Back when we worked at BRAVO together, Rachel Smith and I would spend our lunch hours scrolling through Ebay and Craigslist in search of Danish Modern. As fledgling producers, budgets were tight. But luckily, this was about 10 years before mid-century Scandinavian became all-the-rage, so we were able to score some truly incredible deals. Sometimes the delivery and pickup of the items was a little – err – interesting, but it was always worth it in the end.
What I admired about Rachel then, and still do now, was her ability to identify intrinsically great items from any era and mix them together into a seamless décor. An Australian-come-New-Yorker, Rachel and her filmmaker/photographer husband Sam Erickson, each bring a unique set of influences to their home design. Not only do they possess an eclectic mix of characterful furnishings, but also a diverse art collection – contributions from Sam, as well as the couple’s many artist friends.
With so many unique pieces, Rachel and Sam’s home was and is particularly personal and interesting. Every time I visit I find myself constantly inquiring, “Where did this come from?” and, “Who made this?” This is because everything in their home has a story, is part of the couple’s history. Especially in a cramped New York space, it could easily have devolved into something overwhelming, busy, and cluttered. But through Rachel’s considered editing, it is warm and cozy, fresh, and intriguing. Though the elements in their home are sometimes diverse, Rachel and Sam have always selected furniture with a low profile and sleek lines. And they never put too many furnishings in a room, so that each unique piece is allowed to shine.
Also key to Rachel and Sam’s design success, has been the homes they have chosen. Even when their apartments were small, they always felt open and spacious. Rachel and Sam knocked down walls to maximize flow, created clever hidden storage nooks to hide clutter, painted the walls white so as not to compete with the art, and always chose homes with great windows!
Over the years, Rachel and Sam, have traded up homes as their family grew. Their latest acquisition, this 1870′s brownstone located in the quaint neighborhood of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, is their piece d’resistance. It too enjoys an airy, open layout, lots of light, and enough space to house Sam’s production offices downstairs. Besides painting, the couple took down a wall in the kitchen to create the open floor plan, and erected two others to create an extra bedroom and guest room.
Set against white gallery-esque walls and highlighted by the extraordinary windows, all the elements come together to create a streamlined montage of Rachel and Sam’s life and times. Never static, it morphs and evolves to accommodate new treasures, new developments, new experiences and relationships. The resulting effect is a home that is both modern and timeless, and full of soul.
Rachel and Sam’s living room occupies one end of the sunlit brownstone. Surrounding mid-century modern furniture, the couple mix art, as well as antiques, and ethnic accents. They bought the original Hans Wegner cane chair, along with a Knoll Risom chair upstairs, ”for a song” about twelve years ago. The coffee table is one Rachel and I discovered on Ebay. The couch is a Jasper style from Room and Board. And the antique table with the vintage French pitcher is from Sam’s Grandmother’s basement.
Beside the orginal marble fire place sits a vintage chair that Rachel literally bought off a guy on the street, and then recovered in a lovely linen. Over the mantle are pieces by Rachel’s friend Joanna Cooper.
In the open main level, the living room continues into the dining area and finally the kitchen. Here you can really see the drama of the space, with its open flow, beautiful moldings, and tall windows. I love how the fine, black panes mimic the frames of the artwork.
Corners of the home: playful prints and elements in Anna’s room. A pair of photographs by Sam adorn a corner in the living room.
Up the classic (but wonderfully wonky) staircase and into the couple’s bedroom, an original leather Risom chair from Knoll sits under an Aboriginal print by Lily Karadada.
More art meets mid-century modern and antiques in the couple’s bedroom. The quilt at the foot of the bed is an Indian reversible quilt from One Kings Lane. Note how its colors and patterns play with those seen through the window.
A detail of Rachel’s kitchen with radish painting by Cara Wood-Ginder
All photos copyright Justine Hand.