“What we pictured for the space was a kind of alternate life for us,” says Olivia Sammons as she leads the way into an airy, sunlit residence in Brooklyn Heights. “It’s a pretend version of our space if we didn’t have kids.” In reality, Sammons does have children (three) with her partner Jamie Gray, known to the design world as founder of Matter, a destination for unusual furnishings and objects in lower Manhattan. In addition to stocking the shop, Gray and Sammons, a stylist by trade, run Matter Made, the store’s own in-house line of furnishings. They’re both seasoned design veterans, but the concept of a model home was new to them. “It was fun to come at it with fresh eyes,” says Sammons of the project, in which they outfitted a two-bedroom, two-bath unit of the Standish, formerly the Standish Arms hotel, a stately brick building in Brooklyn Heights that was recently designed and being built by DDG, and redeveloped by DDG and Westbrook Partners as a 29-unit condominium building. With the couple’s connections and expertise in the design world, it’s no surprise that the end result, despite their lack of experience, exudes a comfortable, creative vibe, bringing together the best of the area’s history with the rich culture of contemporary design.
“We began with a selection of pieces from designers we admire and / or work with as well as pieces from the Matter Made collection,” says Gray of the furnishings. “It was important to us that all the selected pieces work together and tell a short story. It was less about incorporating them and us, but rather creating a cohesive narrative within the residence.” The sofa, which was designed especially for the space and will also live in the building’s lobby, was the jumping-off point for the scheme; the room also features Luca Nichetto’s Cloud chair, the Bellevue floor lamp by Arne Jacobsen, and a black marble table by Jonathan Zawada.
“Retaining the Beaux Arts–style exterior, but then reimaging the building’s interiors, makes for a great juxtaposition of the building’s history and a completely refreshed interior,” Gray says. Nowhere is such duality more apparent than in the kitchens, which marry traditional materials like marble and brass in modern ways.
“We wanted to create something contemporary within the refined restoration executed by DDG,” says Sammons. “We considered the history and then balanced those historical details with clean lines and a soft minimalism.” Typecast chairs by Philippe Malouin complement the Orbit table and stools by Gray in the dining area.
When asked what makes the building most special, Sammons says “the location, the view, and the heritage.” Understated elements, like these curtains, manage to highlight all three.
Gray and Sammons used a Vonnegut / Kraft daybed to create a space that could serve as both an office and a guest room.
DDG endeavored to preserve as much of the building’s original spirit as possible, installing details like iron vents and small windows that mimic ones common in the building’s former heyday. In the bath, they use traditional brass in a modern manner.
“We didn’t have a bed that we felt worked with the rest of the story, so we decided to design and build that as the final chapter,” says Gray of the model in the master bedroom. “We wanted this to serve as a pared-back space that would offer respite from the noise of city living.” The ceiling light is by Bec Brittain, the art by Andrew Zuckerman.