Photographs by Annie Schlechter
You’d be forgiven if, after touring Kelly Black’s 4,700-square-foot apartment, you concluded that her children had taken over the decorating. But you’d be wrong. “This is me,” says Black of the whimsical space she created by combining three apartments, turning a second kitchen into an arts-and-crafts room, and replacing a spare bedroom with a full-size playhouse. It may have been Black’s doing, but it’s every kid’s dream home.
Black had been gathering inspirational images (and hoarding boldly patterned wallpaper) for years. She imagined it all coming together in a house outside of the city. In fact, she and her husband, who works in finance, had even gone so far as to bid on a property in California. But when the deal fell through, they realized they wanted to stay in New York after all. “I love raising my kids here,” she says. “We realized it was different from how we grew up—but maybe better.”
Once the couple had made the decision, Black says, “I wanted to put down roots.” So when they heard that two adjacent units on an upper floor of their Battery Park building might be available, they jumped at the chance to make a more permanent home for their five kids (all under the age of 10) in the building and neighborhood they loved.
The couple called in Incorporated, an architecture-and-design studio, to handle the ten-month renovation, which Black hoped could recreate some of the suburban experience she’d imagined for her children. She craved indoor-outdoor elements. “A lot of my idea of ‘home’ involves the outside,” the California native says. While not every architect would know how to integrate a “tree house,” Incorporated was game for the challenge. “Kelly wanted to play with us as much as we wanted to play with her,” says Adam Rolston, a partner at Incorporated.
In the end, Black and Incorporated have created an urban version of her own outdoorsy Santa Cruz childhood experience. As a result, Black says, “all our playdates are here.”