Sincerity isn’t the quality most New Yorkers use to schmooze their way into an apartment lease. But three years ago, Johanna Burke scored her 720-square-foot loft with sweeping views of the Manhattan Bridge based on, what her soon-to-be-landlord described as, “the sincerity of the applicant.” The building—originally a South Williamsburg pasta factory—is a haven for creative types, which is what drew Burke in the first place. “I wanted to live somewhere I could make noise in the middle of the night and not worry about neighbors,” says Burke, founder of Burke & Pryde Studio, creators of the fantastical window displays at Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany & Co., and Ippolita. “Nobody cares about that stuff here. We’re all always working on something.”
But if the upside of living in such a place is lax rules, the downside is amenities. “When I moved in, the kitchen was a slop sink with dumpster-dive shelving,” she says. Burke’s first task was warming up a space made of cement floors, metal rafters, and concrete walls. Then she installed a proper kitchen and cloaked the place in plants (53 of them, at last count). The natural light dictated what areas performed which functions: The bedroom is tucked in a corner furthest from the windows, while the living/working areas are laid out to take advantage of the view.
Much of the front room was earmarked for work (designing things like life-size bears, made from miles of fringe, requires spreading out). The area is defined by a large glass table and a vintage Poul Cadovius modular wall unit, pieced together, thanks to eBay and antiques dealers. “The shelving is key,” she says. “Each section has a purpose: computing, reading, storage, and hanging inspiration.” The brilliance of this layout is the harmony between the “live” and “work” spaces. “On a good day, I’ll end up working on the sofa from late afternoon to sunset. It’s the place to be.”
When laying out this room, Burke had two functions in mind, “creating a space where I could work, and totally have a throw-down party with friends.” The vintage Poul Cadovius shelving unit evolves with Burke’s storage needs. “If I’m in a bit of a situation, I look until I find the section that will fix it,” she says. The handmade patchwork shorts mounted to the wall above Burke’s shelving units were unearthed during a trip to Brooklyn Flea. Plants are placed according to their sunlight needs: succulents closest to the window, low-light varietals furthest away. “There’s a constant negotiation of how many I can actually take care of,” says Burke. Photo: Thomas Loof
The party banner hanging next to Burke’s bookcase says infect others and was created by artist Christian Holstad. An Arts and Crafts mirror framed in seashells punctuates Burke’s vanity. Photo: Thomas Loof