Interiorssneak peeks

Storied Finds Enrich a Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn Duplex

by Garrett Fleming

Storied Finds Enrich a Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn Duplex, Design*Sponge

For 40 years, Mimi Lester’s mother Barbara comfortably lived every renter’s fantasy: she had a rent-controlled loft in Manhattan, NY. Then *snap!* A decade ago she was bought out. Just like that she had to find a new home. Excited to start the hunt, Barbara began searching high and low for a new pad. Enter Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Mimi was living there and Barbara had been working there, so she already knew the area was grand. What she didn’t realize, though, was how fantastic its communal atmosphere was. Without a doubt Mimi’s neighborhood was the spot for her new roots.

The 1890s-era brownstone Barbara ended up purchasing in Bed-Stuy came with two units: one for herself and one for Mimi. Initially, Mimi shared her half of the duplex with roommates, affordable decor neither hearty or eye-catching being the name of the game. For the past four years, however, Mimi has bunked with her partner Rae Angelo Tutera, and since moving in together the couple has slowly replaced those not-ideal items with sentimental and vintage finds.

This shared affection for storied objects was part of what initially bound the two to one another, and it’s still what makes their apartment sing to this day. No matter the room, there are interesting goodies to uncover: take a look in the guest room and you’ll find mementos from as far away as Morocco; gaze at the living room’s walls and family portraits smile back at you. The list goes on and on, and makes this tour one you can’t miss. Click through to take a look! Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Lauren Perlstein

Image above: The West Elm sofa in the living room was the couple’s first big purchase together, and they couldn’t be happier with it. Every day they use it, the sofa looks richer and feels cozier. It sits on another West Elm find — the colorful rug — and in front of black Behr “Beluga” walls. It was a bold move but the hue was made possible by the abundance of light the room receives.

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Rae and Mimi met while working as archivists so their mutual affinity for vintage and found objects is unsurprising. Their Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn home embodies this passion with interesting mementos decorating every room of it.
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Family portraits, insects and a souvenir from Israel brighten the living room’s moody walls.
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The replica Eames chair was a wedding gift and is stunning, but the story behind the map of the Indian subcontinent steals the show. Ten years ago -- just before she left to study abroad there -- Mimi found it inside a trunk on the street.
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Unlocking their front door became much more exciting once Mimi installed this Genevieve Gorder for Tempaper wallpaper in the entry last November. “It made coming home from Brooklyn’s dreary winters significantly cheerier,” the couple says.
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Artwork from Morocco and Mexico and a picture of where Rae and Mimi got married are displayed in this staircase off the entry.
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The hallway that leads to the bedroom is home to this paper mobile Mimi made while bored one day.
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Mimi and Rae love hosting dinner parties, and having a dining room in Brooklyn large enough to do so is endlessly rewarding. It gets great light and plays host not only to guests, but Mimi’s flourishing plant collection. She’s up to 15 plant babies.
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"Our favorite thing about our house is that it's a safe & soothing space for everyone who visits us," -- Mimi Lester and Rae Angelo Tutera
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Mimi and her father built these bookshelves, and decorating them are glasses from her mom. “When Lauren was photographing our house, she asked if there was anything really special to us we wanted her to include. This 'Resist psychic death' print our friend Jen May made was Rae’s request. It’s a reference to a Bikini Kill song and a meditation that we’ve both carried around since the 90s,” Mimi tells us.
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When it came time to celebrate their anniversary, Mimi gave Rae this banner made of paper, the traditional gift couples give one another in honor of their first year together.
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One of the family’s favorite possessions is this rug they snagged off of Craigslist. While walking it home, three people asked them if there was a body inside!
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This papel picado banner is a decoration from the couple’s wedding. Pictures of the family playing with their dog when she was just a puppy hang below it.
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The office/guest room features one of Rae and Mimi's most-colorful blankets. They’ve made it a custom to pick one up everywhere they travel.
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This space is also home to what the pair calls their “altar.” In essence it’s a mashup of all the cherished finds they’ve collected over the years: black sand from Iceland, a pair of Mimi’s baby shoes and postcards from friends.
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The kitchen is outfitted in IKEA pieces. The couple has been most impressed by how many clever storage solutions it provides: “There are lots of nifty contraptions like an extendable lazy Susan in the bottom cabinet.” Mimi explains. She is an avid ceramicist and made the plates and mugs herself.
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Mimi’s mother owns and lives in the two-unit building, and Mimi and Rae rent their unit from her. This closeness -- both in proximity and relation -- has made it abundantly easy to make tweaks to the space whenever either sees fit.

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