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Oct 25, 2023

By Jessica Ritz

Photography by Olivia Pierce

Carly Lisnow would advise against making real estate decisions the way she did when she committed sight unseen to leasing a Brooklyn apartment within minutes of seeing the listing come online. "I wouldn't recommend anyone do that, especially in New York City, of all places," she says.

Carly does her best to strike a work-life balance all in 700 square feet, where she manages the apartment as her design studio and entertains friends regularly. Carefully chosen goods, like the 1970s vintage Italian lamp from ‘Moho in Berlin, help make the space meaningful and functional.

Then again, most renters don't have Carly's skill set. The Los Angeles–raised interior designer has extensive experience in hospitality design, having worked at firms such as Studio Collective and SF Jones. She launched Nowhaus Studio in 2020, her own residential-focused firm with completed and in-progress projects in LA, New York City, and Seattle.

Because the one-bedroom in Williamsburg checked all the right boxes and was located on a street she already knew, Carly didn't hesitate to get straight to work. Decor- and furnishing-wise, she was starting from scratch: Carly happened to be attending Round Top Antiques Fair in Texas when she snatched up the Brooklyn unit, so she created a layout in CAD to help guide some spontaneous shopping decisions. "I built my whole apartment around those pieces," she explains, pointing to the living room wooden coffee table, her desk, and a ’70s leather-covered saddle stool from Egypt.

Carly commissioned a painting from artist Sam Kupiec to hang above the sofa and enhance the overall creamy neutral palette. The brass and rattan floor lamp is by Hans-Agne Jakobsson from the 1970s and sourced from PRB.

From the moment she moved in, Carly knew that she would settle into the 700-square-foot hybrid home/studio for a good while compared to previous sublets, so she took careful stock of her priorities like living minimally—this was in part because she moved during the pandemic. Carly decided to forgo having a dining space other than the existing open kitchen counter, and accommodated the aforementioned table purchased from antique dealer Eneby by pairing it with Lulu & Georgia's plush Maleena rug to make the space "super comfortable for my friends to come over and hang out on the sofa and even eat in the living room." Though a white couch might not seem ideal for this purpose, the Turn sectional from CB2's Kara Mann collection proved to be a perfect fit thanks to removable slip covers that are frequently taken to the dry cleaner.

The 19th-century rustic storage cabinet Carly found at Goldwood Interiors is a practical way for her to store her material samples; it holds a lamp by Bennet Schlesinger. A vessel by Dutch artist Willem Van Hooff purchased from Galerie Philia is displayed on a black-marble side table from Casa Mineral in Mexico City.

Other treasures include a set of Jean Royère–inspired wire frame chairs that Carly found on eBay in France and had reupholstered with fabric from Makrosha. The 19th-century rustic storage cabinet sourced from Goldwood Interiors in Belgium is another investment piece. This particular antique pulls its weight in the room, since she uses it to store material samples that can easily take over any designer's atelier. A closet doubles as another sample library. It also provides a place of honor for the lamp she commissioned from LA lighting maker Bennet Schlesinger. A plug-in Noguchi pendant is a practical, relatively noncommittal solution for adding overhead light.

"This is a very creamy palette for me, but I also like to mix it up," Carly notes about the space. The red window frames provide chromatic contrast, for instance. "Travertine and the wood bring in another depth into this room. I really love mixing materiality," she adds. Original vintage and new art is also on display throughout the home, such as a painting by Sam Kupiec that hangs above the sofa and two vessels by Dutch ceramic artist Willem Van Hooff. This overall open-minded approach and aesthetic also means combining pieces in a range of price points and provenances in almost every vignette.

Floating shelves hold Carly's favorite books and material samples, along with a photograph of Picasso and a framed page from an antique Japanese book she found in Switzerland. Another piece by Van Hooff is placed below and next to the wire frame chairs she bought on eBay France.

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The antique wood desk occupies a tightly managed corner of the living room where Carly collaborates with her remote team members. An appropriately scaled 1970s Italian ceramic lamp sourced from ‘Moho in Berlin looks like it's leaning back to make room for creativity. It's essentially impossible to completely separate work and life in this home, so Carly curates an ever-changing mood board next to her desk and in another section integrates antique images she's collected during her travels and aesthetically pleasing product samples into a tableau on floating shelves, with some favorite books displayed horizontally nearby.

The greenish rug from Armadillo's Agra collection sets the foundation in the bedroom. Carly then designed a custom bed cover using a Pat McGann fabric for the upholstered Shinola bedframe from Crate & Barrel.

As for the bedroom, Carly "wanted it to be moodier" so she "thought it’d be fun to do tone-on-tone," as demonstrated by the mellow green Agra collection rug from Armadillo, which she layered with a vintage tuareg rug. "I really wanted to do the whole room, but I was scared I’d have to paint the whole room back," Carly says about using Portola Paints's Roman Clay plaster finish in Highland. As a compromise on the big paint job, she applied the deep earthy moss shade to the main wall behind the Crate & Barrel's Shinola bed. She designed a custom bed cover using textiles from Pat McGann and extended the length of Parachute curtains by transforming a French embroidered fabric into the bottom border.

One corner vignette holds a cheeky piece of art she found at The Somerset House, a Brutalist-influenced 1970s oak chair from Obsolete in LA, and a mobile from the Guggenheim Museum Shop. Mismatched bedside tables include a rattan table from Regan & Smith Antiques in the Hudson Valley, an iron and silver travertine table by Design Frères from Blend Interiors, and a Jaxx CB2 marble side table. Lumber Club Marfa stools stand in the corner.

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A painting reading "Tough Tamales" from Merit gallery is a valuable reality check and serves as a cultural homage of sorts to her native SoCal. Carly installed one plug-in Cerf-Volant sconce by Jacques Biny she bought from Rewire, and she opted for mismatched side tables and stools of varying heights so that nothing feels too symmetrical in the compact space.

Carly's initial gamble and her subsequent choices benefit this home in the short-term, as well as her career and her future homes in the long run. "I definitely invested in this apartment," she reflects. "And I will take things with me. I’m going to have this rug in my bedroom for a very long time."

Carly chose a single Cerf-Volant plug-in sconce by Jacques Biny, while the table lamp and totem wood art from Amelia Tarbet are more Round Top Antiques Fair finds. Other pieces of original art include the "Tough Tamales" work from Merit gallery and another wordy painting from Architectural Anarchy.