While “house of mirrors” is a fitting description for Vanessa and Matt’s home — adorned with 14 mirrors carefully placed throughout the parlor floor apartment — all similarity to an amusement park fun house ends there.
Located just north of McGolrick Park, the married couple’s apartment is an inviting and cozy 1,000-square-foot space, complete with two bedrooms (with one bedroom converted into an office), a living room, kitchen, bathroom, patio, and a 600-square-foot backyard. Vanessa has taken the lead on decorating since they moved into the building 4 years ago from Florida, but Matt’s opinion and approval are a crucial part of the process.
The Living Room
“Everything has a story,” Vanessa told me, using the word “nostalgic” when I asked the couple to describe their space.
In the center of the living room atop a red Persian-style rug sits a large white footrest the couple found on the sidewalk just before New York City shut down for COVID-19 — almost as if the universe knew they’d soon be spending most of their time at home. Another gem discovered on the street, an ornate mantel giving off the impression of an old fireplace, sits flush against one wall. Vanessa refurbished and painted the piece white with gold hardware (it was originally a dark cherry wood), and mounted a gilded mirror from thrift shop Reuse America above it. In fact, the couple has scavenged many of their unique pieces of furniture and décor through crafty avenues, such as Stooping or thrifting, effectively turning one man’s trash into their very own treasures.
Just off the living room is an office where Vanessa and Matt work from home as a communications professional and digital marketer, respectively. Local art lines the walls, including several pieces from Greenpoint’s very own artists. A detailed map of the neighborhood made by artist Alex Russell hangs on the wall next to the desk. The wall perpendicular displays a drawing of a Greenpoint home by illustrator Amy Marino, a metal city fire escape in miniature, and an old-timey photo of Studio 54, among other works.
The room also features a wall mirror and desk chair from Dobbin St. Vintage Co-op. Sitting behind the desk, a pale blue couch and orange-gold pillow add a pop of color to the otherwise neutral-colored space.
“Historic” was another word the couple used to describe their home. The expansive, sun-filled bedroom — accessed by walking railroad-style from the living room through the office — features a decorative wood screen with an ornate ship wheel detail still intact. The couple speculates it is tied to the booming shipbuilding industry that once called Greenpoint home. While the apartment building was constructed in 1899 — by which time the heyday of shipbuilding in the neighborhood had passed — the nautical ties have persisted.
The bedroom also exhibits a tremendous bay window, like you might expect in San Francisco, and the floors are adorned with red and blue rugs, one from an estate sale and another from the popular Greenpoint “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook.
The kitchen is a medium-sized, minimalist space in which the couple cooks frequently, often incorporating food grown in their backyard garden. In fact, sitting on the table when I walked in was a bowl full of freshly picked green tomatoes that had been growing late into this unseasonably warm November. But the most eye-catching detail in the kitchen is a gilded Hollywood regency-style etched mirror Vanessa found during one of her many trips to Reuse America.
While it’s tough to compete with the inviting interior of Vanessa and Matt’s home, the backyard comes as close as you can get. When the weather allows, the couple drinks their morning coffee and eats breakfast at the small marble table on the ivy-covered back patio. Down a few steps into the yard, the lush green space is covered with turf, vines, plants, changing leaves, and an extensive network of string lights that wraps around the yard and extends to the deck, lighting up the space in the evening. A raised bed in the center of the yard provides a home to a tomato garden in the warmer months.
Milking the yard for all its worth, the couple often sets up a project to host outdoor movie nights and blows up an inflatable pool for friends to cool off during the hot summer months.
When friends and visitors come to their apartment, Vanessa and Matt want everyone to feel at home. “Mi casa es su casa,” says Vanessa.
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Photo editing by Maya Friedman