Inside a Brooklyn Designer's Warm and Modern Family Home
The Brooklyn home Uhuru Design co-founder Bill Hilgendorf shares with his wife, Maria Cristina Rueda, is flush with sustainable furniture and wrought detail. The two-bedroom family abode mixes rich history with youthful, modern embellishments, from its original 1890 beams to a chalkboard wall adorned with the children's latest artistic endeavors. Industrial furnishings interspersed with pops of neon pink chalk? That’s the best of both worlds.
The 20,000-square-foot factory space was converted into 16 apartments in 2009.
"I used to pass the building on my walk to work when we were renting in a nearby neighborhood," Rueda tells us. "I would chat with the owner, and I dreamed of getting a few friends together to buy the building." The couple was among the first tenants in the newly renovated space.
The building's architecture is a mix of industrial and classic Manhattan loft style. The apartment features exposed brick and heavy timber beams, complete with scars and burns from its manufacturing past.
"We softened the look with lots of white walls, case goods, and an array of natural wood pieces throughout the apartment," says Rueda. "It was important for us to feel a connection with nature at home. We wanted it to be a calming place free of clutter."
A gray living room sectional was among the first purchases for the home. "We knew we needed a comfy refuge after a long day," says Rueda.
Above it hangs a framed gradient wallpaper print from Red Hook–based wall covering company Calico. The frame, Rueda confides, was salvage.
"It's a huge 8-by-6-foot ornate gilded picture frame we scored from a dumpster over a decade ago,” she says of the couple's eco-minded design sense. "We have storage units in the home that I built for my first apartment in Brooklyn. They have been reconfigured in many different iterations and are still in use.”
A standout in the home is the chalkboard counter space, which invites a welcome splash of color to the minimalist aesthetic.
"The blackboard paint on the island serves as an ever-changing mural. We never completely wipe it clean, so it always has layers of pictures," says Rueda. "The built-in pantry unit is clad in weather-beaten paneling that originally served as snow fencing along the highways in Southwestern states such as Utah and Wyoming," she tells us.
"We've used it on some of our furniture designs. It has wonderful texture from years of wind, snow, and sun, which adds warmth to what could easily have become quite a clinical space of gray concrete and stainless steel."
"In our work, we love to tell the story of a material or how a piece of furniture came to be," says Rueda. "I think our home is an extension of that. Function and narrative without anything extra."
"The gradient print design felt inspired by the amazing Red Hook sunsets we get," says Rueda. "Red Hook has retained a very neighborly, small-town feel due to its lack of subway access," she says of the Brooklyn area.
"For us, it is one of the neighborhood's strongest appeals. We have a shared rooftop terrace with a barbecue area and a large communal table. The best thing about our space is the sense of community that the building offers. The neighbors across the hall have become close friends."
The bedroom is edited and modern, all lush beige and creamy dove whites. Rueda tells us a serene, pared-down aesthetic was the goal. “We were designing a small space with children in mind. It was important that it was functional and built for chaotic activities yet could easily transform back to a calm, visually uncluttered space at the end of the day.”
What is your favorite part of the space? Tell us in the comments below.