated the hot pink, but I’ve grown to love it. They add so much character to the apartment. Oh, and our insanely comfy couch. We’ve had so many friends pass out on it while watching TV. It’s like Ambien in furniture form.

What Friends Say: The hallway leading to our apartment is kinda dismal. I’ve been told it looks like a psych ward at night when the neon lights are shining through the dropped ceiling, so it sets expectations pretty low. Once friends walk in for the first time they’re usually like “Whoa, it’s so nice!” I think they’re just shocked at the contrast or that it doesn’t have padded walls. Lots of love for our comfy couch and art collection as well.

Biggest Embarrassment: Our apartment is a fourth floor walk-up, and the flights are long since the building has high ceilings. Guests get a thigh workout anytime they come over. I always feel terrible when overnight guests have to lug their luggage up those stairs.

Proudest DIY: When we first got the apartment the concrete floors were painted with different patches of burgundy, grey, and teal house paint. It was ugly. The bathroom sink was a peeling laminate eyesore. We replaced the sink in our bathroom with an IKEA sink and stripped the painted floors to the original concrete. It totally transformed the apartment.

Biggest Indulgence: We just bought a dishwasher, and since we’re renters it’s definitely an indulgence. Stripping our floors was a similar situation, but we plan on being here a while.

Best Advice: If you find something you love that’s out of your budget, search Etsy, eBay, and the internet at large for something comparable. If it’s mid-century there’s most likely a more affordable knockoff somewhere. Also don’t be afraid to throw art up on your walls, and good art doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive. Search estate sales, Etsy, buy prints and giclees of originals, make it yourself, or befriend an artist. I know I definitely give a lot of art away to friends!

Dream Sources: A Percival Lafer sofa, a painting by Zio Ziegler or Jackie Tileston, raiding a Moroccan or Tunisian souk or the Grand Bazaar in Instanbul, the Hippie Fair in Rio, all the Danish furniture of the ’50s, and to go back in time to Havana before the Revolution and recover my family’s art and furniture and some Cuban tile.


Benjamin Moore Simply White

Console Table — West Elm
Coat Rack — Etsy/PipeDesigns
Circle Mirror — IKEA
Inlaid wood table — Bought on a trip to Granada, Spain
Geometric lamp — Urban outfitters
Ladder — Built by previous tenants
Turkish Rug — Etsy/PashaRugStore
Incense Burner — Amazon
White vase — Rosenthal

Sectional — CB2
Kilim Pillows — Etsy/SarikayaKilimPillows
Other throw pillows — IKEA
Black and White photos — Zack Dimen/Artists & Fleas in Williamsburg
Cat painting — Kelly Puissegur
Cast iron lamps — RePop, Brooklyn
Lipstick Mirror —Maurizio Cattelan
HP Lovecraft Print — Frog & Toad, Providence
Painting on Bookshelf — Menelaw Sete. Bought it on our honeymoon in Salvador, BR
Mid-century Bench — Benefit Street Antiques, Providence, RI
Antique GE Fan — eBay (it still works amazingly)
TV stand — IKEA
Rattan stools — IKEA
Jute rug — Overstock
Bookshelf — built by previous tenants and we painted the trim

Table — LexMod
Wood chairs — Blu Dot
Breuer chairs — gift
Hanging lights — IKEA, and bulbs from West Elm
Large Diptych Paintings — Nicole Martinez
Wallpaper Monoprint — Flat Vernacular
Cowhide rug —
Bar Dresser — West Elm
Lucite tray — Target
Cut crystal decanters — eBay

Steel Table/Island —
Steel shelves —
Coffee and cigarettes art — Etsy/retrowhale
Serving dishes — CB2
Geometric Vase — Etsy/Puik Art
Red Stools — Amazon

Side tables — Overstock Painting above bed — Nicole Martinez
Bellatrix Screenprint (dots) — Victor Vasarely
Enamel drip painting — Nicole Martinez
Portrait of Ian — Nicole Martinez
(Self) Portrait — Nicole Martinez
Chinese Klimt — Dafen & Deco
Favela Painting — Laerte de Sousa (Bought at the Hippie fair in Rio de Janeiro)
Moroccan Rug — West Elm
Metal cabinets — IKEA
Plants and pots —Sprout Home, Brooklyn
Mirror — IKEA
Moroccan PomPom Blanket — Etsy

Sleeper Sofa — West Elm Black and White Rug — Etsy (shop has since closed) Desk — West Elm
Chair — West Elm
Plants — Sprout Home, Brooklyn
Basket — IKEA
Gold Framed Abstract — Tony Bechara
Small Boat painting — Hippie fair in Rio
India Ink Woman — Nicole Martinez
Gold Nails for framing — Task, Brooklyn
Homage to Paul Rand — Torn out of Lubok 4 Book
Woman Collage — Jesus Perea
Enamel Drip painting —Nicole Martinez
Woman with boat — Jenny Meilihove
Wall Planter — Beam, Brooklyn
Other paintings — Antique stores and Estate sales, artists unknown

Thanks, Nicole and Ian!

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