Welcome to the Fun House

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.

Illustration by Kate Francis

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.”

The library’s shadow-box-like interior is papered in Orla Kiely’s Stem wallpaper, which Black purchased years ago; Incorporated chose the colors for the inset bookshelves directly from the pattern. A leather and beech armchair and ottoman are from Anthropologie, and the Excel floor lamp is by Rich Brilliant Willing. Photo: Annie Schlechter

The backsplash behind the stove is a piece of Josef Frank fabric encased between two pieces of glass. “It’s this delicate material; it shouldn’t be there”this place where it can get oily”yet it’s probably one of the more durable backsplashes we’ve done, because it has no joints,” says Drew Stuart, a partner at Incorporated. Photo: Annie Schlechter

The tree house is constructed from walnut, painted paneling, and steel. The walls surrounding the tree house are papered in Cole & Son’s Woods wallpaper, from the Contemporary II collection. Photo: Annie Schlechter

A Lindsey Adelman light fixture, featuring oil-rubbed bronze with clear globes, hangs above a dining table and benches by Environment Furniture; Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Ashton chairs, upholstered in a tangerine-colored Tierra fabric, flank the table. In the rear are custom birch doors. “We had some guy in Minnesota looking for really straight birch trees,” says Stuart. Photo: Annie Schlechter

A custom-built media wall proved to be a less expensive choice than a similar ready-made shelving unit. Black and Incorporated decided to spray the piano blue to match the lacquerlike walls. Photo: Annie Schlechter

Welcome to the Fun House