House hunting in New York City can often feel like a competitive sport. Few fabulous apartments, slews of ravenous shoppers, and asking prices that at times can seem deliberately disheartening…Scratch that. It can feel like The Hunger Games. Which is why, when the city’s real estate market took a major dip a few years back, Hallie Burton volunteered as tribute made an agreement with her husband George to find them the perfect family home. “We thought it might be our only chance—the city was on sale,” she explains. “I would look and if I saw something George would come and look again. That was the deal.” So, the photographer and designer of the effervescent children’s clothing line SMOKKS pounded the pavements up and down the island of Manhattan until she came across a light-filled, if a touch downtrodden, apartment on West 111th Street, she knew could be her family’s dream home with a little white paint and a good dose of her sunny Aussie style. Read on to see how it all came to be—and how you can get this cheeky-chic look for yourself.
1. Know Your Silver Linings. Having your priorities soundly sorted before you start searching for a home isn’t just a convenience, it’s a life line. On first sight, Burton described her diamond-in-the-rough dream home as “a wreck with gorgeous light.” The wreck bit could be reconciled, but the light, the space, and the location (around the corner from her daughter’s school) clinched the deal.
2. Size Up Your Overhaul. “The floors were terribly uneven, the walls were a mess, and the bathroom light switches were still pull downs from the ceiling,” explains the Aussie transplant of the “before” state of the apartment. The couple knew a major renovation was in the cards, so they wisely handed the reigns to architect Filipe Pereira, a protege of Zaha Hadid, to turn the space into an open-plan, family-friendly loft.
3. Hide It Away. The home’s artful spareness—a special feat considering one of its residents is an energetic six years old—is an illusion created by an abundance of seamless, hidden storage. “[Pereira] designed us an apartment that could fold up, so to speak,” she explains. “We have pocket doors that split the rooms when we need it, but other than that it’s pretty open.” The built-ins are a clever alternative to solving the problem with freestanding options after the fact.
4. Seek (and Keep) Inspiration Everywhere. As an interiors photographer, Burton spends her days familiarizing herself with the details of some of the most beautiful residences in the world, but she also makes a point to remember favorite elements that could translate to her own space. “When traveling for a shoot, it’s interesting to see so many different styles that are relative to culture and environments.” she says. “I keep a little notebook of things that I thought were great.”
5. Be Clever With “Kid Friendly.” The photographer’s dining area proves that chic and child-proof are not mutually exclusive qualities, when it comes to decorating. Blu Dot’s Strut table and a set of classic Panton chairs are tenets of modern design, but their surfaces—powder-coated steel and polypropylene, respectively—can be cleaned up daily with a quick wipe down.
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