Sara and Juan's Bed Stuy Brownstone
Sara and Juan moved into their Bedstuy, Brooklyn home in 2013. The 700 sf, floor-through brownstone apartment bears most of the building’s original details, like shuttered windows, built in window boxes with drawers, and two fireplaces with decorative ironwork and marble mantelpieces. Sara, an artist and architect, and her husband Juan, a photographer, are exceptionally well-traveled. Their home sparkles with colors and textures picked up abroad, and with both their own and their friends’ art and handmade furniture. Sara’s father Antonio Murado, also a painter, is featured heavily in their home.
emily: I love all the paintings and photographs throughout your space. Do you have a favorite piece? What’s the story behind it?
sara: I love the red and gray diptych in the living room. Not just because it is one of my dad’s paintings, but, among all the pieces of art that have hung in my different apartments over the years, this one is my favorite by far. When I first saw it lying on the floor in my dad’s studio he told me he had decided not to send it to his last show. So I asked if needed a place to “store” it for a while. It’s been in our apartment ever since.
e: Sara, you were telling me about how your father started making furniture after painting for many years, as pieces that were meant to be displayed with the paintings. Do you think that something changes about a painting or photograph when it enters a residential space? Has your art collection impacted other decisions you’ve made about the space?
s: Absolutely. Every piece of furniture, art, fabrics, plants, has an impact on the whole space and moves it in a certain direction. The red and gray diptych was one of the first pieces that we brought into the house, and it has had a big role in spreading its vocabulary throughout the house.
e: Has growing up surrounded by artists had an impact on your design sensibility?
Or else, have your careers?
s: Of course. In my case, my dad’s artwork was always around my house growing up. There is definitely a sensibility that I acquired through him. His work takes a lot from traditional European art, and our house was full of books on the old masters. This has definitely had an influence on my own painting and, by extension, the objects that I choose for my house. In Juan’s case, it is his interest in the visual world that has led him to photography as a means to analyze what he sees. So perhaps it’s more the other way around.
e: You’ve both traveled quite a bit, and so many things in your home have come from abroad. What are some of the best things you’ve brought back? Are you intentional about finding treasures everywhere you go, or does it just happen?
s: Our favorite object from abroad is actually a present that our friend Ines brought us back from India. It is a small wooden box with a mirror inside and a bi-folding lid. We have brought back things from our trips as well, but these are things we come upon. These things create an emotional connection with the place, so we have to find them during our normal route there, we do not generally go looking for objects outside of our route while travelling.
e: What’s your favorite thing about your home?
s: My favorite thing about this apartment is the little odd nook where Juan has his office. This is a reflection of the strange shape of the lot where the house was built. The two ends of the streetfront on our block are not aligned, and our house sits exactly at the point where the facade of brownstones jumps from one line to the next. To do this, the lot line jogs to meet the face of the adjacent building. This is reflected on the floor plan with a little bump out in the living room on our floor and the floor above that has windows on two sides. There is an ornate plaster arch leading from the living room to this tiny 5x5 space.
Another curious thing about this apartment is that there are a series of drawers integrated in the original window surrounds, below the sill. They have not been kept properly and are not insulated, so they are not functional, which is a shame, because it would be a great way to add storage.
e: Is there anything in your home (other than art) that you made yourself?
s: Since we have two cats and never liked those cat scratching posts, we decided to make our own. I brought a few carpet samples that were being discarded at our office and we used them to clad a small wing wall in the kitchen up to the ceiling. The cats not only love to sharpen their nails on the carpet wall, but also like climbing to the top, so it doubles as a scratching post and a climbing wall.
e: What drew you to the apartment and/or neighborhood? Have you noticed any significant changes since you’ve lived here?
s: The apartment itself I think was the greatest find. It is a small space with a lot of character. The neighborhood, like all of Brooklyn, is changing every day. The story here is quite similar to that of Crown Heights, Clinton Hill, Bushwick...
e: If you were to move elsewhere, what would you look for in a space? Would you stay in Bed Stuy?
s: I would love have outdoor space, it’s the only thing I miss in our apartment. But I know what that costs in Brooklyn, so I don’t think I will go looking for it. Yes, Bed Stuy is great, I would definitely stay in this neighborhood.