Old never looked this new

Design matters

Aya Yamanouchi Lloyd met Nadia Yaron and Ry Scruggs, the Brooklyn designers who own Nightwood, in the spring of 2010. It all began with a mirror. Lloyd’s husband, Benjamin Lloyd, a journalist, had died earlier that year, and Lloyd, who is now 61, was redecorating to take her mind off her loss.

She had just ordered an off-white sofa when she was in Nunu Chocolates in Brooklyn and noticed a mirror that she thought would go with it. The frame was stained a dark oak colour and looked as if it had been gently aged. One of the shop’s owners told her that Nightwood had designed it, along with the rest of the furniture in the space, and gave her the company’s phone number.

Lloyd, a retired lawyer who owns and manages two town houses in Brooklyn and lives in part of one of them, met with the designers and asked them to make a mirror for her. She also bought a chaise from them, a refurbished vintage piece covered in muslin, for $1,200. Several months later, when the tenants moved out from the second floor of the house in Boerum Hill where she lives, she decided to expand her living quarters from the garden apartment into the floor above and hired Nightwood to design that space.

She envisioned a sanctuary that could double as a guest suite.“I wanted warmth, intimacy and comfort,” she said. “And I didn’t want the space to be overdecorated.”

Although Nightwood had occasionally designed furniture for clients’ homes, its designers had never decorated an entire home. The 1,100-square-foot apartment was to be their first.

So the three women sat down together and made a plan, deciding what kind of furnishings would be needed for the open kitchen, the sitting areas and the guest room and study, and set a budget of $30,000.

The designers began by revamping the chaise Lloyd had bought from them, turning it into the centrepiece of the space. Yaron, 33, who creates the firm’s cushions and seat covers, hand-dyeing them with tea, indigo or pomegranate extract, covered the back with linen, the seat with champagne-coloured velvet and the cushions with gray twill, leaving the fabric tacks visible.

“We both like that look: the under layer, the burlap underneath where you see the tacks,” she said. If you look closely, you can also see Yaron’s slightly irregular hand-stitching. Scruggs, 36, reworks the frames of old pieces, painting or dyeing them in muted colours to make them look weathered, and she designs and builds new furniture of an indeterminate vintage.

Next to the chaise, for example, is a coffee table, a castoff from a friend who knew that the women reinvent battered furniture.

Scruggs sanded down the legs and substituted a round slab of marble for the laminate top, turning it into a delicate-looking piece that anchors the seating area.

Working together, Yaron and Scruggs created a space that looks at once handmade and ethereal, a light-filled oasis full of vintage furniture covered in soft fabrics in pale, muted colours. Lloyd, who admitted to being “a bit of a nut when it comes to things being pristine,” recently had a party to show off the apartment, asking guests to leave their shoes at the door.

“We served white wine, prosecco and water,” she said. “No red wine, no coffee, no sodas.”

But she insists that it is possible to live comfortably in such a refined environment. And if someone were to spill red wine onto the cream-coloured rag rug or one of the beige linen pillowcases?

If spot cleaning did not work, she said, there is always the patchwork approach: Yaron could simply sew a scrap of fabric over the stain. One lesson to be learned from working with Nightwood, it seems, is that “anything can be fixed and repaired,” Lloyd said.
New York Times News Service

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