My 865sqft: A treehouse bedroom grows inside the Williamsburg loft of two creatives
6sqft’s series “My sqft” checks out the homes of New Yorkers across all the boroughs. Our latest interior adventure brings us to the Williamsburg apartment of designer Gregoire Abrial and marketing creative Hang Pham. Want to see your home featured here? Get in touch!
Raw, industrial loft spaces are increasingly difficult to come by these days in NYC, so when you walk into one that’s been custom outfitted by its tenants to a tee, the experience is truly unique.
Found inside none other than Williamsburg’s infamous artists bunker, 475 Kent, is the 865-square-foot loft of French furniture designer Gregoire Abrial and Vietnamese-born marketing creative Hang Pham. Ahead the international duo offer up a tour of their inimitable Brooklyn space (that upon move-in seven years ago had nothing more than a bathtub, toilet, and kitchen sink) which they’ve outfitted with “slow designs” by Gregoire (more on that ahead), items bartered with neighbors, refuse found on the street, tchotchkes and treasures from family, friends and travels, and, of course, a pretty amazing DIY treehouse bedroom.
How did you two meet?
Hang: We met when we were both working at Amy Lau Design, an interior design firm in Chelsea. None of us had interior design background actually. Gregoire was trained as an industrial and furniture designer, I went to school for business. We are not from New York either; I’m Vietnamese, he’s French.
Gregoire: Somehow the stars aligned and we managed to meet at that particular point in space and time—to realize that we share a lot in common—design and l’art de vivre being two of them.
How did you find this loft?
Hang: Gregoire did an internship at Ron Gilad’s studio that was then located on the eighth floor of the building [475 Kent]. He became friends with Ron and the neighbors living here. They would just keep their doors open and walk in and out of each other’s space as if the entire building is a massive open studio. Over a dinner with some neighbors he wished out loud that he would love to live here and one of them gave him the number of the building manager. It was the end of 2009 and the crisis was pushing artists away from the city. Gregoire was lucky to have visited three empty apartments on the 11th floor. This one immediately felt like the best fit. In fact, it IS the best fit.
The workspace (top). The shelf area is Simone the cat’s bedroom; she has hung postcard from her cat friend in France and there’s a (photoshopped) picture of her with Gregoire on vacation in the Carribean (bottom).
You’ve built most of the furniture in this home, where do you find inspiration for the pieces you do.
Hang: Gregoire builds with two things in mind: the material and the function. He loves to find reclaimed stuff, could be wood or fabrics or glass, from projects at work or from the sidewalk. New York has plenty of materials to offer, and those materials inspire him to create. He feels the need to lend a shape and a voice to these otherwise unwanted objects or pieces of scraps. When creating in his studio, functionality is often the starting point, be it a bedroom, a table, a wall-hanging storing unit, or a hallway mirror. Then Gregoire designs around what he has available, using the right amount, combining dimensions and colors; to keep the integrity of the materials as much as possible. Finally, he would add a final touch—a bit of wit, a whimsical twist, a fun detail, that makes the piece uniquely his.
Illustrations of “George,” a character Gregoire began drawing in France, can be found throughout the house; The small mirror above the couch Gregoire made for Hang when they were long distance. The leather heart is scratched with their initials and the number of years they’ve been together; The glass coffee table is the first thing Gregoire ever built in NYC.
What are your favorite features of the loft? Favorite pieces?
Gregoire: The balcony. It makes a big difference to be able to “step” outside even when we are not on the ground level of the building. Hang does her yoga on the balcony every morning. We can host friends. Simone [the cat] can go out and observe the city, watch birds, and chill in the sun. We have a little garden that we tend to. Hang and I built the planters together this spring with reclaimed wood. Hang grew up in the city so she was very excited to have her first garden. She takes that seriously.
High ceiling, no walls, and concrete floor. That’s the best thing about loft spaces—they are made for a community-oriented lifestyle which we both love. With the bare concrete floor, our guests need not worry about removing their shoes or staining the carpet. We can host a large crowd without feeling crowded because the high ceiling and the open plan make the space breathable.
Hang: The loft is a retreat from the city life. Being close to the water but on the other side of the river from Manhattan, it really feels like we have left the city when we are at home. It’s quiet and spacy. We can still see the city with all its buildings and dazzling lights, the Williamsburg Bridge, the traffic on the EastRiver —while in a temple that we call home.
The painting that Gregoire’s grandpa did of his grandma during their vacation in Italy. Gregoire’s grandpa whom we dearly called Papi inspired him a lot in terms of building, creating, and engineering things. Being an engineer himself, Papi had this artistic side and he painted for fun. He’s very well-traveled, larger than life—a perfect French grandpa who enjoys good food, good wine, and good times with his wife who’s the perfect French grandma. This painting he made of her in Italy captures everything that’s so inspiring about their lives. We lost both of them within a year and since we live far away, Gregoire asked his family to keep this painting for him. It’s now hung by our work desk.
How would you describe your styles individually? Do your French or Vietnamese roots or sensibilities play into this?
Hang: Gregoire is all about health, slow design, finding beauty in small details, reclaiming materials, spending time at home at his own pace, enjoying the city but at the same time valuing quiet moments. It translates into his design. He is deeply connected with his French roots but, having been traveling so much and living in Vietnam with me, he takes influences from all the countries he’s been to.
Gregoire: Hang is minimalistic, experience-and-people-oriented, practical, health and environmentally conscious, down to earth… Her parents’ home in Hanoi has a door that’s way too big in proportion to their house and very simple furnishing. Her parents keep it that way so they can easily host family, neighbors, friends, and gatherings of any size. Hang changed continents eight times in the past 10 years, oftentimes with one suitcase. Her possessions are the experience and the memory.
Do you two ever argue about décor?
Gregoire: No. Hang pretty much lets me have the last word on décor. She is less concerned about the way things look and how it will be used to create an experience, be it between us or shared with others. I enjoy the process of taking care of my home, from creating a big piece of furniture to styling my plants. We both believe that a beautiful house has to be lived in and we both contribute to our space in our own way.
What makes 475 Kent unique in your eyes? What are your favorite things about the building?
Gregoire: The people. We have quite a mixed bunch here; we come from different cultures, work in different fields, and have very different life stories. Yet all those people take the chance to express themselves in their home, making it unique and theirs. There are over 100 lofts here and each time we visit a neighbor’s space, it is a discovery. That’s why in spring this year we organized a building-wide open house over two weekends where neighbors can explore each other’s space, spark up a conversation, and connect more to each other as much as to the building we all share.
Favorite places in the neighborhood?
Hang & Gregoire: The lumber yard across the street, the bike lane on Kent Avenue, The Musem of Food and Drink (MOFAD), all the thrift and vintage stores. For food and coffee: PT (but they’re closed now), Simple café, Abracadabra, Blank, Radegast, Maison Premiere, and Freehold.
Any projects or news we should keep an eye out from you two?
Gregoire: Hang is working on Fortuny’s WS2018 collection.
Hang: At Crème, Gregoire is finishing a flagship for Parker’s set to open in Dubai this month. We are both working on the drawers project, in which Gregoire repurposes and releases a series of reclaimed drawers that symbolizes the changes going on in the neighborhood. We are sad to see many neighbors and artist friends moving out of the neighborhood and we hope we can keep our home for a little bit.
Gregoire: We are also working a dinner series focusing on food and memories that we host at our place. In November, we are going to host a concert through Groupmuse—a chambers music series that brings the community and chambers music to people’s apartments.
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