Real Cool People, Real Cool Apartments With Verena von Pfetten

  • "Most days, I work from my dining table. I don't normally sit like this. I do, however, regularly bump my head on that V."
  • "I'm still working on this giant wall. I have big plans to hang lots of cool hooks and make it a supplementary coat closet."
  • "I tend to collect weird portraits of creepy men. This lady is an exception. She reigns over my living room."
  • "My boyfriend and I recently started playing backgammon. We now play a game or two almost every night. I aspire to be a retiree."
  • "This is my dog, Dumbo. The rug is from Frances Loom. I found her on instagram via Emily Weiss. She buys old, beat-up rugs, cleans them and posts a handful to her site every week."
  • "More creepy old people. This painting is so heavy, the last time I hung it up, it fell off my wall. So now it just sits on the floor."
  • "I bought my table and bench at the Brooklyn Flea about 5 years ago. Stuff was still mildly affordable back then. The guy warned me that the bench was painted with lead paint and I shouldn't buy it if I had small children or pets. The dogs seem fine."
  • "I asked my landlord if he could help me make some built-in bookshelves below the kitchen pass-through. Now all that's missing are a couple bar stools I have stored at a friends place that I keep forgetting to pick up. Oh, and that geometric-print blanket is from Dusen Dusen."
  • "I only realized after I'd moved in that my kitchen doesn't have any drawers. I've had to get creative with utensil storage."
  • "I love baths. This stool was a gift from my sister. It feels appropriately beachy."
  • "Lamps in the bathroom are a neat trick. Inexpensive, effective, and usually a conversation starter."
  • "This is a paint-by-numbers horse I found upstate. I now have a collection of other finished paint-by-numbers paintings I want to buy on Etsy. Maybe I'll put them on that giant hallway wall."
  • "Dumbo is almost always convinced I'm about to leave the apartment without him, so he tends to hover by the door."
  • "My wallpaper is from Flat Vernacular and probably the most money I've ever spent on one thing in my life. But I LOVE it. The bag is a Jeremy Scott x Longchamp collaboration from 2011. It's covered in pills."
  • "My great-great grandmother (I think) made these needlepoints as a child. The middle photo is of my grandmother in 1933. She was 12."
  • "I found this water-warped carpet hanging at the Flea. Probably one of my strangest purchases, but it was only $20 and it kind of works."
  • "Harry is more photogenic than Dumbo. And yet another rug from Frances Loom."
  • "I got this print of the Lusitania at a junk shop upstate for $100. The trunk hails from Yesterday's News on Court Street, which is probably one of the few junk-style shops in the city that is still reasonably priced."
  • "I also collect little brass animals."
  • "Surprise! He's an ashtray."
  • "This is the view from my roof deck. I call the construction cranes my Red Hook Dinosaurs."
Amelia Diamond | August 4, 2016

This Red Hook apartment will give you reasons not just to think — but maybe move — outside of your comfort zone

As with clothes, the way you decorate a room expresses your personality. In its most ideal form, it signals to guests how you interpret yourself. In round two of Real Cool People, Real Cool Apartments, we scope the one-bedroom, Rood Hook, Brooklyn home of Man Repeller Editor-at-Large Verena von Pfetten (and two French Bulldogs!) to — what else? — learn what she’s all about.

Name: Verena von Pfetten

What do you do? I’m a freelance writer, editor, and digital consultant. And editor at large for this very site!

How long have you lived in this apartment? A little over a year.

What do you like about your hood?

God, I am head over heels in love with Red Hook. I spent three years living on the border of Carroll Gardens and Red Hook before making the full jump last May, and I’m so happy I did. When I tell people I live in Red Hook, the first thing people ask about is my commute. It was never an issue. I have lived in NYC for 15 years and I’m happy to be a little secluded. It’s like a little seaside village in the middle of New York City. There’s even, like, a “tourist” season (summer) when everyone takes the ferry over to Brooklyn Crab or rides their bikes through for the weekend. And in the winter, it’s just so quiet and sleepy and you feel like you have the whole place to yourself.

I love that it smells like the ocean when I get off the bus. I love the cobblestone streets. I love that the garbage cans have little anchor motifs on them. Because it’s somewhat cut off — there are no subways; the closest one is a 15-20 minute walk or bus ride — it really feels like a neighborhood. People talk to each other on the street! They invite you over to their house for dinner or picnics! When I first moved in, I was walking my dogs and someone stopped me on the street to ask if I was new to the neighborhood, because they didn’t recognize my dogs.

Also: there is a BEACH. A real beach! A little one. But it’s a beach! With sand! And on summer mornings I walk my dogs to it and stick my feet in the water and look out at the Statue of Liberty and watch the boats and it makes me so happy. Also, it’s got basically everything you need in a neighborhood: great restaurants (Grindhaus; Fort Defiance), a Fairway, dry cleaning, a bodega, the best bar in the city (Sunny’s) and parks for days. So, other than for work, I would happily never leave it.

What was it about this apartment?

This is my dream apartment. My boyfriend, Nick, is the one who found it. We were heading to Red Hook to meet friends for dinner and he happened to pull up the Craigslist listing before we left. The apartment was more than I had wanted to spend, but it was pet friendly, which is already a dream, AND there was no broker fee. And it was in Red Hook! So we decided on a whim to check it out on the way to dinner, just to see it. I had no intention of taking it. And then I walked in and fell in love.

It has so many windows—three exposures—a balcony, a roof deck, a dish washer, a washer/dryer, AND the bathtub has little jacuzzi jets. But my most favorite favorite thing about the apartment is the giant tree outside the window. From late April through October, my entire front living room looks out into the leaves and it makes me feel like I live in a treehouse. Fun fact: it’s an Ailanthus tree, also known as the “tree of heaven.”

What’s the worst thing about the apartment?

Honestly, nothing. If I had to nitpick, I guess it’s that it’s a walk up. Which I actually really *don’t* mind, but one of my dogs can’t do stairs at all, so I have to carry him up and down them whenever we go out.

Do you ever work from home and if so, what’s that like? Is it important for you to have a dedicated work space or do you work from bed/the couch?

I love to work from home. I know a lot of people who think I’m insane. But I just love the apartment so much that I don’t mind it. I work from my dining room table in the living room. I don’t get stir crazy. And I find it easier to focus if I’m not thinking about when I have to go back and walk the dogs or what I’ll eat for lunch or whatnot. And the procrastinating is GREAT. Instead of reading the internet, I’ll get up and do the dishes. Or decide to hang a new painting or do a little redecorating or something.

What did you think about when decorating? What was the process like? Did you start with one piece and design around that or has it been add-as-you-go?

I am constantly decorating. When I find something I love, I buy it first, then figure out a place for it. In fact, I have a painting that I bought about a month ago from a junk shop upstate and it’s spent the last few weeks tucked behind a chair while I decide where to hang it.

Years ago, when I was decorating an old apartment of mine, I got a great piece of advice from my friend Sarah Gray Miller, who is the editor-in-chief of Modern Farmer and is the former editor-in-chief of Country Living, and that’s to just go with what you love. If you love something, odds are it works with other things you love. And if it doesn’t, who cares! You love it. Your home should make you happy.

Did you have an overall vision in mind when you started decorating? What was it and where’d you get it from?

If I had to pick a theme or vision, it’s probably nautical and beach-y. I love blues and grays and sandy tones with brighter happy colors here and there. Years ago, I bought this giant painting of the Lusitania for $100 from an antiques mall upstate — it’s all torn up and water stained and basically falling to pieces — but I love it to death. So a lot of my stuff, in terms of color or design, has sort of spiraled out from that one piece.

What are your favorite apartment “scores” and where are they from?

Definitely Lucy (which is what I call my Lusitania painting), and my dining table and bench, which I got from the Brooklyn Flea about four or five years ago. I love hosting people, so a big dining table — somewhere people can sit and hang out and eat and drink — is really important to me.  That’s also sort of how I configured the living room, so that people can sit all around it but still be centralized.

I pull out the dining table when I need seating on both sides, otherwise I set it up kind of like an amphitheater. And people end up on the floor, too.

Tell me a story about one thing in your apartment.

MY WALLPAPER. It’s by Flat Vernacular, which is basically the most amazing wallpaper company on the planet. (You might recognize them from their coloring book or from the interior pages of Lena Dunham’s book.) This wallpaper was originally a fabric that I fell in love with because of the colors and I begged them to make it into a wallpaper for me. Wallpaper is expensive and I live in a rental, but I settled on a small-ish space (one wall) and just decided to go with it.

(I also confirmed with my landlord that I could do it. He OK-ed it as long as I put it back to normal whenever I leave. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.)

For someone young and broke and trying to nest, what are your top three shopping-for-the-apartment tips?

Buy old stuff. And ideally buy it outside of a major metropolitan city like New York. Going just an hour outside — to New Jersey or Long Island or Columbia County — will save you so many dollars. But worst case, you can still find deals at places like the Brooklyn Flea. You just have to look. I recently bought this big, weird, woven carpet-y wall hanging (now hung above my bed) at the Flea for $20.

Also: shop the kids section! I have three lamps from PBTeen. It’s just as good as the Pottery Barn mainline stuff but always cheaper! And! PAINT. Yes, it costs some money. And if you’re renting, you’ll have to paint it back later, but it’s so worth it. A little color goes a long way to making a place feel like it’s yours.

What about a total amateur in putting a room together — any tips?

Find one piece you love. Something that you just have to have (or maybe you already have it!) and build from there. Figure out what you like about it (the design? the color? the style? the era?) and find other things that fit that bill. Also, go slowly. It’s worth waiting. Don’t buy to fill a space. Buy things you love and then find a space for them. Also, though I don’t have any in this apartment, curtains can change a room. If you’re bored with your apartment, try switching up the window treatments, even seasonally, like you would your clothes. Go for gauzy, breezy ones in the summer and then maybe try some dark rich heavy ones in winter. They’re a relatively inexpensive investment.

Finally, remember that it’s all in the details. You don’t have to buy a big, fancy, expensive table. Try swapping out your towel hook for a cool brass one you found on Etsy. And while gallery walls are a real THING now, they don’t have to be daunting. I have a friend who, one by one, as she saw or found or got things she liked, stuck them on her wall. Not even framed! Like little doodles someone gave her, or a photo, or a note. It took years but now it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and every piece tells a story.

What does your dream room look like?

I love a deep, dark bedroom. The next step in my apartment will be painting my bedroom a dark gray-ish and super matte navy. My bedroom gets a ton of light, so I think it can handle it. And I like the idea of it helping define the space from the bedroom to the bedroom hallway (which I treat as my dressing area), so that it feels like two different rooms.

What’s the one thing every apartment should have?

A story. Just make sure you have things that you love and that tell a story. No one can argue with a good story!

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

cool-apartments-verena

  • Sonia

    I, too, collect little brass animals and I have that crab!!! 🙂

    • Verena von Pfetten

      He’s THE BEST.

  • wow this is dreamy

  • Alyssa G

    I love this! Those little tennis (badminton maybe? not sure) rackets on the wall are ADORABLE. I always love peeking into other people’s living spaces – it’s so interesting!

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Me, too. I’m that creep that immediately starts wandering through a house or apartment the moment I’ve been let inside.

    • pennyjenny

      Me too. I’m SO NOSY. I love when my neighbors leave their windows open. Not because I want to see them but I want to see how they lay out their stuff! And what kind of neat treasures they have. My neighbors seem to be pretty damn stylish.

  • ReadER451

    As a fellow frenchie owner, I love dumbo and harry! Best part of the apartment!

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Hey, THANKS! I’m biased but I totally agree. What’s your Frenchie’s name??

      • ReadER451

        Her name is Hunny. She is my child.

        • Verena von Pfetten

          That’s such a good naaaaameeeee.

    • Elizabeth Tamkin

      FRENCHIES FOR LIFE. Happen to see Verenas dog wearing the MR baseball cap…?

  • maiadeccan

    I respect so very much that proximity to a Fairway is on your list when considering apartments. Love what you did with the shelves under the kitchen pass-through and that Lusitania print was such a find!

    • Verena von Pfetten

      FOOD IS ALWAYS A PRIORITY.

      • Catalina

        Great to know! Thanks and lovely home <3

  • Haley Nahman

    Can I live under the table??

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Just don’t eat any of the (lead) paint chips you find on the floor.

  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    Verena you should be that wallpaper’s spokesperson. It’s perfect. Did you install yourself?

    • Verena von Pfetten

      LOLOLOLOL.

    • Verena von Pfetten

      “Did I install it myself.” That’s a good one.

    • Verena von Pfetten

      AU CONTRAIRE. i used Scott the Wallpaper Guy! (Contact info shared upon request. He’s the BEST.)

      • Elizabeth Tamkin

        Scott killed it

  • Catalina

    I spotted the surfboard in the entryway – is there any good surf out in Red Hook?

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Not in Red Hook, sadly. But the Rockaways are a 30 minute drive away and great for an early weekday morning surf.

      • Catalina

        Whoops – replied elsewhere. Thank you – great to know and thanks for opening up your lovely home!!

      • Mariana

        Uaww! “weekday morning surf” that is quality of life in NYC :).
        BTW, awesome house, love the eclectic decor!

  • Yes, Red Hook, probably one of the most underrated spots (and one of my favs) in Brooklyn. I pray to the crabs and sunset views that it stays that way!

    P.S. hi harry and dumbo ur killing it

    • Verena von Pfetten

      ME TOO. I was tempted to redact all references to the neighborhood. BUT MY LOVE WILL NOT BE SILENCED.

  • Jolie

    I love this apartment! My boyfriend and I are dying to move to a bigger space (we have a large studio but we also both have enough clothes to fill a thrift store), so lately I’ve really been looking for home inspiration. I love the old paintings and prints (I have a ton of them in my place too, also from the BK Flea), the rugs, and the shelves under your kitchen window! The way you feel about Red Hook is the way I feel about my neighborhood in Queens, it’s amazing when you finally find the neighborhood that just feels right for you. Thanks for sharing!

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Thanks, Jolie! I’m happy you’ve found your spot, too.

  • Andrea Raymer

    I am very curious as to where you keep your silverware if you have no drawers. I only have one and i don’t know what i would do without it. Organizing silverware brings me such joy and I am a weirdo.

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Well! First I bought three of these: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20227984/. For my knives, forks, and spoons. And then I had these two vintage blue/green glass super tall versions that I’d bought on ebay years ago and had previously used for flowers / coin storage. So I put my larger cooking utensils in there. I use a magnetic knife block (strongly recommend this one: http://benchcrafted.com/Magblok.html). And then I have yet to figure out a good place for my measuring spoons and can opener. Let me know if you have any ideas.

  • I loved her take-over on Snapchat! And… also… is this the kitchen where Kate was cutting the watermelon? I see the same cutting board! Haha… MR staff stalker alert!

    • Verena von Pfetten

      I am blushing and smiling like a crazy person!! And no, the watermelon-cutting kitchen is in the MR office. Turns out Harling and I just have similar taste in porcine kitchen supplies.

  • Ana

    I LOVED verena’s takeover for the day on MR snapchat– and beautiful apartment, sounds like such a dreamy life

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Honestly this comment just MADE MY DAY. Truly!

  • Hannah Greene

    Love that wallpaper!

    For people who rent and don’t want to face the headache of removing wallpaper when they move, I recommend temporary wallpaper. For my studio I found an amazing banana leaf print and the best part is that will easily peel off the walls when I have to take it down

    • Verena von Pfetten

      I have heard good things about temporary wallpaper! Unfortunately, what happened to me is that I saw this print and blacked out and then 6 months and $$$ later it was on my wall.

  • We just moved into this old duplex, and I’m struggling with finding room in the kitchen. It has no cabinets! I would hate to have to store my food in the basement with the cobwebs 🙁

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Is there space to build open shelves? The shelves in my kitchen are basically just painted plywood with Ikea brackets!

      • My boyfriend JUST suggested that last night. I’m glad he’s an interior designer, so one of us is spatially aware!

  • Patty Carnevale

    Are Harry and Dumbo vons too?

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Being a von is an equal opportunity right. You’re a von! And you’re a von! And you’re a von! (Oprah voice. Etc.)

  • Gabrielle

    Red Hook is for real one of my top favourite parts of BK. I understand your desire NOT to shout about it over the internet. Pioneer Works is always a delight, too.
    P.S. please can I have your apartment? thanks xx

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Shhhh!!! 😉

  • Veronique Villarroel

    Wooooow! I love it!! Taking notes!

    Kisses,

    Verónica
    http://www.it-moi.com/

  • b.e.g.

    As a homebody I must have serenity in my living space. This apartment has serenity. I find that when a space is small it forces you to be creative with space. Too bad that same philosophy isn’t adopted to larger spaces. Many folks just fill their places to the point where they seem like a junk shop. V, you have a good decorator sense, not in a phony decorator sense (i.e. when folks pay another person to decorate their space), but in a real life, real living space sense. When I lived in small apartments in big cities, I used to love rearranging my rooms like every six months or so. My reaction was usually “why didn’t I do this in the first place?” Until the next rearranging session. BTW, I own the same copy of Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. I suspect this must have been your mother’s? Crazy to see the same book on another’s shelf! Thanks for sharing.
    P.S. Use deep colouful plastic vases bowls on your shelves to hold kitchen odds and ends. They won’t look like clutter, but a splash of colour.

    • Verena von Pfetten

      LINDA GOODMAN’S SUN SIGNS!!!! Yes, it was my mother’s. My family (all women) used to break it out any time someone started dating someone new. It’s probably one of my favorite books I own.

      As for the rest of your comment: thank you SO much. Honestly, really means the world to me that you think that!

  • Daniella

    I love your collection of creepy men portraits. Lol.

    • Verena von Pfetten

      They’re always a GREAT conversation starter.

  • Kay

    I have the same exact portrait of the woman in your living room! I found it in a vintage shop in Rhode Island, so strange that there are two! Where did you find yours?

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Wait, WHAT? I got mine at a junk shop upstate. That’s so crazy! Can you share a pic??

  • Sinéad

    You’re allowed to put hooks up and paint things? Aaaahhhhh I’m jealous. In my apartment (and pretty much every rental in Australia it seems) you can’t 🙁

    I’m not even allowed to use blu-tack!

  • Liza

    Hi neighbor! Your place is so lovely. FWIW, those aren’t construction cranes. Red Hook still has working docks, so those are for shipping containers that they move on and off the giant ships. I think that makes them ever better. More Red Hooky, if you will. 🙂

  • Sarah Hassan

    LOVE this apartment! Makes me miss New York City and dreamy cobblestone streets. And I love all the art and trinkets here and there; Verena has a fantastic eye. Thank you for this wonderful post. And so happy to know that someone other than myself decorates with old wooden rackets on the wall 🙂