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MARCH / APRIL 2012
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hen Anna Burke, a designer at Kemble Interiors, first toured the two-bedroom West Village apartment she shares with her sister, Caroline, it was, she says, “in a state of despair.” But beyond the “filth and dark,” she saw potential, along with the inklings of old New York charm. With Caroline’s help, Anna coated the walls and floors with white paint and papered an accent wall in a vibrant Bob Collins & Sons floral design. And she took full advantage of the apartment’s wide windows by dressing them with white IKEA drapes and topping them with homemade cornice boards. “We redid the whole apartment by ourselves,” Anna says, “just two girls on a budget. And in the process, we had a total blast.” By keeping her sense of style and her sense of humor, Anna created a sophisticated, bohemian pad that’s “part Billy Baldwin and part wild girl.” “I’m a great believer in striking a balance between high and low,” she says. “It can’t all be DIY, and it can’t all be new. There’s nothing that pains me more than overcontrived spaces. A home should be pretty and fun, and it doesn’t always have to make sense.” In the Burkes’ apartment, then, sheets by luxury linen maker D. Porthault grace a bed with a staple-gunned headboard. Throw pillows covered in a chic Schumacher print add a touch of refinement to a 1940s bamboo sofa that Anna found moldering in her grandparents’ beach house, while elegant pink-and-white-painted cabana stripes lend zest to a bathroom that, in Anna’s words, “is totally lacking in all modern amenities.” Anna Burke’s apartment shows the influence of Celerie Kemble, her mentor and employer. “I’m the luckiest girl in the world to get to work for Celerie,” says Anna. “She’s a model human with the best taste of anyone I know.” Quite often, though, the designer’s bargains are more difficult to spot. She found her claw-footed Chippendale desk on the street, and her living room’s centerpiece, the black-and-white photograph that hangs above the mantel, was purchased from a Manhattan street vendor for a whopping two dollars. “I’m very lucky to think that prowling for bargains and heading blindly into DIY projects is incredibly fun,” she says. “And I’m a huge proponent of that, actually, of relating to your home as a design playground and a place of adventure.” L 2012 MARCH • APRIL Lonny 189