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A Brooklyn Retreat Inspired by Movies of the 1990s

by Garrett Fleming

A Brooklyn Retreat Inspired by Movies of the 1990s, Design*Sponge

1998’s You’ve Got Mail isn’t only my favorite romantic comedy, it’s mandatory viewing in my household. The picturesque street fest scene, classic soundtrack and irresistible charm of Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox (“F-O-X.”) have yet to be beat, in my book. And that’s saying a lot considering it was released 20 years ago and two of its main plot points – dial-up internet and the reality of a struggling bookshop owner affording a classic studio in the Upper West Side – are ancient history.

The aforementioned studio Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly lived in was a particularly cozy brownstone where English country style and the 1990s collided. Her bed was draped in a geometric quilt, there were layers of cream-colored accessories here and there, and her furniture was perfectly worn in. I could probably sketch it from memory if you asked me, and so could interior designer Justin DiPiero. He loved the feel of it so much, in fact, he looked to its unfussy style as well as that of When Harry Met Sally when redecorating his one-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

This Meg-Ryan-inspired version of Justin’s home came into being after he’d lived there for three years. During that time, he kept the space white and neutral, assuming these colors would make the 500-square-foot plot feel much larger. It certainly did, but it also made it stale and uninviting. This latest round of tweaks, on the other hand, have resulted in a calming retreat from the hum of New York, a place he says “oftentimes feels so alien.”

He’s reinterpreted Kathleen Kelly’s look for 2018 with a green gallery wall and gilded accessories, but all in all, the quaint apartment still captures the welcoming and casual vibe of our favorite bookshop owner’s space. I can just see a modern-day version of Meg Ryan’s character curling up in Justin’s sofa, reading a book or texting away with Joe. Above the sofa hang pictures from Justin’s family and across from it sit a chair from his childhood nursery and a buffet from his great-great grandmother. Kathleen Kelly, whose drive to keep her mother’s store open was unmatched, would definitely approve of these familial touches. Scroll down to look around, and enjoy! —Garrett

P.S. If you want to bring the look of “You’ve Got Mail” to your own home, head here.

Photography by Claire Esparros

Image above: The living room’s 11-foot-tall ceilings are taller than most NY apartments, but the usable square footage of Justin’s home is rather small. It comes in at a quaint 500 square feet. While some would try and squeeze multiple uses into each room to make the most of this smaller footprint, Justin has opted for keeping things simple. Each room has one function.

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Justin says his fondest memories of the apartment come courtesy of his housewarming party (take a peek here). It was a tropical affair complete with paper lanterns and golden pineapple decor.

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Justin chose this green hue for the living room’s accent wall to help his artwork stand out. “I (also) used this color as a starting point for the drapery fabric as well as the upholstery for the lounge chair,” he says.

My inspiration came in the form of 90s Meg Ryan movies like ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and ‘When Harry Met Sally.’

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Pieces like this ladder help Justin exploit underutilized vertical storage space, something many homeowners often forget about.

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“This chair has been in my family for years and used to be in my nursery when I was a baby. I reupholstered it and changed out the legs so that it would fit with the new design of the apartment,” Justin shares.

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The TV sits on a buffet from Justin’s great-great grandmother. When friends are over, this spot transforms into a bar.

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“What I love most about my home is that it is an extension of my personality.” – Justin DiPiero

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Justin describes his Williamsburg apartment as “… cozy and inviting, but [with] a tailored look.”

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He found this antique woven artwork in a Brooklyn shop and loved it so much he decided to use it as a makeshift headboard.

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NY is always buzzing, but Justin’s serene bedroom offers a welcome respite from the noise of the city.

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This side of the bedroom is too small for a traditional dresser, so Justin turned this bar cabinet into a slim slice of storage for clothing.

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The living room’s amazing light, the bedroom’s exposed brick and original details – like those seen here in the bathroom – are why Justin was so drawn to this particular home.

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Justin’s building was constructed in 1920 and has been updated multiple times. The latest overhaul was in 2010.

SOURCE LIST

Living Room
Wall paint – Behr “River Forest”
Sofa – Interior Define
Coffee table – Akron Street
Custom floral art – Emily Grady Dodge
Green Botanical painting – Jenna Snyder-Phillips
Throw Pillows – vintage mix with custom Zak + Fox upholstery
Footstool – World Market
Accent chair – vintage
Chair’s accent pillow – Bole Road Textiles
Side table A– CB2
Side table B – Wayfair
Buffet – antique
Wall hanging – Target
Brass lamp – West Elm
White table lamp – Ralph Lauren Home

Bedroom
Paint – Farrow & Ball “Setting Plaster”
Bedside light – Etsy
Wall hanging, cabinet – vintage
Bedding – Parachute Home
Accent pillow – Zak + Fox Sauvage
Art – vintage architectural prints
Plant, vase – Sprout Home
Cabinet hardware – CB2
Table lamp – West Elm

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Comments

    • Ditto! Love it when people think outside the ‘armoire’ and come up with such creative solutions. Very clever!

  • I love everything about this apartment. Great accessories and the scale of each item is spot on. There is nothing boring about this 500 sq. ft! Great job! Leann

  • Hi Justin!
    Absolutely adore your apartment! And I’m a huge fan of “You’ve Got Mail” too! Thanks Garrett for bringing this story to life!

  • this home is beautiful, so serene. the artworks are gorgeous, and everything seems to have the perfect place. definitely a home you’d love to call your own.

  • Lovely apartment! I live in the NJ suburbs but I have always wondered what it would be like to live in a beautiful Brooklyn brownstone. I am so fascinated by those buildings. I, too, am a big fan of ‘You’ve Got Mail’ (also love Kathleen’s little book store!). Your apartment is so beautifully appointed. Hard to believe it’s only 500sq.ft. Love the green wall!

  • So cozy & inviting! Just can’t get the same feel with minimalist white. Where did you find the fabric for those gorgeous drapes?

    • Hey there! The fabric is « « “charleston coral” from fabric.com and custom fabricated by my dear friends at Stitchroom.com :)

      Hope this helps!
      xxoo

  • This home is beautiful! Can we inquire with Justin what shades he purchased for the window in the living room? Thanks!
    Lauren

  • So lovely! The color combos and fabrics are beautiful. The bedside lights really stood out- could you provide a link or Etsy shop name for those? Thanks!