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THE FIRST THING Amy Samelson did when she bought this Pacific Street co-op seven years ago was “strip everything as bare as possible.”
Amy, an interior designer whose work includes both commercial and residential projects, immediately did away with “every annoying piece of door hardware, bad lighting fixture, and switch plate.” She also pulled off cheap parquet flooring in the living room and ugly ceramic tiles in the kitchen and bath.
‘Annoying’ was probably the least of it. All the different materials had the effect of visually chopping up the diminutive 500 square feet on the third floor of a brownstone where Amy lived and worked until recently (she has since relocated in the neighborhood).
“It was small space broken down further,” she recalls. “I made every effort to create one unified space, without a lot of finicky detailing.” To that end, she painted all the walls off-white, including the handsomely textured brick wall in the living room. She did the same to existing baseboards and moldings so they would, as she puts it, “visually fall away.”
To further make the apartment all of a piece, Amy installed sea grass carpeting, a natural water-repellent material, throughout the apartment, even in the kitchen area and bath.
The effect is pared down and serene, neither particularly minimal nor coldly modern, with warmth and variation from differently textured surfaces, like the white-painted brick wall, sisal carpet, and stainless steel table used as a desk.
Furnishings are few but iconic, including an Alvar Aalto chair, George Nelson side table and sculptural African wood stool.
In the living room, a simple box spring and mattress with a canvas slipcover from IKEA doubled as a sofa and guest bed. Even mundane objects like CDs and media components have “color and size relationships and form,” Amy says, and are candidates for open display.
Orderly open shelves reflect Amy’s belief that objects like books and file boxes “can be an artful expression, if arranged beautifully. It’s an upfront organization effort,” she says, “but once you’ve done it, it functions day by day.
A stainless steel table from a restaurant supply store served as both desk and dining table. Standing lamps create intimacy. “You don’t want light from the ceiling coming down on people’s heads.”
In the bedroom, below, translucent door panels, with hardware of brushed stainless steel, enhance the illusion of spaciousness. The bedroom closet wall was painted dark khaki; linen drapes in lieu of closet doors add texture and save space.
On the rear deck, below, Amy upholstered a wide platform with tailored cushions and affixed a pivoting market umbrella. Pots of ornamental grasses can winter outdoors.
Large photos courtesy Amy Samelson
Small photos by John Bessler for Better Homes & Gardens magazine