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 this round of Real Cool People, Real Cool Apartments, we check out the Brooklyn home of Piera Gelardi, the Executive Creative Director and co-founder of Refinery29 . Our intentions behind the creeping: to learn what she’s all about.
Neighborhood, # of rooms:
Williamsburg-Greenpoint, 3 rooms, 2 bathrooms
What do you do?
If you mean for work, I started Refinery29 (with three other co-founders), and I now act as the Executive Creative Director. That means overseeing the creative vision, leading big brand initiatives, working to shape our company culture, being a spokesperson and mentoring all the super talented creative people who do the real heavy lifting. In my personal time, I love living a big, expressive life full of friends and family, collage nights, dancing in subway cars, adventuring, and appreciating art in all its many forms.
How long have you lived here?
On earth? 37 glorious rotations. In NYC? 20 years. In my current apartment? Five years.
Who do you live with, animals included?
I live with one human man and 15 odd ceramic figurines.
What do you like about the neighborhood?
My favorite thing about the neighborhood is that there are so many entrepreneurial spirits and emerging businesses popping up and a cornucopia of cultural happenings going on at all times — from new restaurants and music venues, to parking lot radio stations, galleries, eat-in movie theaters, and boutiques. Just generally lots going on, lots to discover. The best thing is wandering around on a summer weekend, weaving into different scenes and people-watching. I always come across something new.
What’s the best thing about your home?
I love looking out at McCarren Park. There’s always something going on there… breakdancing, soccer games, toddler birthday parties, drum circles, snowball fights. There’s a magic to watching the leaves change, and the snow come and go, and people’s lives passing by at the park. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching a Pixar movie, especially when an old Italian lady passes by with her little dog and makes all the pigeons fly away.
Do you ever work from home and if so, what’s that like?
When we started Refinery29, we often worked out of my former apartment (which I shared with my “roommate” Philippe. who is also my husband and co-founder). I found it hugely distracting to work from home. I never want to fold laundry but when I worked from home, I found myself constantly procrastinating by doing otherwise-dreaded household chores. I remember doing all sorts of random things when I should have been working, like making arancini out of leftover risotto for lunch with my co-founder Justin. Getting our first real office was a huge blessing for my focus and productivity.
Now, I usually work at home for an hour or two in the morning over coffee and some fried eggs — it’s my most peaceful time of day when I can really concentrate. But eventually I have to get the fuck out of the house or else I’ll find myself organizing a sock drawer.
What did you think about when decorating? What was the process like?
Growing up, I was fascinated by my Nonna’s house where I spent a lot of time. She lived all over the world and had so many objects in her house that had a back story and memory attached to them. I similarly like to surround myself with art, tchotchkes and furniture that reminds me of people, places and experiences.
I guess I decorate like a collector, adding as I go. A lot of things in my house have come from family and friends, like my dad’s tool cart, my Nonna’s camel stool, a poster from my childhood bathroom, artwork from my college roommates. Most of my other art and objects are from my travels or from creative projects I’ve worked on. I’m a maximalist at heart and being surrounded by things makes me happy and reminds me of all the life I have lived.
Did you have an overall vision in mind when you started decorating? What was it and where’d you get it from?
There is a shoot from World Of Interiors magazine that I’ve always loved that inspired me a lot. It’s from an art collector’s house in Venice, a house that feels at once modern and eclectic, chock-a-block with art, intrigue and painted with beautiful colors. It also had a giant red canoe suspended from the ceiling which looked surprisingly great.
My ceiling isn’t high enough for a hanging boat and we only have three rooms, not a whole house — also, our place isn’t directly on a canal — but otherwise, I feel like I’ve created a similar vibe to that Venice house in my Brooklyn apartment. A storied space.
What are your favorite home “scores” and where are they from?
My favorite objects in my home have a soul that perhaps only I can see. They’re objects that haunt me in the best way, that have drawn me in from dusty corners of thrift stores, or lurking behind the counter at a market, or as the sole object of interest in an otherwise cheesy tourist shop. Some of my besties: a mask from Mexico depicting the most benevolent being on earth, a $1 pencil drawing of a woman with beautifully sad eyes, and a wild, cross-eyed ceramic deer with golden hoofs and a tulle tutu that I swear I could put on a shelf at MoMA and no one would be the wiser. I like to think about the artists who made these objects and hope they can sense that their creations are being doted on.
For someone young and trying to nest, what are your top three tips when it comes to finding /buying items for the home?
Put all your favorite things all over your walls! You can find old frames for cheap and put art or magazine pictures you like in them. I once found a gold, baroque frame on the street and put a picture of Björk and her son in it. We had it on our mantel as though they were part of our family. If you don’t have frames, you can use T-pins — they look chic, like an architect’s office. If you’re a maximalist and visual person like me, having lots of images up is a great way to be surrounded by the abundance of life.
Paint your walls a color. It makes a huge difference and can completely change the mood of your space. If you don’t have any art, you can paint shapes onto your wall. In my old apartment, I used tape to paint stripes on a wall and it looked rad and everyone thought it was so super fancy.
Mix old and new together. Old things have the most character but sometimes IKEA is the most convenient to meet your needs. Having pieces that look brand spanking new next to patinated vintage things can look very intentional and keep your IKEA stuff from looking generic.
Get creative. A coat of paint or a switch-a-roo of drawer handles can totally transform the furniture that you have access to. I’m all about the hack.
What are your favorite household goods/home decor stores?
I love thrift and vintage stores most of all. There are so many treasures — I have fun imagining their backstories. Also, I find that the things I buy that are vintage stay with me a lot longer than any of the generic new things I’ve purchased. The vintage stuff has so much more mojo. Housing Works and RePop are some good brick-and-mortar spots in NYC (also Brooklyn Flea). For vintage finds online, my go-tos are eBay and Craigslist. On the pricey side, 1stDibs has super exquisite things worthy of a museum.
My favorite contemporary home store is my friends’ store Coming Soon on the Lower East Side. I just like to go hang out in there because it smells really good, they’re friendly and funny and have the coolest taste. The store is full of gems on gems on gems. Another beautiful home store is Mociun in Williamsburg. The store is so beautifully designed, I want to move in. Both places work with a lot of super-talented emerging designers too. Oh, now that I’m rambling on about under-the-radar designers, I also want to add Tictail Market into the mix! It’s great for affordable art. They all have online stores, too.
Most unexpected place to find great things for the home?
The street! People throw all kinds of awesome things away… Craigslist Curb Alerts are a good place to preview what’s being tossed but you often find the best things when you least expect them, wandering around the night before trash pick-up. Now everyone is so paranoid about bed bugs, though, that they’ll probably hate this idea (or worse, sue me).
What’s the one thing every home should have?
Anything else you want to add?
Like you, your apartment is a work in progress and will change over time.