A Blank Canvas for Color, with Stacks of Secret Storage

A Blank Canvas for Color, with Stacks of Secret Storage

In a sleepy pocket of Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood near the East River, Joe and Kelly McGuier enjoy the quiet of their apartment in an early 1920s rowhouse typical of the changing area. Joe, co-founder of JAM Architecture in Brooklyn, makes the best of a one-bedroom rental unit that had previously been renovated and stripped of its original details. He prefers to see the space as a blank canvas on which to layer personality, and uses the design challenge as inspiration for clever solutions. Kelly, the director of creative services for a digital advertising firm, acts as a voice of reason when her husband dreams a little too big about replacing the oak cabinets and off-white kitchen appliances. The couple is saving to buy a home of their own, and in the meantime have decided to make only cosmetic changes that won’t break the bank — like removing cabinet doors to expose a collection of dishware in soothing, earthy tones.

The McGuiers achieve a balance of color and texture throughout. Individual items are always things they love and have a connection to — not just stuff that happens to fit in their 720 square feet. “We love looking around and seeing stories,” they share. Both from Ohio, Kelly and Joe aim to visit a new country every year — a goal worthy of a splurge, and one reflected in their eclectic decor. They also enjoy entertaining friends and have created a cozy environment for eating and laughing (something to which I can attest!).

The decor has seen many iterations over the five years they’ve been in the apartment. Rearranging furniture “just to see how it feels” turns out to provide a great excuse for cleaning under the sofa. They have been slowly updating their worn furniture when they find something that they love, and the result is a mix of old and new, a little shiny and a little tired. An iterative process, the pair are always willing to try out an idea, and most importantly, admit to themselves when it’s not working. When they think they’re finished, they’ll look around and ask themselves if they like the way they feel; to them, it’s less about following rules and more about going with their gut. Joe and Kelly are both fortunate to come from families of artists and collectors, and are the recipients of some excellent hand-me-downs. Also helpful is the tons of tucked-away closet space that allows for things to be switched out when it’s time for a change. The McGuiers get creative with storage, too — their bedroom curtains stand a foot off the wall, carving out hidden spots for bulky ironing boards, drying racks, ladders, and yoga mats in which to be shrouded in secret. Any collections that are on display (like books, booze, glassware, or dishes) are carefully curated for aesthetic effect. The sum total of these efforts is a place all their own, for which Kelly and Joe are most grateful. “We’re happy that we were able to turn a fairly generic space into a warm and inviting home.” —Annie

Photography by Tory Williams


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