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The Roaming Kitchen Couple Settles Down in Jersey City

by Annie Werbler

“We like to mix modern pieces with the beautiful old things we’ve inherited from our French family,” explain Cristina Sciarra and Paul Pinier of their joint decorating style. After meeting in Madrid eight years ago, the couple have lived together in Paris and Brooklyn before purchasing this Jersey City, NJ townhouse apartment. While Cristina works in real estate development, authors the food blog The Roaming Kitchen, and moonlights as a recipe developer and food photographer, Paul works for a French software company with headquarters in Manhattan. They both love to travel, and displaying memories from their worldly adventures takes precedence in the first home they own together.

Prior to Jersey City, they lived in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn for five years. They loved it, but wanted to buy a space they could grow into — and despite almost two years of searching, they found that Brooklyn wasn’t financially realistic for them. They decided on Jersey City because it reminds them of Brooklyn, with its independently owned shops, restaurants, bars, and markets — and more on the way. Public transportation, Liberty State Park, and the waterfront are all within easy walking distance. The area around Grove Street also has a palpable feeling of community, which has made settling in easier.

Settled in for about a year, they originally didn’t love the bathrooms, but decided against renovating them. They’re perfectly functional, and they wanted to put their renovation money toward something they’d enjoy more, like brightening the walls and kitchen countertops. Warm modern forms and neutral tones shape the central aesthetic, interspersed with generous pops of color, playful patterns, and expertly-arranged decorative groupings. Despite her decorating prowess, Cristina is firmly function-oriented — unless a piece has a story behind it, it should be useful. She’s not interested in ornaments that don’t serve a purpose, even if that’s just to remind herself and Paul of the journey they took toward finding this home. “After so much searching, we found a place that is ours, to decorate as we please.” —Annie

Photography by Cristina Sciarra

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Cristina searched high and low for the rustic-yet-modern dining table, eventually sourcing one from Custom Made. Schoolhouse Electric pendant lights, a handmade picnic bench, and mismatched chairs fill out the comfy, chic look she desired.
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Paul Pinier and Cristina Sciarra on the stoop of their Jersey City townhouse.
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Le Creuset pots and pans liven the range, as Cristina uses them nearly every day. A marble lazy Susan from Provisions holds the oils, vinegars, and salts she uses most often.
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The apartment's floor-through layout offers tons of light and privacy at the same time.
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On their first trip together, Cristina and Paul traveled to Edinburgh, where she tried whiskey for the first time. Now the couple collects bottles of different styles from the countries they visit. The hammock came from a small vendor on a trip to Mexico. Near the kitchen table, shelves hold cookbooks and dishware for shooting food photography. "For dinner parties, I believe in using what I have, from contemporary ceramics to antique flatware," Cristina shares. "What's the point of having beautiful dinnerware if it goes unused?"
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The living room sofa, side table, and coffee table are from West Elm, but most of the decorative items come from small makers. (Blanket: Provisions by Food52; blue pillow + the terrarium + hanging yarn: a local shop called Kanibal and Co.; hammock: carried home from Mexico; bright pillow : Leif; lights over the table: Schoolhouse Electric)
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In front of the sofa, a layered look. "We had three medium-sized rugs on our wedding registry," Cristina explains. "Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a rug that would cover the living room, we decided to overlay the rugs we already had."
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Minou the cat is like a puppy -- she follows Cristina everywhere she goes around the home. Though she claims to have a black thumb, Cristina has managed to cultivate some plants, and always keeps fresh flowers around.
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"What we love most about our home: -Lots of natural light, -Plants, -Large kitchen table, -Hammock" -- Cristina Sciarra and Paul Pinier
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On the other side of the sofa, a pattern from Juju Papers accents a bookshelf wall. "We showcase items that are precious to us," Cristina says. "A statue of the Virgin Mary my Abuelito gave me before he died; a copper jam pot we inherited from Paul's grandmother -- she was from Cognac, where her husband built huge copper distilling equipment; silver trays and flatware, also grandmother inherited; our wedding albums; a tea set brought home from Morocco."
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Ocean colors dominate the living room gallery wall with framed posters from Egon Schiele (Neue Museum, NY), Picasso (Amsterdam), and Monet (Berlin). "The painting above the mirror and Paris etching is old; we inherited it from Paul's grandmother, but took it out of the elaborate gold frame it came in," Cristina describes. "The small watercolors are flowers from our wedding, the thousand-year-old towers of La Rochelle, and the Brooklyn Bridge -- we commissioned them from artist Clint Reid of the Tillman Project, and Paul turned them into our wedding stationery. The other shots are photographs from our weddings -- we had two! -- including one of Paul's parents' garden in Angoulins sur Mer, France, which makes me so happy every time I look at it."
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Cristina shot the image for the peaceful print over the master bed on a family trip to Lanzarote. Fairy lights make her happy in any season; Paul installed a switch, so they function as a bedside table lamp.
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Above the bedroom loveseat hangs an Emil Nolde print that belonged to Cristina's mom in the 1970s. The small red piece was gifted to Cristina and Paul by the mayor of Angoulins-sur-Mer, the village where his family lives, when they were married there. They also received the cheese painting as a wedding gift.
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The bathroom is functional but not the couple's ideal aesthetic. "I went full clash with things that make me happy," Cristina admits, "Like the Seascape wallpaper by Abigail Edwards."
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Framed museum posters, especially dated special exhibitions, are a sweet reminder of past travels. This home finally offered Cristina and Paul the space with which to create little gallery walls. On the floor beside the guest room chair, a large fermenting crock made by Sarah Kersten and sold on QUITOKEETO. "My late grandmother-in-law made cornichons to put hair on your chest," Cristina jokes. "I plan to give it to her daughter, my mother-in-law, as a gift."
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Layout of the 1,215-square-foot townhouse home on one floor.

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