The Royal Tenenbaums meet Amelie in a colorful, book-filled New York apartment

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Offbeat Mama readers may remember Summer’s taxi cab birth story, but here’s the skinny on the home she shares with her family. -Ariel

KitchenThe offbeat occupant: Summer Pierre, writer & illustrator

Other occupants: husband Graham, son Gus, and cat Kingsley

Approximate square footage: 650-1000 sq. feet (60-93 sq. meters)

How many bedrooms? 2

Lives in: Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY

When did you move into this home? 5.5 years ago

Let’s start with the neighborhood. What’s it like where you live? We live on the border of Bushwick, Brooklyn and Ridgewood, Queens. It’s a neighborhood that has changed dramatically in the last 5 years. When we first moved here, there was little more than a hospital, dollar stores, and the requisite corner deli. It was populated by mostly Hispanic and Polish families. Now there are at least 3 cafes within walking distance, a wine bar, yuppie grocery store, and farmer’s market have all moved in with the hipsters who can’t afford Williamsburg anymore. Still lots of families, but a very different population is emerging. It’s a little strange to see something so rough around the edges become smoothed over so quickly.

Living Room

What makes your home offbeat? When we moved in to this apartment, it was a shabby railroad apartment in an ignored, cheap neighborhood of Brooklyn. Inspired by the interiors of The Royal Tenenbaums and Amelie films, we went all out and painted each room a vibrant color, which changed the space dramatically and reflected what we wanted: a lively, creative, homey life in New York.

My husband is an academic in philosophy and I am a writer, so we are both bookish Living Roompeople and it shows — we have books in every room! Even though we care about aesthetics, we are also pretty cheap when it comes to decorating, so our home is mostly filled with inherited, made, or salvaged stuff. As a result, it feels very lively and personal. Every single object comes from an experience or relationship. Everything tells a story.

Living in New York, we quickly discovered that your escape is also your home, so we wanted a place that we felt nurtured and inspired by. I think we have succeeded in creating a cozy yet lively space.

What’s the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? The noise of the neighbors can be a bit much. It’s an old pre-war building in Brooklyn, which means you can hear everybody. The good news is that we’ve been here long enough that the noisiest neighbors have moved and we’ve gotten to know the rest, so it isn’t as bothersome. We use fans and music for any noise that remains and now I hardly notice it.


Another issue is the lack of storage. We have one closet — that’s it. So we’ve had to be creative with storage — using a lot of bookshelves and throwing out what we can’t store. I also bought a portable closet that works well in our bedroom.


What’s your favorite feature of your home? Definitely the kitchen. The minute we started painting it green I knew we were on to something. Now I never want to live anywhere without that color! The kitchen also gets the most light and feels the most alive place in our home. Another feature I love is all the tin tile ceilings. We’re the only apartment in our building that still has all the original tile and it’s so beautiful. The tile in our bedroom is magnificent!

Bedroom Ceiling

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from this home? If you build it they will come. When I moved into this apartment I was a confused but hopeful artist moving to New York to be with her boyfriend.

My work space

Within these walls I married the boyfriend, created two published books and a baby. I have lived in many many places, but this apartment is the first place that has felt like a home.

Above Gus' Changing Table

What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? A space is what you make of it. I know a number of people who put off creating the spaces they dreamed of for the future perfect apartment, house, life, income, etc. only to live half heartedly in the space they had.


I used to do this, but have since learned that the time is now to make what you want in the space you have. You don’t need a lot of money to make something great — just enthusiasm and interest.

Any stuff or services you want to recommend? Junk in Brooklyn and The Broadway Pandhandler in Manhattan totally RULE for household stuff.

Not even SEEN yet: more of baby’s room, the coziest reading chair in the world, and more of the family in that emerald-green kitchen. Show me the decor porn!

Comments on The Royal Tenenbaums meet Amelie in a colorful, book-filled New York apartment

  1. I lived in a shotgun on Wycoff Ave two blocks up from the hospital in ’02-’03. I didn’t stay in New York, but my roommate stayed in that apartment for another year. We had bedbugs, the pipe radiators spit hot water all over me and my bed, and a clan of eastern european teens had nightly dance parties below us starting at 1am. I’m glad to see you stuck it out- despite its failings there were things I *loved* about Bushwick and it’s buildings, and I think you’ve done amazing things with the space!

      • What about that gorgeous red paint? Is it Ralph Lauren also?

        I’ve currently got what I call a bordello-themed-hotel-room red/black/silver color scheme in my bedroom, but I don’t think the boyfriend will let me paint the bedroom in the new house that way again unless I find a red that’s a little warmer and a little less vamp. I’d like to run this shade by him.

  2. I LOVE the pink and red nursery for Gus. So many people choose a “gender neutral” color because they don’t want to commit, but I like that you went with it and made it work, and it’s adorable!

  3. I really really love your red bedroom. I am getting my first apartment this summer (oh man graduation!) and I’m overly conscious of making my house look like the house of two PhD candidate adult-y people, but your room just made me change my mind. Red bedroom it is!

  4. I absolutely lovelovelovelovelove this apartment. There’s something about that color green that now has me in complete decorating mode. Thanks so much for the awesome ideas and inspiration. The kid’s room is also incredibly rad. I’m due at the beginning of September and am on the prowl for nursery ideas that don’t suck (i.e. pastels and pooh bears).

  5. Lovely home!
    I love the black and white pictures over the couch, they pop nicely on the blue wall.
    I’m one of those woman who is waiting until I’ve got the money to decorate the way I want. However, I am working on adding art to the walls because I’m so sick of every wall being white.

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