Timeless Interiors - Design obsessives and New York couple Chris Mitchell and Pilar Guzmán discuss the nuances of their Slope Hill, Brooklyn, home in this extract from Patina Modern.
One of the challenges of brownstone living is the relatively narrow (at 20 feet) width of the home. With the space for a front hall and staircase, that makes for a bowling lane of a living room. Our solution was to create two spaces — one for dining, closer to the kitchen — and a proper sitting area by the front windows.
Our dining space is a small feat of spatial relations, with its 10-foot BDDW oak parsons table and Guillerme et Chambron chairs, and flanking Arne Vodder rosewood credenzas. On the salon-style wall we hung only art that is either of or by our family. A self-portrait of Pilar’s grandfather is a favourite. Since the heavy mahogany mouldings, pier mirror, and the room’s dimensions seem to close in the space even further, we knew that antiques were off limits. We saw in our neighbourhood so many fusty, museum-like brownstones around us. And while we love the mix of old and new, here we felt that we had to leaven the weight of the Victorian with cleaner lines and thinner profiles.
In the sitting area, the key design lesson was to avoid crowding the side walls with upholstered furniture. Instead, we hung a glass-front Danish cabinet on one side, and placed a small rosewood dresser and Arne Jacobsen swan chair on the other. That swan chair, it bears mentioning, was our first big furniture purchase, some 20 years ago, and is the inspiration for Patina Modern. Even as this chair starts to fray at the welting, or lose bits of its stuffing from a crack in the leather, I have never felt it more beautiful than it is today.
Another of my favorite finds has been the Hans Wegner daybed he designed for Getama. We’ve used these in multiple houses, and I believe they have an elegance in the brass rails and turned legs that belies the simplicity of the shape. Rounding out the room are a long held pair of Finn Juhl 45 chairs, their sculptural shape the absolute Danish ideal.
A jacinda wood ottoman by the Brazilian designer Jean Gillon that we covered in sheepskin adds a funky, organic touch. And a massive, antique Japanese textile framed on the wall gives the room a different kind of age, as well as a graphic punch.
Two elements that help lighten the parlour floor, (both in hue and weight) are the rugs and chandeliers. The hand-knotted rug was commissioned from a great source in Tibet, and designed by us (with apologies to one of my favourite painters, Eliot Puckette). And the lights here and in the kitchen are a pair of counterweighted mobiles from David Weeks, a friend since the 1990s whose pieces we have hung in every house. They have become classics to us, neither trendy nor dated. Their Calder-like quality and delicate sway are perhaps the greatest counter-programming we did to offset the lugubrious mouldings.