sneak peek: workstead


workstead is a brooklyn-based collaborative between stefanie brechbuehler and robert andrew highsmith, two risd grads who provide clients with architectural and design services including buildings, interiors, furniture, graphic design and events. before moving to their home in october 2009, they lived in a 387 sf studio apartment that taught them to collect only what really matters.  so when they found this 850 sf parlor floor apartment in cobble hill they knew it could house the space to live, work, create and entertain. we hope you enjoy today’s look into their place! click here for additional images. {thanks stefanie and robert, and ryan for the tip!}anne

[above: Elements of steel and light form a Calder-like composition.  The living room is an arrangement of things collected, inherited, and made.  The Eames Chair and Ottoman were inherited from Robert’s grandparents.  The throw and pillows on the sofa were made by Stefanie and Robert’s mothers.

The apartment is still a collection of things inherited, gathered, and assembled.  As an entity, our company Workstead has given us a chance to define our design sensibility and philosophy.  We believe that the most sustainable pattern for a domestic life is both re-use and re-invention.  We try to limit our purchases of ‘new’ furniture and objects, preferring the story and character of vintage and reconfigured pieces.  Most importantly, we believe in buying things once.  We have found that it leads to a way of life that is deliberate and focused.  For the most part, all of the furniture is made by us or our friends, or comes from a collection of modern pieces that Robert’s grandparent’s owned. When we moved to Cobble Hill, a coat of white paint provided a neutral vessel to contain these things we love. ]

The piano is from Robert’s parent’s house in North Carolina, and followed him to Brooklyn during a recent drive.  Growing up as a musician, and later training as a classical violinist, it is our reminder that music and performance should be a part of the everyday.  Above the piano, there is a small collection of old anatomical drawings, given to Robert by Stefanie. Each horizontal surface in the apartment is an opportunity to curate a small collection.  Driftwood, framed prints, a painting and a lamp make this wall a stark yet soft play on the light in the living room throughout the day.

The bedroom is a private space, yet is seen from both the Living Room and Office.  Panels of brown burlap curtains, purchased around the corner at Brooklyn General Store, hide a closet of clothes and boxes.  Two chairs, purchased by Stefanie on eBay provide a place to rest at the beginning and end of each day.  The chest in between them is from Robert’s great-grandmother’s house.  On the chest, there is a piece of pottery by Ben Owen, a North Carolina potter.

Asher Israelow made the bed out of Peruvian and domestic walnut.  Asher is a former classmate of ours from the Rhode Island School of Design, a good friend, and a frequent collaborator.  As a furniture maker, it was his first commissioned piece, and he spent countless hours perfecting the inlay and finish.  The painting hanging above the bed was done by Robert’s grandmother, Sammie.  For lighting, we mounted two versatile lamps that were manufactured by Dazor in the 1940s.  They were found in Providence, RI at an antique store for $75.

The room functions as an office by day and a dining room by night.  The chandelier that hangs above is designed and assembled by Workstead, keeping the light in balance throughout the day.  Eames Aluminum Group chairs (from a vintage shop in Saugerties, NY) surround a table, fabricated by Robert for Stefanie for her birthday a few years ago. The prints on the wall are silk screen music posters, bought by Stefanie on a RISD trip to Cuba.  The board is made of 2x4s and homasote, a dense recycled paper board.  It makes the perfect tack board for drawings, postcards, and unopened mail.

CLICK HERE for the rest of workstead’s sneak peek after the jump!

A collection of postcards, sent between Stefanie and Robert during a year apart, creates a composition on the wall that both marks the time and is a quiet reminder of their past, when Stefanie lived in Utah and Robert in Rhode Island.  Stacks of postcards lie beside a typewriter used to create them.

After a year of working from a coffee table in our studio apartment in the East Village, we were anxious to create an organized but comfortable space for working, dining, and entertaining.  In the center of the office space, there is ample room for the prototype of the Workstead Table, which we currently use as a desk to review drawings and meet with colleagues and friends.  The table was made by Robert for Stefanie’s birthday.  It is built from two steel stands formerly used to support the structure of a ship’s hull.  The table top in an old wooden door.  The sideboard is a vintage Danish dresser, and the Dazor lamps appear again to provide extra light.  The focal point of the room is the Chandelier, designed and assembled by Workstead.  It is composed of re purposed O.C. White industrial joints, new-cut steel, and vintage sockets.  Placed on a dimmer, it provides the perfect balance of light throughout the day.

  1. Stella says:

    I am inspired to aspire! Beautiful.
    When I settle somewhere I will try the “buy once” philosophy, but until then anything I buy I know will be sold.

    I am trying to get my partner to write to me from Haiti so I could some lovely keepsakes like your postcard wall, but no mail service!

    The 2 white locker credenzas appear to be IKEA, I have a beat up red one I bought from Craigslist.

    I want a closer look at the Danish dresser!

  2. gia says:

    too much for me. it is cohesive and stunning, but i want more life in it, it is desperate. even if the walls were a pink tan that would give it some warmth.

  3. Thank you for sharing this space!

  4. beth says:

    I love the simplicity. I’m looking for curtain rods like these. Does anyone have any ideas where I can get something like these or do you think they’re DIY?

  5. i really like the black and white vibe with the wood textures. We are in the middle of redoing our place and this vibe is exactly what we are going for. It is nice to see antiques used in a way that at not junkie or old lady looking. We love antiques and often struggle with where that fine line is between junkie and cool. I think the black and white color palette helps with the space and keeps it modern.

    I LOVE the lamp over the dining table! That would look great in our living room, especially since I just painted it black and need more lighting…

  6. Emma Jay says:

    Wow, I love the warmth of the wooden floors and the beautifully cherished furniture! Pretty much my dream home. Gia, I disagree with you – I think it’s really warm!

  7. max says:

    I love love love this beautiful wooden floors.

  8. Tanya says:

    There are so many beautiful elements in this home. From the hanging cookware to the colors, I love it all.

  9. Ferociter says:

    Love the mix of neutrals

  10. Jennifer says:

    Ahhhhh….look at those hardwood floors!! Simply amazing.

  11. MP says:

    The floors are BEAUTIFUL! What kind of wood are they? I’d love to know. Thanks

  12. Cassandra says:

    I love the color scheme here. It’s perfect, the wood tones, black, white and soft gray. I tried to pull it off in my place, but failed when I had an accent wall painted Citron green, then painted my dresser bright yellow. I have no willpower… I give in to color every time.

  13. Christina says:

    I really love all of the lighting fixtures in this space. Job well done.

  14. Renee says:

    i’m in love with this place! there’s so much character!

  15. victoria says:

    bellissimo! i love this home. kinda what i’m going for in my new place. :)

  16. Jorie says:


    It would be easy enough to make the curtain rods with plumbing/ electrical conduit. Most hardware stores can cut and retread the steel for you. I think all you would need to do would finish them up with a little black rattle can.

  17. Halie says:

    Oooh! Love the little touches like the towels and the lattice work over the bedroom door. Such a nice marriage of old pieces and new design!

  18. Leah says:

    My PERFECT dream house!

  19. Adrienne says:

    for the curtain rods — i have similar curtain rods in my home, which i made from stuff i bought at a plumber’s store.

    this place is absolutely breathtaking.

  20. HoneyBunny says:

    Their place is beautiful, but it has already been featured in the Style section of the New York Times.

    1. grace says:


      sadly, it looks like we weren’t informed of that. sorry for the repeat, hope it doesn’t make the home any less beautiful. ;)


  21. SweetRosieBrown says:

    I’m glad you duplicated the effort and featured their home! I would never have seen it otherwise and I am quite smitten! Beautiful. Edgy and yet soft and inviting at the same time. Good balance.

  22. anne-claire says:

    Andre Kertesz, my favorite photographer in his genre. I love seeing his work amongst these beautiful objects…

  23. Oh, I”m completely in love with that first room! I’d like a den that looks JUST LIKE IT! :)

  24. Sonia says:

    Your space is gorgeous!!! i tend to like more white spaces, but yours is perfect combination of contrast and light <3 i completely fall for your bedroom. great home!

  25. meg says:

    Beautiful home. But I so want to add bright floral arrangement or a some throw pillows. A big bowl or oranges. Anything. A pop of color in this space would be awesome.

    Umbra makes tension rods that look similar to these curtain rods.

  26. julie says:

    This is a beautiful apartment

  27. eco-stylista says:

    Absolutely amazing! Can I move in please?

  28. sajjal says:

    the design with rod and bulb are though creative but a bit funny too

  29. MoBeta says:

    I’ve returned to that NYT slideshow several times. So thanks for showing even more!

  30. MayDae says:

    I love all of the different and unique lighting elements. The mixture of hard and soft is exquisite.

  31. Lightopia says:

    Beautiful and classy. The contrast between the light and darks are very eye-catching.

  32. Cynthia says:

    I love the look. It is reminisant of my favorite designers esthetic…Vicente Wolf (w/out the found objects from other countries…that he is known for).

  33. Yanet says:

    I love the cubbies! And the contrast of white and dark wood pieces is magnificent.

  34. Alex says:

    Wow! This is totally one of my favorite sneak peeks… although I pretty much love all of them! Great feature!

  35. Bren says:

    i love everything about this place. its simplicity says so much. I have so much art work from Cuba (from several visits to fam), that it’s great to see other people display something from there. I have an antique map from 1857 that I need to properly frame–its stunning. Thanks for sharing this space…

  36. So in love with this space.

  37. Peter M says:

    Impeccably styled, beautiful place. But I’d love to see a TMZ-esque, celebrity-without-makeup shot of this apartment. Especially if the couple works at home.

  38. andrevs says:

    this is so … breath taking. just beautiful. full of style and good taste.

  39. Sam says:

    This is my 1st entry comment ever, and I must say your home is absolutely gorgeous. I like your concept of “re-use and re-invention”.

  40. MYOriginique says:

    amazing textures ! ….and lighting !

  41. Royal says:


    brilliant and inspiring.

  42. Charles says:

    Incredible, the softwood floor and all white walls ceilling with a lot of texture is a copy from my 1880 old Québec house. I really keep this web page for inspiration… especially the touch you added with the well chosen accessories/souvenirs agencement. we even have the same type of piano.

  43. Shilo says:

    I’d like to add some of these images to my inspiration files, are you the photographer? Trying to keep credits intact.

  44. Clare Pirie says:

    I really love this apartment, the muted tones and textures. The personal mementos and accents really finish the place beautifully. Thanks for sharing.

  45. al says:

    is it too late to ask from whence came those towels?
    thank you.


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