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An East Village Home Where Dreams Are Stored

by Liberty Lausterer

This is a story of what happens when we hold on to our dreams. It begins with a steamer trunk. An enormous trunk with a 1950s sticker reading “Liberté,” to be exact, that once belonged to grandparents and accompanied them on countless moves back and forth between New York and Europe. On ocean liners bound for Geneva, Washington, Rome, New York, and Paris, her grandparents hauled the trunk along, storing their worldly possessions in it. Anne’s parents later inherited the trunk and placed it in their country home in the North of France. The family heirloom was passed on to Anne, who moved it to her home in Paris. There she began filling it with fabrics, “an ikat from a trip to Bali, ginghams from the Marché Saint Pierre in Montmartre, indigoes friends brought back from Japan, handwoven khadis sent from a friend in India… At the time, I was a writer but I longed to make clothes and nestled my dreams into the trunk.” Anne and her husband Nicolas, a designer and consultant, eventually moved with the steamer trunk from Paris to San Francisco where Anne studied fashion design. Anne continued collecting fabrics, storing them in her beloved trunk. In 2008 the couple moved to New York City. But Anne was still too busy, now designing for companies, and continued putting off her dream. “One day, I’ll do something with these fabrics, I kept telling myself. One day!”

And then one day Anne opened the steamer trunk. She took out the fabrics she had so lovingly and thoughtfully collected through the years and began sewing clothes for her daughter Emma. Eventually, she made clothes for others. Today Anne owns an online shop, , where she sells children’s clothing made from the fabrics in her steamer trunk. Anne’s once nestled dream has become a reality. Each dress or shirt she designs and sews in her East Village, NYC home is a treasure, the result of years spent hoping and holding on to her “promising fabrics.”

It should come as no surprise that Anne, Nicolas, and Emma’s home, located in a 1928 Art Deco building, is itself a thoughtfully collected treasure. The apartment has windows in every room, including the two bathrooms and closet, and faces south. “Even though we’re in the middle of Manhattan, it’s really quiet. We face the backyard and we can hear the birds singing from the trees growing in front of our windows, and the bells from the church nearby… Closing your eyes, you could be in the countryside (with a few sirens in the distance).” The couple also loves that they can walk everywhere downtown, taking the train or a cab only when going uptown to a museum or Central Park. Inside and out, their home is a creative weaving of city and country.

But the tranquil, luminous space Anne and Nicolas have created was once a patchwork of colors and textures. There were at least five different floor finishes and colored walls everywhere. Anne and Nicolas worked with a contractor and stripped down the layers of floor finishes to the original concrete. A super thin layer of fresh concrete was poured throughout the home (with the exception of the bathrooms). They also painted the walls, beams, and steam pipes a uniform white, Benjamin Moore’s Decorator White, and installed an IKEA kitchen. The result is a foundation that is both simple and versatile, drawing one’s eye to walls filled with art made mostly by family and friends and objects that have traveled with Anne and Nicolas across ocean and nation, following in the legacy of her grandparents. Anne’s story is proof of what happens when we hold on to our dreams, nestling them someplace safe and sacred, until the day we can finally open them up. —

Photography by Anne Sheldon-Duplaix 

Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
The steamer trunk once belonged to Anne's grandparents and crossed the Atlantic many times with them. Anne now stores her fabrics in it ("like decades old pristine linens from my grandmother's closet in the South of France"). The low table/bench is by George Nelson and sits alongside two chairs by Eames, from. Beneath the window, a set of walnut stools can be used as additional seating or side tables. West Elm linen curtains seen here are also used in the master bedroom and Emma's room.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
"In order to live comfortably in a compact space [850 square feet], we try to constantly edit away the unecessary. We enjoy this constraint, actually, because we know we wouldn’t be as disciplined if we were living in a bigger space," Anne says. The drawings hung above the sofa are by Anne's grandfather and father. Ceiling paper pendant lights are by Isamu Noguchi and the pillow fabric is by Josef Frank.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
"I love the drawing my father made of the village in France where I spent all my vacations growing up. It’s like having a little piece of our country house right in the middle of Manhattan." A dining table by Jean Prouvé is paired with stools and a high chair.
Anne and Nicolas had a custom mirror installed in their bookshelf, also custom, to reflect light from the windows. "Natural light is very important to me. Being able to see the sky, the sun. And trees as well. Especially in a big city," she says.
Anne Sheldon Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
During the day, the dining table is where Anne drafts patterns and sews her children's clothing line. When Emma comes home, the sewing machine is stored away, and it becomes a table where they paint and color together before dinner.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
This Eames chair was a wedding gift that followed Anne and Nicolas from Paris to San Francisco to New York. During their last move its edges were broken, as though a shark had eaten bits of it! "Thankfully, we found a skilled craftsman who patiently repaired it as if nothing had happened."
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
The living and dining room opens up into an IKEA kitchen. "This space can easily get small and crowded, especially since everyone likes to gather there at the same time with toys, books, work, and food. We may add a couple more mirrors around the entryway to make the space feel bigger. And perhaps replace the wall between the bedroom and living room by a steel-frame window partition."
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
Anne finds the light coming through the linen curtains soothing in the mornings. Above the Design Within Reach bed hangs another Isamu Noguchi pendant paper light and an Eames vintage leg splint. The Yanagi stools from Vitra are used as bedside tables.
Anne Sheldon Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
The books, tucked into the bookshelf, are used to bring pops of color into a mostly white home. The wooden chair is and the lamp on the bookshelf is Noguchi.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
Atop the master bedroom bookshelf is a Shaker box and Emma's ukulele. The rocks were collected from a hike in Iceland.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
Peeking through the curtain into the closet is a window. Yes, a window! The room is flooded with natural light, perfect for early mornings when Nicolas likes to sketch at the desk before going to work.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
Family photos and inspiring images create a mood board above the desk. The L1 task light from Luxo illuminates Anne's work.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
Anne likes how the bamboo offers a rela presence in the master bath, and is grateful for a home full of calm and light.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
Emma mostly uses the wooden sleigh as a bedside table. Except after a good snowstorm. Then the family takes it to the park to play. The crib is from IKEA.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
Emma's clothes and toys are stored in Muji shelves and canvas bins.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
Emma has her own corner for creativity with a Guidecraft table and kid height chalkboard. The stools double as step stools, demonstrating yet another small but clever way Anne and Nicolas work to make their home, and the things in it, as versatile as possible.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
There is no closet in Emma's room, so this Hang-It-All comes in handy. L’Éditeur clothes hang on the hooks above a Steel utility tote used as a toy basket.
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
Anne and Nicolas tried to keep renovations to a minimum, keeping the existing bathroom tiles. The home's second bathroom shows off yet another window. "It’s rare in Manhattan!"
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
Anne, Emma, and Nicolas in their East Village home. "When we bought it, it was only the two of us. When Emma was born, we were wondering if it would become too small but so far, so good!"
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
The family enjoys all kinds of music from the nearby music school. Anne keeps the windows open most of the time so they can hear jazz played by a small orchestra in the evenings. On the weekends, an ensemble rehearses classical pieces, concerti or symphonies. During weekdays, there are soloists of all kinds, piano, sax, and singers rehearsing opera. "Also tambourines and xylophones played by the little ones. It gives an amazing vibe to the courtyard."
Anne Sheldon-Duplaix's Home Tour for Design*Droits-Humains
When Anne and Nicolas first moved to New York they found a one-bedroom to rent in the East Village. After three years, they started looking for a place to buy and found their current home just one block away from their previous apartment! "It’s compact but there is no 'lost' space (no long hallways for instance). Even though it was tinier than other apartments we were also considering, it felt right. I wish it had an outdoor space though. Next one!"

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  • The tub in the second bath is so lovely! I’m glad you kept it. You seemed to achieve exactly what you wanted, a calm and bright space. Thanks for sharing!

  • Gorgeous! Please provide a source for the “Playa de Venice/Culver City” photograph. I’d love to buy one for my partner, late of the area, as we are snowed into Boston! Thanks! PS. Anyone know where to score a newly made tub like the one in the second bathroom? Perfection.

  • Love that bookshelf they curated! And yes to editing away the things you don’t need!! I love apartment living simply for the reason is that the space forces me to live minimally and get rid of things that we no longer need.

    xo, Sofia

  • Lovely. Thoughtful.

    We recently moved from a small house to one nearly twice the size. Before packing, we tossed and gave away. While packing, we tossed and gave away. While unpacking the same. Living here for a year, still more tossing and giving away. I want to live with things I love (or need). Getting rid of is so much easier now than it used to be but not sure I’d be up for the challenge of moving to a smaller space!

  • We moved from an 1800 square foot house to one that is barely over 760 square feet, and while it was challenging (and at times, reeeeeaaaally challenging) to prioritize/purge things, it has also been liberating beyond our wildest imagination. Love all of the pieces in your space which serve multiple functions, love the story behind your home and work, love everything about this post. :)

  • What a beautiful thoughtfully collected and edited home! Love the rainbow-hued books on the low shelf– are these scrapbooks/albums? I’m looking for a source for our family photos- and these look perfect on a shelf. Thank you!

  • This is my dream home!! So many beautiful Eames pieces. I teared up looking through the photos…absolutely breathtaking.

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