Palm Fronds and Polka Dots: Inside a Fearlessly DIY Crown Heights Home

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After six years, the Red Hook loft Cassandra Warner shared with her husband, Jeremy Floto, was starting to feel cramped—particularly once Luella, now 4, and Orla Rae, now almost 2, came along. The couple are partners in business as well as in life, collaborating as the photography duo Floto+Warner, and were in search of a space that could accommodate both sides of their relationship. “We looked at dismal rentals in Bushwick, and hovels in Bed-Stuy,” Warner says. Ultimately, a neglected two-story, multifamily house on a quiet street in Crown Heights stole their hearts. “It was love at first sight. It was a wreck, but you could imagine living here the minute you walked in,” she says.

The pair tackled the renovation with the same unified vision and hands-on approach that informs their work as photographers. The process was helped considerably by the fact that Floto has a second career—along with designer Josh Farley, he launched the design-and-build firm WRK in 2009.

“One thing we’re good at is seeing the potential in things,” Floto explains in a video on the WRK website, describing how he and Farley trawl for discards from factories, defunct offices, circuses, warehouses, you name it; if it looks unsalvageable, they’ll restore or repurpose it in their projects. The firm’s clients have included the Brooklyn Winery and Le Labo and Rudy’s Barbershop, both at the Ace Hotel. And their handiwork is on display throughout the family residence, an undertaking completed in record time; the couple bought the property in July of 2013, and had moved by that Halloween.

On the first floor, the walls came down to create an open cooking, dining, and living space, echoing the setup in the family’s former loft. Throughout, there’s a charismatic mix of the old (exposed beams, vintage tiles found at the Remington Arms Factory) and the modern (neon wall art, scavenged Vitra chairs).

The couple’s aesthetic compatability is in evidence as you climb the stairs, past a wall muraled in a bold pattern by the graphic designer Aurora Hales to the family room, which has been spray-painted with gold polka dots. Together, they’ve amassed many treasures over the course of careers spent traveling the globe. There’s the Foosball table, painted black, and the papier mâche dog, found at an upstate antique store back when they were considering a move out of the city.

“We treated the upstairs the way we dress the kids—clashing patterns, lots of color,” says Warner. “We wanted the downstairs to be classic, meditative, and serene. The upstairs is wild, but we are still having fun with it.” Stay tuned.  

*This article appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of New York Design Hunting.

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