Meet the yours, mine, and ours remodel. Scarlett Shao and Joseph Casper are a couple who share a passion for modern design, and specifically for a look they describe as “minimal but lived in.” Wanting to take a European approach to their Greenpoint, Brooklyn, remodel, they decided to assemble a far-flung team—and had the vision (and the stamina and resources) to make that happen.
A friend of a friend put them in touch with contractor Zach Rockhill, founder of Hatchet, a Brooklyn design-build firm that likes to employ artists (Rockhill is also a sculptor) and takes a clean-lined approach. He and his architect partner, Matt Ransom of Overhead Architecture, helped Joe and Scarlett find their place and come up with an ambitious plan for the overhaul. Hatchet agreed to oversee all architectural issues, execute the work—and to collaborate with another design duo on the project.
Enter interior architects Lea Korzeczek and Matthias Hiller, the couple behind Studio Oink of Leipzig, Germany. Their signature playful minimalism—Lea terms it “a balance between poetry and function”—is what attracted Joe and Scarlett. Seeing Studio Oink’s international work, including our feature on the Luminous Washington D.C. Row House that Lea and Matthias had designed from afar, inspired the Brooklyn couple to travel to Leipzig and enlist the two to work with Hatchet on their house.
As for the place itself: a long search had led Joe and Scarlett to buy a modest 1930s wooden row house with nothing precious about it. “It was a narrow warren of rooms that enabled them to have a blank slate,” says Matt. The team’s mandate was to consolidate the divided structure into a single family home and fill it with sunlight and considered design. Of course, the lockdown delayed work by several months and along the way many of the materials Studio Oink had specced were hard to come by. Drawings got shared online, samples were mailed back and forth, debates happened by conference call, and the house got built. “There were a lot of voices in the room,” says Matt, “but we speak the same design language: we all use color and materials judiciously.” Come see the results.
Photography by Matthew Williams, courtesy of Studio Oink.Above: For reasons of time and cost, the team elected to preserve the envelope of the 2,200 square-foot house though the interior was entirely rebuilt. They replaced the existing vinyl siding with shou sugi ban panels sourced from Nakamoto Forestry, “one of the few providers in the US that still does this in the traditional method,” says Matt. The circular lights are Piero Lissoni’s Camouflage Outdoor Wall Sconce from Flos.
Parlor FloorAbove: Early on, the Hatchet team under Matt came up with the idea of creating a light well in the center of the house by configuring the layout around a large skylight in the roof: “the structure is only 16 feet wide and 50 feet long, and all of the rooms look into the light well,” says Matt. Studio Oink contributed finishes, furniture, and fittings in calm shades of pale and had a say in all of the planning.
Shown here, the living room floor and open riser stair both of Douglas Fir. The floor is from Remodelista longtime favorite Dinesen of Denmark: “we just couldn’t find anything nearly comparable in the US,” says Joe. The Capsule Mirror is from Bi-Rite.
Garden FloorAbove: A two-story kitchen is set in a newly excavated basement that opens to the garden. The home office is tucked into the birch plywood-paneled mezzanine that extends the length of the kitchen.
The windows are ultra-efficient, triple-glazed models from Zola framed with spruce on the interior and black aluminum on exterior.Above: The dining table and kitchen island are situated at the center of the house with the roof skylight overhead. The polished concrete floor has radiant heating. GDR (Good Dog Rosie), Hatchet’s millwork team, built all of the cabinetry here and in most of the house. Above: A Muller Van Severen Neon Light hangs over the island stocked with Collapsible Storage Bins by Hay. The range is a Fisher & Paykel and the matte White Kitchen Faucet is from Nivito. The walls are painted in Skimming Stone, a warm light gray from Farrow & Ball. Above: The custom cabinets are birch plywood lightened with a natural bleaching agent. The satin nickel Ledge Pulls—”more practical than touch latch,” says Matt— are from Schoolhouse Electric. Studio Oink had to do a lot of convincing to get the team to use the Bouroullec brothers’ matzo-like, thin, matte porcelain Pico tiles patterned with sunken dots on the counters (the tile pattern is much more visible in real life than it is in these photos).
“Cutting perforated tile in the US is cost prohibitive and we needed to do custom millwork in order to appropriately frame it,” says Joe. “Hatchet was up to the task, but it took a lot of phone calls.” “The result speaks for itself and creates a particularly warm and soft atmosphere in the kitchen,” says Lea. “A concrete surface or a surface made of Corian could never have achieved such a feel and look.”Above: The dining table and bench are Studio Oink designs built by local artist/furniture maker William Fegan of Wild Willy’s Woodshop. The Botolo chairs are a 1972 design still in production from Arflex.
“Minimalist style can sometimes appear very serious,” say Joe. “We love the playful elements that Oink incorporates with their colors and silhouettes, and the way they make small spaces feel open.”Above: Happy to be home: “When we started this project, I wasn’t yet pregnant,” says Scarlett, who grew up in Brooklyn and left a career in finance to focus on her ceramic art. “We thought we’d be done before our daughter was born, but she was nearly a year and a half when we moved in.” The large painting is by Dóra Földes, a Hungarian artist who Studio Oink introduced to Joe and Scarlett. Above: The fridge is concealed in an open pantry with outlets at counter height for making coffee. The ceramic water filter is a Walter on a steel stand. Above: The family spend most of their time in the kitchen and the sunken spot under the stair is the play area. The door leads to the guest bath and there’s a guest room beyond the curtain. The Teepee is from Barcelona company Nobodinoz. Above: The compact bathroom has a stone Vasco Colonna Basin from Salvatori and Wall-Mounted One-Handle Faucet from Vola. Studio Oink supplied the metal soap bottle holder and towel hook. The walls are painted in Farrow & Ball Drop Cloth. Above: The shower is tiled in the same dot-patterned Pico Natural Blanc tiles from Mutina as the kitchen. The reeded glass partition/splash guard is fixed in place with a powder-coated white metal frame around it. The glass lets light through and provides privacy while making the space feel bigger.
Studio Oink are known for their rigor—and willingness to go to battle over the fine details. “Even though the house seems minimal and ‘easy,’ every element had to be right” says Joe. “At times, it felt like we were having our thesis edited by our PhD supervisor. That came from Lea and Matthias’s passion and perfectionism, which in the end we totally appreciated.”
MezzanineAbove: The paneling of Finnish birch plywood (sourced from Koskisen) extends from one end of the house to the other, and was envisioned by Studio Oink “like a big piece of furniture.” Above: The office has a Studio Oink birch plywood desk at one end overlooking the backyard. The sconce is Signe Hytte’s Journey from &Tradition and the hanging light is a Davide Groppi design.
Not surprisingly, Studio Oink’s European lighting choices took a lot of tracking down and coordinating with electricians. “We splurged on lighting because it felt important to the overall mood, ” says Joe. “We saved a bit by skimming down the planned built-ins. They would have been great to have, but as the bills kept growing we had to stop somewhere.”Above: The office overlooks the kitchen—two sets of shutters close off the room and there are plans to install bookshelves to insulate the space. The other half of the mezzanine, not shown, has a piano. “One of the strengths of the house,” notes Matt, “is there are not a lot of normative rooms, there’s open-endedness.”
Second FloorAbove: Scarlett and Joe’s bedroom, with walls painted Farrow & Ball Jitney, is one of three on the second floor. Wild Willy’s Woodshop built the couple’s platform bed with integrated side tables. The pendant light is the Astep 2065 and the reading sconces are Davide Groppi’s Mira Switch. Above: The main bath abuts the light well. To make it work Studio Oink inserted a panel of windows with a two-way mirror on the right, a true mirror on the left, and a center medicine cabinet with a sliding metal-mesh front. (“Getting this right was a true collaboration,” says Matt.) The marble-topped lacquered vanity has a double basin by Laufen Sonar and a built-in lacquered wood towel hook. Above: The upstairs front bedroom, currently a guest room, is painted in Farrow & Ball Setting Plaster. The wooden sideboard is a Studio Oink design topped with movable trays held in place by magnets. The potted monstera and fiddle-leaf fig overlooking the light well moved with the family from their former home. Above: The guest room has tilt-turn Zola windows and floor-to-ceiling, Adolf Loof-style wool curtains—of Divina from Kvadrat— that slide across the wall. Studio Oink added the same curtains on the garden and parlor levels; when drawn they form a vertical plain that encloses the house. The linen Bed Cover is from Two Dawson. Above: The guest and baby rooms share a tidy Jack and Jill bath painted in Farrow & Ball Skimming Stone. The toilet and sink are by Cielo. The Marble Pendant Light is from &Tradition. Above: The bathtub and shower are separated by pocket doors. Scarlett purchased linen yardage on Etsy and had a neighbor stitch it into a shower curtain. Above: Upstate, NY, workshop Accordance with Nature was commissioned to make the wardrobe in the nursery: “Scarlett and Joe love working with the people who create the pieces,” says Matt. “They’re real design boosters.” The Caravan Crib by Kalon converts into a toddler platform bed that can later be used as a divan. Above: A By Mölle Linen Curtain covers the window wall in the baby’s room, which has a view across the light well.
The couple’s verdict on their maximalist approach to the remodel? “It’s not easy catching a design firm who are putting their kids to bed while the architect and build team are trying to take their lunch break. And there are pros and cons of having multiple stakeholders who are passionate about their ideas. But it all came from a good place: everyone wanting to realize an excellent end product,” says Joe. “We’ve all become such good friends. We can’t wait to be able to invite Lea and Matthias and their family to Brooklyn to see the results in person.” See more photos of the project at Hatchet.
Studio Oink plans to continue working on “projects that are close to our hearts and with people for whom it is also an affair of the heart.” Here are three more of their projects:
- 10 Ideas to Steal from an Uber-Creative Remodel in Washington D.C.
- Kitchen of the Week: A Poetic Apartment Kitchen in Berlin
- An Updated Neoclassical House for a Modern Minimalist Family
N.B.: This post is a rerun; the original story ran on February 14, 2022, and has been updated with new information.