great rooms

Craftsman Home

In a Prospect Heights floor-through, a set designer pays homage to her art form.

On the Mantel: The lamps were found at a thrift store. “When I bought them, they had gray acetate shades that were hideous,” Kiera Coffee says, “so I removed them.” Photo: Todd Oldham
On the Mantel: The lamps were found at a thrift store. “When I bought them, they had gray acetate shades that were hideous,” Kiera Coffee says, “so I removed them.” Photo: Todd Oldham

The first time Kiera Coffee walked into her Prospect Heights apartment 27 years ago, accompanied by a real-estate agent, “every single room was Pepto Bismol pink,” she says. “The bathroom had been retiled in pink, there was a pink shower and pink kitchen counters, and I was told that the former tenant lived without a stove because it couldn’t be pink.” But Coffee noted that the tenant had done a beautiful job replastering the ceilings and had also restored the wooden window frames and built window seats that overlook the tree-lined street.

The landlady repainted the apartment, and Coffee moved in, decorating the floor-through with many items made by family and friends: radiator covers built by her brother-in-law; a wooden dining table constructed by her friend, Matt Austin; paintings by her mother, the artist Nancy Rothstein. And over the following decades, Coffee — an author, prop stylist, and set designer — would fill nearly every surface with a constantly rotating assemblage of crafts. Some of these she created for work, like a mobile she once brought home from a set; others she designed on a whim, like a vessel she made out of an old seltzer bottle. As a girl growing up in the Bronx, “if I ever said to my mother, ‘I’m bored,’ she would give me

a craft project,” Coffee recalls. “She always thought that art was the best thing you could be doing.” Today, Coffee’s dining table, which doubles as her work station, is often covered with glue and papier-mâché and piles of cardboard and paper. “This table has to get junked up and messy with paint,” she says. Sometimes, if she’s immersed enough in a project and it’s time for lunch or dinner, she’ll simply clear off a corner to eat. “If I’m deep in it, I like to look at what I’m making,” she says. “Most of my apartment changes constantly. It gets messy, but messy can be really fruitful.”

The Dining Room: A pastel by Coffee’s mother, the artist Nancy Rothstein. “The animals are paper-towel tubes on baking-powder boxes for weight and then papier-mâché,” Coffee says. “I made them for a shoot that never happened.” Photo: Todd Oldham
“The dining room doubles as a viewing spot for cardinals, starlings, and the occasional hawk,” Coffee says. Her mother made the papier-mâché cake. Photo: Todd Oldham
The Living Room: On the couch, two beloved pillows: a vintage Alexander Girard depicting a castle and one with a custom-embroidered fish motif by Fabio Toblini. The painting, by Rothstein, depicts a great-aunt. “The unused door has been conscripted as a lamp support,” says Coffee. Photo: Todd Oldham
The radiator cover made by Coffee’s brother-in-law. Photo: Todd Oldham
The Bookshelf: A watercolor-painted storage box, dictionaries with painted pages, and a papier-mâché beach ball constructed by Coffee for a shoot. The green stool is from Kinder Modern. Photo: Todd Oldham
The Kitchen: The doorframe to the kitchen is covered with price stickers. “I love Pop colors and grocery-store graphics, so I started saving them,” says Coffee. Photo: Todd Oldham
The front door: Coffee found the metal K when she “passed a bank at a lucky moment just as the sign was being dismantled,” she says. Photo: Todd Oldham

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