A Brooklyn Maker’s Ever-Evolving Small Apartment

Furniture designer Katy Skelton’s airy Crown Heights home is equal parts functional showroom and intimate crash pad.

An industrial steel side table designed by Skelton grounds brightly colored textiles in the living room of furniture designer Katy Skelton.
An industrial steel side table designed by Skelton grounds brightly colored textiles in the living room of furniture designer Katy Skelton.

When Katy Skelton and her husband, Drew Acuff, relocated from Savannah, Georgia, two-and-a-half years ago, the New York City apartment gods were seemingly poised in their favor. “We stayed with a friend for the first month, liked the Crown Heights neighborhood, and took the second place we looked at,” she recalls of their serendipitous search. The sun-drenched, recently renovated space ticked off all the right boxes for the Brooklyn-based furniture designer, who envisioned a blank canvas for displaying her favorite pieces. Click here to see more images from Katy Skelton's home.

Outfitting her new 700-square-foot residence wasn’t a problem: Skelton had amassed a vast collection of art and furnishings while working as a product designer at Four Hands in Austin, Texas, and, later, while traveling as a graduate student studying furniture design at Savannah College of Art and Design. The couple’s biggest decorating challenge became narrowing down that collection to create a serene retreat within the city, an especially difficult task for the discerning Skelton, who makes a point of surrounding herself in her small-batch, American-made pieces before sending them into production.

“Our friends come over all the time and tell us our apartment looks completely different from the last time they were here,” Skelton laughs. “But I like to live with my products so that I can make little tweaks if I want to. It’s my personal quality assurance process.” It’s no surprise given Skelton’s stance on standards and social responsibility: she verifies that the manufacturers she partners with in Pennsylvania and Texas pay fair wages, offer safety training and equipment, and provide a healthy working environment.

A Brooklyn Maker’s Ever-Evolving Small Apartment
Crisp white walls and clear acrylic nightstands evoke a sense of calm in the bedroom. Malachite-patterned pillows add a dose of drama.

I like to live with my products so that I can make little tweaks if I want to. It’s my personal quality assurance process.

–Katy Skelton

Still, she has a refreshingly realistic take on incorporating responsibly manufactured items into her own home: “We’re like everyone else; it comes down to budget,” she says. “So, we do what we can.” Which means, among the prototypes from Skelton’s eponymous line, you’ll find a healthy mix: fair-trade items crafted by artisans in India, a Crate and Barrel sofa (made in the U.S.A., of course), inventive DIY projects, cobbled together from inexpensive IKEA finds—plus Skelton’s clean, mid-century aesthetic to unite them all. And while the home has a wonderfully moody, masculine edge, it is softened by the space’s crisp white walls, ample natural light, and a highly personal eye for detail.

A Brooklyn Maker’s Ever-Evolving Small Apartment
Gold-glazed bowls from Canvas Home play off the organic shape of a vase filled with fresh jasmine. The designer's Zelda table (at right) anchors a corner vignette in the bedroom.
A Brooklyn Maker’s Ever-Evolving Small Apartment

Ask Skelton about any piece in her home, and she’ll give you its history. From the framed pencil drawing by her grandmother that hangs next to the bed to the foo dogs purchased on a trip to Hong Kong (and subsequently painted a soothing shade of mint), nothing is displayed without a tremendous amount of consideration. “Some days I get tired of having accessories everywhere, so I clear off all of the surfaces,” she says. “Other times I’m nostalgic, and I really want the mementos from our honeymoon in Thailand on display.” Whichever combination she prefers, the constant evolution makes for a space that’s always original, never mass-produced, and just the right blend of design skill and chance.

A Brooklyn Maker’s Ever-Evolving Small Apartment
Designer Katy Skelton at home.

TIPS FROM THIS HOME TOUR Katy Skelton shares her thoughts on decorating with integrity

1. Embrace change without being wasteful. Skelton believes that the design process is an evolution. “Give yourself permission to change things,” she says. “Just don’t get in the habit of buying pieces with the intention of getting rid of them later.”

2. Invest in local, aspiring designers. “Etsy and Workof.com are two resources I use to find beautiful, affordable pieces,” Skelton shares. “Workof.com has a great mission to promote local designers. It’s a win win.”

3. Go green, cautiously. “If you plan to buy something green be wary of what the terminology means,” she advises. “If the wood is sustainably sourced, but the labor used to put it together isn’t socially responsible, is it worth it? Don’t let the marketing fool you."

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