As interior designer and artist Carly Berlin searched for a Brooklyn home, she was forced to make a tough choice. Did she want abundant natural light or historical character? Finding a place with both was simply not an option at her price point. So she opted for ample sunshine in a newly built apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows and unobstructed Manhattan views, determined to add the warmth of old architecture with decor instead.
Undeterred by builder-grade finishes, Carly layered the 1,450-square-foot abode with neutral tones inspired by the surrounding Carroll Gardens brownstones that date back to the 1800s. She embraced the light wood floors, minimalist kitchen, and cookie-cutter bathroom as blank slates for her cozy furnishings. She also upgraded basic materials where she could, replacing plastic electrical plates and shiny silver hinges with oil-rubbed bronze versions.
“You could just see the cheapness of them and they didn’t feel special at all,” opines Carly. “It makes such a big difference having nicer hardware throughout the apartment. It just makes everything feel a bit more elevated in a space that otherwise is quite stark and cold.”
Shop out the look of the house here ⤵
Carly also installed flowy pleated drapes and painted the walls, trading the sterile white shade the developer picked for creamier versions. The living-dining-cooking area is covered in White Dove by Benjamin Moore, which serves as a clean backdrop for the moody Joe Henry Baker artwork that informed the dark brown, burnt orange, and deep green palette in the open-concept area.
“I find that many designers will create the space and then after plug in the art, but I get really excited about sourcing a beautiful piece of art that is an investment, and then making sure that the aesthetic that I select works well with that piece,” Carly explains. “Art is really the focus.”
The oversized painting is paired with a rust-colored velvet Lulu & Georgia sofa, a natural fiber rug, a Caprani floor lamp, and a vintage slatted bench used as a coffee table. Nearby, a large paper lantern hangs above a black tulip-shaped dining table and a set of chairs topped with custom emerald Holland & Sherry cushions. An antique brass easel from Chicago’s South Loop Loft exhibits a Liza Giles piece in the corner.
Carly planned on a dark, sexy look in the den, which she created by tearing down a wall to combine two small bedrooms, but she didn’t end up liking the forest-hued paint she tried. So she switched gears to light and bright—but still warm and soft—with School House White by Farrow & Ball on the walls and Limen Studio built-ins. The exposed storage is filled with secondhand gems that she and her partner have collected while living in New York.
“People leave the most amazing things on their stoops and on the sidewalk—books and objects that they’re discarding—so when we go and walk our dog each day, we’re always finding these little treasures,” Carly shares. The majority of the things on the shelves in the den are what we’ve picked up throughout the years.”
Carly’s own artwork is also displayed in the den, where two pieces from her recent midcentury-modern-leaning series seemed to fit perfectly. They’re joined by an ivory Annie Selke rug, a chocolate brown CB2 sofa, a vintage accent table, and a set of Pottery Barn armchairs from a floor sample sale.
The earth tones continue in the bedroom, which revolves around a spirited, slightly chaotic artwork by Caleb Mahoney. Carly balanced it out with zen elements like a gray, channel-tufted headboard, relaxed linen bedding from Zara Home, and vintage nightstands with cane detailing. The vibe is inviting and lived-in, a far cry from the austerity that came before.
Shop it out:
$4298.00, Lulu & Georgia
School House White Paint
$130.00, Farrow & Ball
Washed Linen Sheet Set
$219.00, Zara Home
Timberline Floor Lamp
$1199.00, Design Within Reach
Teak Slat Bench
Pierre Jeanneret Capitol Complex Office Chair
Simba Ivory Woven Jute Rug
$1144.00, Annie Selke
White Dove Paint
$47.00, Benjamin Moore
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest