My Modern House: Roanne Adams on RoAndCo and life in a Brooklyn brownstone

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“My husband, Johnny, is great with envisioning how a space should be, how it should flow. He was building condos at a young age so he has a developer/ contractor’s brain with an architect’s taste – he never actually trained as an architect though. I’m much more involved with furnishings and interior design. It has a very fresh, white, clean feeling over all.

“A lot of my clients over the years have been in furniture and design so I have a relationship with them that’s been really special. I like to buy things where I know the people who made them.

“The house is in Clinton Hill, a neighbourhood in Brooklyn and it was built in 1899. It was a total mess when we bought it. It had been poorly refurbished in the 1950s and nothing had been done since – but it’s a beautiful, historic area with tree-lined streets.

“There are lots of families in this neighbourhood. It’s been up-and-coming for the last 10 years or so but even more so in the last five years. There are some nice restaurants and coffee shops now. We were in Fort Green before but it got too expensive. What I like about here is that you can walk outside your front door and bump into someone you’ve known for 15 years on your block. People that I went to parties with 20 years ago are now living round here. We’ve all grown up and become domesticated.

“I’m the creative director and founder of my design studio called RoAndCo. We’re a multidisciplinary studio – meaning we work across branding, web design, art direction, print design and brand strategy… mostly for fashion, beauty, lifestyle and tech brands. We just celebrated 10 years of being in business!

“I also Creative Direct a publication that I’ve recently launched called Romance Journal. It’s a bi-annual publication that interviews women on their lives, challenges and careers and each issue is based on a different theme. The last issue looked at emotions and the role that they play in our lives, careers, relationships. We interviewed 10 women from different creative industries about how they got to where they are, their journey along the way, the emotional challenges they faced. The second issue is all about Resistance and the women’s movement– we’ll be launching it in the fall.

“Johnny is part-owner in Vinegar Hill House and they also just opened an off-shoot in Dumbo called VHH Foods. He also runs a co-working and event space with his brother on Lower East Side.

“Our friend Taylor is a florist and rents the apartment downstairs while we live on the floors above. We added on the deck and the stairs down to the yard at the back so we can access the outdoor space from the kitchen. Before that the two doors were small windows – it’s created a lot more light and opened the space up.

“Johnny is an incredible cook so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen and backyard after work and we have people over for eating and entertaining. We’re now dividing our time between Brooklyn and LA so whenever we’re back here we’re always making an effort to see our friends. A lot of our friends are bicoastal too so it’s really nice as they come to stay with us when they’re in town… so we’re doing a lot of entertaining but also co-habiting with friends who need a place to crash!

“It’s really nice to have people live with us though. It’s a nice way to connect with your friends on a different level, you get much closer. This week one friend is staying for two nights and then next week a whole family is coming to stay – the kids really enjoy it as it feels like a sleepover.

“I also spend a lot of time in the bedroom though because that’s where I go after I’ve put my daughter down to sleep. It’s where I’ll read a book and decompress from the day in the tiny amount of time that I have to myself after she’s gone to sleep.

 

“Johnny works from home quite a bit and has an office on the third floor. I don’t typically work from home when I’m in NYC because it’s important for me to be with my team as much as possible, so I work at the studio in NoLita. It’s nice to have the team dynamic too – working alone can be quite isolating.

“There are a few things from my team in the house – like the framed prints above our bed. We design a lot of prints. There are also things from relationships with clients and collaborators like Jamie Gray and Olivia Sammons from Matter, our kitchen table is by them. The copper light in the living room is also a collaboration of theirs with a lighting-designer friend, Bec Brittain.

“Another client is Sight Unseen which is an online magazine that uncovers what’s new and next in design and the visual arts. They introduced me to Eric Trine who made the blue Rod + Weave chair in our bedroom. It has this incredible blue base with leather supports. Sight Unseen run a really cool annual event called OFFSITE during Design Week where they exhibit lots of new contemporary designers and makers, that’s where I met Eric and bought the chair straight out of his booth.”

How would you define modern living?

“Opening the place up and creating more light – slowly but surly we’re replacing all the windows in the house, one floor at a time.”

If you were to move, what’s the one thing that you’d take with you?

“Wow that’s really tricky. What would remind me of here? Probably my dishes in my kitchen – we got married a few years before we moved into the house and our Royal Copenhagen dishes were a wedding gift. They were one of the first things that made me feel like I have a grown-up home and grown-up dishes. They are the one traditional thing that I own in a pretty modern house that will never go out of fashion.”

Is there a property on The Modern House that has caught your eye?

“Oh there’s a place by Cube Architecture in Kent which is pretty cool – it’s in a place called Sandwich.”

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