Budget Breakdown: Two Furniture Designers Set Up Shop in Brooklyn for $25K—Plus Rent

Ben Kicic and Emilio Halperin have a loft in common—and the Bed Stuy studio showcases their work and curios with DIY shelving and light that’s just right.

A thorough coating of white paint unifies the studio space, while textured rugs and furnishings give it some personality. Ben and Emilio’s latest piece, an aluminum Library Lamp, sits on a credenza behind an Alvar Aalto 544 sofa while a Noguchi pendant hangs overhead.
A thorough coating of white paint unifies the studio space, while textured rugs and furnishings give it some personality. Ben and Emilio’s latest piece, an aluminum Library Lamp, sits on a credenza behind an Alvar Aalto 544 sofa while a Noguchi pendant hangs overhead.

When designers Ben Kicic and Emilio Halperin first toured this 500-square-foot studio in Brooklyn’s Bed Stuy neighborhood, one of the windows fell out of its socket and onto the floor. Lucky for the broker trying to close the deal, the window was just one of the 33 that wrap around the space. And through them Ben and Emilio caught sight of a pretty spectacular view of Manhattan’s skyline. "That was enough," Emilio says, looking out at that same vista two years later. "It’s so cool."

Unlike the view, the unit itself wasn’t a showstopper. "It wasn’t nice enough to be called a blank slate," recalls Emilio. The concrete floors needed patching, and virtually every surface called for a fresh coat of paint. But as designers tend to do, Emilio and Ben got whisked away daydreaming. "There was a lot of potential," says Emilio.

Emilio and Ben, left and right, respectively, sit in their studio on a bright day.
Emilio and Ben, left and right, respectively, sit in their studio on a bright day.

The 28-year-old furniture designer had recently stepped out on his own after years of working for brands like Norman Copenhagen, Billy Cotton, and West Elm, where he met Ben, 32, back in 2018. They were searching for a space to grow their own practices, and they realized that, with a little prep work, the fifth-floor studio would fit the bill.

It had room for two desks—easy enough—but it also had tall, open walls perfect for storing material samples, and space for a small lounge area and kitchenette. The bank of windows would also provide the perfect light for a photo wall—an important consideration for anyone selling original products. So, they signed on the dotted line.

A thumbs up from Ben hints at the cautious optimism of a first tour of the space.
A thumbs up from Ben hints at the cautious optimism of a first tour of the space.

"Let’s just make the architecture as nice as possible," Ben recalls saying as they started the retrofit. With $100, the duo patched up any noticeable craters in the concrete floor and covered it in a coat of white garage paint. "Once we painted the floors it was a different space," Emilio says. Next came the walls, which the pair covered in $280 worth of Farrow & Ball’s Blackened hue.

$280
Wall Finishes

$100
Flooring

$300
Kitchen Metalwork

$700
Aluminum Kitchen Shelving

$2,500
Lighting

$1,200
Blu Dot Cabinetry

$800
USM Desks

$400
Rakks Shelves

$350
Radiator Covers

$900
USM Cabinet

$1,900
Beni Rug

$15,000
Additional Furnishings & Decor

Grand Total: $24,430

Perhaps the most impressive intervention—in terms of cost and effect—is the white shelving Ben and Emilio came up with to hide a rusty, misshapen radiator that does a lap around the space. Made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF) coated in the same wall paint, the $350 radiator cover added not only additional storage but also a sense of architectural interest to the unit, which was finally surpassing blank-slate status.

A thorough coating of white paint unifies the studio space, while textured rugs and furnishings give it some personality. Ben and Emilio’s latest piece, an aluminum Library Lamp, sits on a credenza behind an Alvar Aalto 544 sofa while a Noguchi pendant hangs overhead.
A thorough coating of white paint unifies the studio space, while textured rugs and furnishings give it some personality. Ben and Emilio’s latest piece, an aluminum Library Lamp, sits on a credenza behind an Alvar Aalto 544 sofa while a Noguchi pendant hangs overhead.

See the full story on Dwell.com: Budget Breakdown: Two Furniture Designers Set Up Shop in Brooklyn for $25K—Plus Rent
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