When interior designers Ryan Nessing and Greg Yale agreed to design a friend’s 650-square-foot apartment in DUMBO, a small two-month job offered big rewards, if not a big paycheck.
Homeowner Carmen Molina, a fine art photographer, was visiting her friend Yale’s Southampton home years earlier and was struck by the coziness of the space, which was rich in linen fabrics and natural woods. With only a modest budget of $20,000, Molina was thrilled when Yale offered to create a similar look for her new one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn while incorporating her fine art photography.
But they had one problem to contend with before the project got off the ground: geography. Yale enlisted Nessing, his New York City based friend and fellow designer, to collaborate and act as proverbial boots on the ground.
“I was embarrassed to ask him because the budget was so small,” confesses Yale, noting that he had been looking for an opportunity to collaborate with Nessing, “but I said it would be fun to work together. Ryan is smart and clever, and has a great eye.”
When the pair first laid eyes on the space, it was a blank canvas except for a table, a bed and Molina’s photography. Molina – who was in Paris for the month before the move – gave the designers the green light to do whatever they wanted with the space. Her only stipulation was that they designated an area to display her bold and colorful photography.
After designing a floor plan, the pair got to work finding or commissioning pieces that fit in a tight space. One of the first items they selected was a red Chinese credenza that provided a bold contrast to the stark white brick walls.
“It threw the whole place into a fun world of antiquity,” Yale notes. As an offset to the credenza, Yale and Nessing hired a cement artist to make the top of a modern dining room table, which was later affixed to a wooden base. A trip to upstate New York yielded a few key finds: antique folding chairs – which would later accompany custom-made cushions – and a ladder that would serve as a major focal point to the room. They also reconfigured the center room into a living area and gallery space.
Despite the distance between them, the three would frequently connect over phone calls, even as late as 1-2 a.m. “They are so much fun to work with,” Molina exclaims. “They don’t stop; they are so passionate about what they do.”
Molina returned from Paris to find that her bare-bones apartment was now “a home.” She remembers being particularly surprised at discovering how much they were able to fit into a small space without making the apartment feel cramped.
“I would never think that so many things would fit in my apartment,” Molina says. “They were able to work the space so well. It’s all about placement and textures and how they work together.”
For Molina, the newly designed apartment provided a perfect space for living, working and displaying her art. Though she eventually relocated to Los Angeles, where she now has considerably more space for the money, she has taken pains to recreate her New York apartment on the West Coast.
What’s more, she remains great friends with Yale and notes that Nessing has become one of her best friends – someone she trusts completely.
“Designers have to be your friends because it’s your intimate space,” Molina advises. “They need to get to know everything about you.”
For Yale and Nessing, the collaboration has led to further work together, as both men say the other designer brings a unique eye and a complementary skill set.
“It’s great to go back and forth and to create a vision,” Nessing adds. “Having someone there that can see what you are thinking and throw a concept or a source that you haven’t thought about, that is really amazing.”
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Photography by Simon Lewis Studio LLC