A Hidden Garden in the Middle of Brooklyn

Douglas Riccardi says that he never wanted his place to look too “decorated” and rather prefers to keep things simple in terms of decor. But with an eye for aesthetics, (he is head of his own design firm, Memo Productions) Douglas has certainly found the perfect spot for many of his collected design artifacts in his Fort Greene, Brooklyn home. He loves to entertain, and wanted to create a comfortable place for guests. With a cozy guest bedroom and some architectural changes on the parlor floor designed by his architect brother, Russell Riccardi, he has transformed his home into a peaceful, light filled oasis in the middle of the city. His favorite thing about his home is a feature highly coveted by city dwellers: his very own garden. Tending to his plants and picking fresh figs right off the tree evokes a feeling of being miles away from the city hustle that exists just outside his front door. Thank you, Douglas and thank you Kelly Campbell for the photos! Shannon

Image above: My friend Lloyd Miller send me two Wolfgang Weingart posters after my trip to Basel in 1983 and they were rolled in a tube for over 20 years until I recently got them framed. I sort of forgot how fantastic they were and how much I loved them!

Image above: When the parlor floor was renovated, I replaced two small doors with this large window/door combination — which means that I get a ton of light and a wonderful view of the garden. Someone way back when planted these not-so-nice yew trees at the back of my property. But now I thank them, since yews never lose their leaves and I get total privacy all year long.

See more of Douglas Riccardi’s Brooklyn home after the jump…

Image above: Reusing a few classics: my parents bought the rope chairs by the windows in the ’60s. The sofa is on permanent loan from my sister in law, designer Erica Millar. It belonged to her grandmother who lived in LA and was designed by the once-famous Beverly Hills decorator William “Billy” Haines.

Image above: I really love this weird wooden pick ax which I bought at the RISD museum store. It was made by a fellow RISD alumnus (I wish I could recall their name). I made the table from some wood I salvaged for the beach in the Hamptons one summer.

Image above: No matter what kind of party I have at home this island is where my guests seem to congregate.

Image above: One big problem I had with the parlor floor is not having any utility space. The washer and dryer just fit under this stairs. I made this curtain to hide them but since the cat “bathroom” is under there as well, I needed to create this doorway for them.

Image above: Luckily someone before me had the idea of putting a skylight in the hallway which means this space is flooded with light. It took me years to get past the stark white walls of the stair hall — but now that I have, I find myself constantly adding to the art hung there. The two posters are from Le Rouleur Lent — and celebrate two classic, hellish European cycling climbs.

Image above: I know it sounds really extravagant, but one of the other nice things about moving from a Manhattan apartment to a Brooklyn house was that I got this super tiny guest room which really does come in handy. Plus Bruno the cat loves to sleep on this bed all day long.

Image above: It took me forever to get up the courage to paint the bedroom this dark grey, but I couldn’t be happier with the choice. It’s cozy and welcoming — like sleeping in a cocoon.

Image above: This vase is one of my prize possessions — it was designed by Ettore Sottsass, who I used to work for in Milan. I got it directly from the factory that made his ceramics outside Florence, and could kick myself for not buying more. I am addicted to Diabolik, the Italian mystery/crime comic, which help me keep my Italian up to date.

Image above: Even though the piano would be better suited on the parlor floor, I decided to put it upstairs so I could play any time of the day or night without causing my friend who lives in the apartment downstairs to go crazy. This room is where I spend 99% of my free time while I am at home, either reading or playing the piano.

Image above: I designed this poster for Restaurant Florent and it has always been one of my favorites. Oscar night was VERY IMPORTANT at Florent, it was one of the high holy days, the others being Halloween and New Year’s eve.

Image above: Frankie — a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Image above: Bruno — almost 16 and still going strong-ish.

Image above: The house gets great sun in the back in the morning, just enough for my fig tree on the deck to be very happy. I sort of felt that an Italian American living in Brooklyn really needed a fig tree. My grandmother had one (albeit in New Jersey) — but nothing beats fresh hand picked figs for breakfast.

Image above: The ferns have gone a little crazy this year.

Image above: My tiny urban oasis.

  1. Janice says:

    There is so much to love about this home-the light, special pieces within, the garden.
    One of my favorite sneak peeks.

  2. Sarah says:

    Love this beautiful space.

    I especially love the courage to paint the dark wall (also trying to work up the courage- I want to use black chalkboard paint on one of my walls) and the little kitty hide away.

  3. Erin says:

    LOVE the kitty space under the stairwell!

  4. When can I move in ? It’s my favorite sneak peak ever !!

  5. emily says:

    beautiful space. love those giant lanterns…and pretty much everything else in the garden!

  6. SMID says:

    I love it. I love that he chose to open up the kitchen with the large window door combination. Great choice! And great creative use of space under the stairs.

  7. Perfection, inside and out. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Malina says:

    I really like the “tiny urban oasis”. And the kitty door. :)

  9. caroline says:

    totally in love… thanks for the peak!

  10. Amy Beam says:

    So much to love about this home. Yes I bet your friends do feel at home here. It is beautiful but also completely unpretentious.

  11. Aboslutely beautiful!

  12. Absolutely beautiful! love the cat door :)

  13. Pam Beal says:

    How did you get your ferns to ‘go crazy’ this year? They are beautiful! Mine are limping along, coughing and weazing in the Dallas heat. Are yours fully shaded? Some friends and I visited Brooklyn a couple of months ago and loved it.

  14. LS says:

    What I love the most is that you play the piano for pleasure. CLASSICAL piano. Thank you.

  15. Gorgeous, love the hiding place for the washer and dryer, genius!

  16. Bob Sand says:

    Nicely done.

  17. Confidence Stimpson says:

    Beautiful! And of course you’re going to make anywhere you live beautiful, so no surprise. I didn’t know that was a Billy Haines sofa I was sitting on talking to that guy for so long at your party! Hey, cool! Absolutely love the whole thing. And so grateful I got to help a bit in a small way at the beginning!

  18. Confidence Stimpson says:

    Beautiful! And of course you would make any space you live in beautiful, so no surprise. I didn’t know that was a Billy Haines sofa I was sitting on at your party! How cool is that! I really love the whole thing, and am so glad I got to be part of it in a small way at the beginning.

  19. mls says:

    Really lovely. Would you mind me asking about the color/brand of paint on the wall above the fireplace (and behind the Oscars poster)? I’ve been looking around for a great shade of yellow, or yellowish tan, or wheat (or whatever).

  20. pamela says:

    We absolutely LOVE the “Oscars” poster — is there any chance it is still available to purchase?

  21. Ah the cat flap under the stairs made me smile!

  22. Any idea on where I can find the nightstand shown in the photo with the cool yellow vase from Florence?

  23. What a great place.I love it.I wish I could move in for a while :-)

  24. Louise says:

    Just lovely, I will return to Fort Greene in a few weeks…..I love the houses, love the neighbourhood. Last time (2010) I was there, I met a couple of sculptors on Washington Park who had spent considerable time in Australia. They were using trees from the park opposite which had come down in a recent tornado. Well done Douglas for creating an urban oasis in one of my favourite places.

  25. liana says:

    sei raffinatissimo. grande douglas !

  26. Bekah says:

    What a beautiful home. Thank you for sharing. I’m jealous of your “extravagant” guest room. What I wouldn’t give to have that much space to host!

  27. Mandy says:

    new favorite!!

  28. LAURA says:

    What a beautiful home and beautiful kitties!

  29. Ingerid says:

    Looks like a good home. (: Does anyone happen to know the name of the designer of the pendant lamp in the second photo of this article? Many thanks.

  30. Surya says:

    This is where I dream I’ll live one day :)
    So beautiful!

  31. Jean F says:

    Douglas! I think I’m going to miss your house more than mine! Thank you for including my ‘Motherload’ embroidered pillow in your bedroom shot. Wonderful!

  32. Christina says:

    A very sweet space, love the commentary. The kitties make it, of course. :)

  33. I love the abssence of color in some of these rooms. It makes a strong statement. I do do have to say I would die for the back yard…really beautiful

  34. Christina says:

    Ingerid- That is a George Nelson pendant lamp I believe. :) Classic Mid-Century.

  35. Andrea says:


    Looks like the Saucer Pendant by George Nelson.

  36. Isabelle says:

    I am lusting for that garden.

  37. Eileen says:

    Great home, and wow…flashback…I have that Weingart poster from the same time period, STILL rolled up in a tube with others. Overlapped a semester with Lloyd Miller at the Kunstgewerbe Schule in Basel…small world.

  38. ZeLittleOne says:

    I think this is my favorite sneak peak ever, everything is so effortlessly perfect – and I love the kitty flap (and its lovely users!), it’s genius. Thanks for sharing with us!

  39. SUNCITY says:

    Surprise the kitty space under the stairwell too! And super love the garden! Kawai!

  40. Marilyn says:

    My daughter just sent me the link to view your wonderful house. Ironically, right before I saw your photos, I had gone online in search of one of those rope chairs that you pointed out in the corner of your living room. You have inspired me to make some changes to my own home, which happens to have very similar bones to yours. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  41. leslie says:

    I love the oversize hooks in your hallway. I would love to know where those came from?

  42. Frances says:

    I’d love to be your cat!

  43. Ria says:

    I love your rope chairs. Are they Hans Wegner?

  44. Bettina says:

    Awesome home!

  45. gebril says:

    Ah Brooklyn. Looks amazing. I think the whole area is being revamped with high-rises now right?

  46. Annie says:

    I am so, so in love with this home and everything about it.

  47. daniele puharre says:

    my favourite space in the entire blog!

  48. Cara says:

    I ADORE every bit of this house. It’s the kind of place I’d so love to hang out with friends.
    Any chance of getting a print of the Oscar poster?

  49. Robin A. says:

    Hi Douglas, what a lovely surprise to see your beautifully curated home. It is a designer’s dream oasis down to every last detail including the amazing Weingart poster, thoughtful cat curtain door and thriving green garden. Cheers!


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