How a Designer Turned This "Modern White Box" Into a Lively—and Functional—Family Home

Hadley Mendelsohn
Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge
Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge

From House Beautiful

If there's an interior designer in New York City who knows how to give a modern, new build apartment a warm personality with a sense of history, it's Shanti Crawford of Indigo & Ochre Design. With a background in international human rights, Crawford's "first forays into design were to create income generation avenues for at-risk women," she says. "It evolved from there, but I’ve always stayed true to my roots through my firm’s focus on socially responsible and sustainable design." This is reflected Crawford's colorful, thoughtfully collected, and layered approach to decorating.

So, before her clients—a family with three human daughters and one canine daughter—even closed on this 2,600-square-foot, four bedroom penthouse in Brooklyn, they asked Crawford to lend her expertise as a design advisor. "I was hired before my clients closed and construction was completed to give guidance on the addition of character to a developer’s clean/white modern box," she tells House Beautiful.

Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge
Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge

Her clients have busy, full lives—she describes them as intellectual, athletic, and musical (hence the guitar by the bed, which you'll see more of in a minute)—and they travel extensively as a family. All of these interests shine through in their new home. From the onset of the project, they were excited for a completely fresh start, especially as the kids were getting older and shifting to different family rhythms. But "they were less excited by how cold and barren it felt," she tells us, "so my design directive was to add warmth, color, character and personality to the space."

Crawford also wanted to carve out areas with different uses from within the larger open floor plan. The goal was to make sure that each family member would have space to work, study, socialize and hang out, dine, and play music "while others were doing their own thing on the same floor," she explains.

Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge
Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge

The tricky part was creating these "discrete and intimate areas while still allowing for flow amongst the areas and to the generous terrace outside." Crawford achieved this through adding built-ins and coming up with strategic furniture arrangements. Color was also transformational—she says color is "always declarative of space" and that an assortment of vintage and antique rugs, bespoke light fixtures, custom built-ins, window treatments, and plants (she collaborated with landscape designer Laura Harmon of LFH Studio) can do wonders.

Another welcome challenge was incorporating preexisting items that were beloved by the clients: a massive patchwork kilim the family bought on a trip to Morocco and a rustic sideboard. She wanted them to feel intentional in the mix of new decor and also to look at home in the open floor plan space with streamlined and sleek elements.

Ready to see the rest of the space? Take a room-by-room tour ahead to how she transformed the modern new build into a personality-packed family home.


Entryway

Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge
Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge

"We saw the entry as forecasting that which you’d experience elsewhere in the flat," Crawford says. Instead of sticking with plain white walls, she opted for a pale pink hue. "The dusty pink shows up in upholstery and carpets throughout, so we used it as the envelope for this space which connects several others," she explains. Functionally, the hooks, baskets, and cubbies "all provide very necessary storage for this active family of five and we pared back on any additional pattern/color adding instead more texture in the ceramic discs wallhanging and woven Tuareg mat."

Living Room

Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge
Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge

Because the formal living room is within this open floor plan, Crawford says it was crucial to "keep in mind that sight lines were such that all elements could be seen from everywhere. We wanted discrete but complementary and cohesive feeling spaces while allowing for good flow between them." She allowed a vibrant, patchwork Moroccaan kilim (more on that later) to drive the color palette. You can see its influence in "the strong elements of color in the seating, artwork, accessories," she says. Crawford also "sourced a gorgeous gentle antique oushak to create an adjacent field that could hold its own without competing with the busy-ness of the kilim."

Dining Room

Photo credit: Heidi's Bridhe
Photo credit: Heidi's Bridhe

"It was important to have the clients’ own kilim anchor the space but not overwhelm it," Crawford expands. "For this we needed to nod to a few of the colors therein and riff on others. The painting helped us with which colors to draw out. I also thought it important to temper the rustic and more busy lines of the clients’ own sideboard with the very sleek and simple lines of the massively proportioned table and chairs. The brass legs of the latter add warmth and we see that finish again in the vintage coffee table in the adjacent sitting area. It’s all intentional but not precious."

Family Room

Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge
Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge

"In the U.K.," Crawford (who is British) says, "we’d call this a ‘snug’… a cozy, intimate room. That was the design directive for this large alcove off the Great Room pictured earlier. We achieved this by painting it a warm deep gray (ceilings too) and embracing the lack of natural light with deep jewel tones in lush textures like velvet for the upholstery. The splendid vintage heriz carpet I sourced helped anchor the alcove and give it personality."

Custom built-ins also help. "I designed and had the custom walnut shelving unit built to span the entire wal—purposely leaving the back open for some depth and delineation. It turned out every bit as handsome as I’d imagined," says Crawford.

Bedroom

Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge
Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge

"Soothing neutral colors, simple and clean lines, texture over pattern" were the rules Crawford lived by while decorating the couple's bedroom. "The only notes of deep color are the deep peacock sconces and the luminous mouth-blown carafe and glass," she says. Otherwise, it was all about setting the mood with cheerful neutrals.

Study

Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge
Photo credit: Heidi's Bridge

"This room had to serve several functions—as a home office, an occasional spare bedroom, storage for family games and personal artifacts but yet is also open to the great room living/dining area," Crawford tells us. So to ensure that the space lived up to that very tall order, she custom designed the built-in bookshelf that frames the daybed and then sourced the vintage Paul McCobb desk to work with the lines and tone of the built-ins."

Craving more decorating inspiration? Tour another Brooklyn home by Indigo & Ochre Design.

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