An Industrial Loft with a Trad Interior
In Manhattan's South Street Seaport neighborhood, J+G Design creates a classic dwelling for one of its own
Jennifer Beek Hunter and Georgie Hambright are prone to finishing each other’s sentences. “You get to the point where you can read each other’s minds,” says Hambright of her business partner in the two-year-old firm J+G Design (one of Lonny’s Next Big Names for 2014). The two have been hailed as fresh talents with an appreciation for the lineage of the past—particularly Albert Hadley, the late interiors legend, for whom Hunter once interned. Thus when she and her husband, Bradley, moved into a one-bedroom apartment in New York City’s South Street Seaport, a refined decorating scheme was never in question.
“I stumbled upon the area visiting friends,” recalls Hunter (below, at right, with Hambright) of her first experience with the Seaport, easily one of the city’s most fascinating communities. “It’s a tiny architectural jewel box next to the Financial District—I love the mix of old and new.” The once-bustling port has seen a creative resurgence after suffering significant damage during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy and is now home to a clutch of boutique businesses, including Emily Thompson Flowers and the bakery Made Fresh Daily. Hunter’s apartment is located within the Historic Front Street development, in a restored 18th-century brick warehouse with cast-iron columns and wood beams in each unit.
To play off the industrial structure, Hunter went in a more tailored direction: “I wanted the architectural bones to shine, so I chose muted, neutral colors that would set off these details.” She established an elegant living area with furniture from a mix of sources—vintage chairs, a Restoration Hardware sofa, and a pair of Ballard stools covered in custom fabric. The painting over the sofa was commissioned from Charlottesville, Virginia–based artist Cate West Zahl; the piece in the corner is a Vera Neumann scarf that Hunter had mounted and framed. Hand-painted wooden walnuts (“they remind me of Albert Hadley because he had similar ones in his office,” says Hunter) rest in a blue-and-white footed bowl by Sister Parish.
Exposed brick walls and evocative wood beams act as a compelling canvas in the bedroom—“so tiny that I wanted the bed to be the focal point,” explains Hunter. She commissioned a headboard and bedskirt from a custom fabric inspired by one in Albert Hadley’s personal collection of textiles, layered with bolder white-and-sky-blue pigments. “The linens, Fiesole by Kassatex, are the perfect complement to the fabric—something delicious but with subtle details. I love how the linen-colored piping picks up on the headboard.”
As befits a pair of newlyweds, Hunter and her husband are beginning their life together surrounded by meaningful objects. Tea cakes are served on Mottahedeh’s Tobacco Leaf (their wedding china); a vintage lithograph of Penn Station that once belonged to Bradley’s grandparents is displayed above the bar; and the elephant garden stool in the living room was a gift from decorator Harry Heissman, another Hadley alum, whom Hunter describes as a dear friend and mentor. “He knew my love of elephants and surprised me in the office one day with a special delivery from CBell in Palm Beach. It’s been my greatest treasure ever since.”
Like many decor obsessives, Hunter admits her newly curated interior is still a work in progress. “I’m always rearranging and adding to my collections, trying different setups—my husband thinks I’m a little crazy!” she says. “For me, it’s all about telling a story.” That story, in Hambright’s view, has particular resonance with many of their own clients’ lives. “[The apartment] is a nice transition into a new chapter for Jen and Bradley,” she continues, taking the words right out of Hunter’s mouth. “One of the most challenging parts of being a new design company is that people aren’t necessarily coming to us saying ‘I want the J+G look’ because we haven’t fully built our portfolio. Jen’s home, however, is a true reflection of our style.”