great rooms

A Brooklyn Family’s Pet-Friendly, Kid-Filled Self-Made Comfort Zone

A couple transformed part of a 19th-century brewery into a bright and lively home.

The Living Room: “It’s a functional space to be comfy,” Ada Davila says. “The Buddha head we bought in an antique store in Virginia. It broke, so we glued it back together and Chango painted it in Yves Klein blue with the real pigments the artists use in France. Around that time, Chango painted everything in that blue: his shoes, hat, everything. Funny, that’s the only thing that survived.” Photo: Annie Schlechter

We love anything that shines and if it changes color,” says Ada Davila of the two-level home in East Williamsburg that she and her husband, Agustin Hurtado, whom everybody calls “Chango,” have spent the past 16 years remaking (and then remaking again). Specifically, she was referring to the family’s Geometrix Da Vinci chandelier from Schonbek, which sparkles over their dining-room table. The house, which the two artists share with their three kids, two rescue dogs, two rescue cats, and a rescue hamster, is alive with the couple’s bright-hued obsessions.

The building originally stabled the horses that were used to deliver beer for the adjacent brewery. Much later, artists used it for studio space, but it was practically uninhabitable when they bought it in 2004. Davila, who had been living in the West Village, was five months pregnant with their first child, Hugo, and Hurtado had been living in a loft in Hell’s Kitchen, which he sold to help buy the family’s first home. Hurtado, who was born and raised in Mexico City, and Davila, who was born in Spain and moved to Miami at 15, knew they wanted to be in Brooklyn. “We kept looking until we found something where we could stretch our arms that was not a little brownstone with little hallways,” says Hurtado. “We found this place and saw its potential.”

The Living Room: “The portrait of Izel, my middle boy (he is now 13), hanging above the piano keyboard is painted by my niece, Abra, who is now studying art at NYU,” Davila says. “And the frame — my husband did it in a whimsical way. We found the frame in a junk shop and Chango likes rococo; he really likes things on top of things.” Photo: Annie Schlechter

There was a lot of work to get it there, though. For one thing, it was full of termites and carpenter ants. “We had to get rid of entire sections of walls and ceiling,” recalls Hurtado, a decorative painter who works with high-end interior designers. Davila credits him with realizing what she had in her head, then letting her change it up.

Davila’s artwork is inspired by ancient Hindu texts, such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana. “My paintings depict the gods and goddesses from those books,” she says. “To be happy, I need strong, happy colors around me, animals, plants, and children.”

The Stairs: The building is two stories, and Agustin “Chango” Hurtado covered the stairwell walls with one coat of primer and one coat of paint from Fine Paints of Europe. The lantern was bought “a long time ago,” says Davila, from a Middle Eastern store in Manhattan near 16th Street. Photo: Annie Schlechter

Meanwhile, Hurtado finessed. He worried that their kids might fall on the stairs, but when he looked into the anti-slip market, “the commercial products available were so unattractive that I kept looking until I found something they use on the streets, I think, in Australia,” which is why the stairs have decorative-looking studs.

The parents occupy the first floor. Over time, the second floor was transformed into a gleaming great room spilling over into the kitchen. “I like to feed people,” says Davila. “My house is always full of teenagers. The kitchen is very important; it’s my place, my palace.” Their younger sons, Izel and Tirso, share a bedroom, and Hugo, now 15, has his own.

“I am the only woman in a house of men,” Davila says, then breaks out in a big laugh at what sounds like the title of a Federico García Lorca play. But it’s her answer as to why the bathroom is just so … pink. It’s her oasis.

The Dining Room: The Ikea dining table, below Schonbek’s Geometrix Da Vinci chandelier, was matched with knockoff Verner Panton chairs found on the Bowery. “The large painting is by my sister, Oriente Issa,” says Davila. “She is a fabulous artist, and she and her husband, Paul Issa, the actor, live in Jamaica and have five children, all artists and musicians.” Photo: Annie Schlechter
The Kitchen: “Chango found the bamboo wallpaper online,” Davila says. The cabinetry is from Ikea, and the starburst light fixture is from a store on the Bowery. Photo: Annie Schlechter
Their Eldest Son’s Bedroom: Their son Hugo chose the yellow wall color, and Hurtado made the blue suede paneling. Photo: Annie Schlechter
Their Younger Sons’ Bedroom: Izel, 13, and his brother, Tirso, 11, share a bedroom where each one’s bed is privatized by a tent Chango put up. Photo: Annie Schlechter
The Closets: “My closet is by Ikea,” Davila says. “We just painted the doors blue.” Photo: Annie Schlechter
The Bathroom: This is Davila’s refuge and oasis. Photo: Annie Schlechter
“Chango is a fantastic artist and he builds everything himself,” Davila says, pictured here in front of the screen he made with murals on one side and mirrors on the other that she uses when she teaches the Alexander technique. “I asked Chango to make some mirrors for my Alexander technique, and this is what he came up with. It rotates — in the middle of the screen it has a pole that goes from the ceiling to the floor, then the whole thing rotates on itself. There are six mirrors, because for the Alexander technique the students have to see themselves in the mirror. I turn them towards the living room when I teach.” Photo: Annie Schlechter

*A version of this article appears in the December 21, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

A Brooklyn Family’s Pet-Friendly, Kid-Filled Self-Made Abode