When the founders of Brooklyn-based design studio White Arrow were kicked out of their previous office, a shared loft space in a building that got sold to become—of all things—a WeWork, Keren and Thomas Richter saw it as an opportunity to try something fun.
“We came across this sign [in Williamsburg] that said ‘For Rent, Call Marc’ on this dumpy storefront in a cute [early-1900s] brick building, but it was very much not loved,” Keren told me over the phone.
Still, the couple, whose residential interior design and renovation projects typically involve reimagining historic spaces with contemporary and vintage touches, saw potential in the dark first-floor unit. It had been a bookstore many years ago, but its latest iteration was a railroad-style apartment that was “a rabbit warren of small rooms with weird wallpaper and a really janky kitchen,” Keren said.
The gut renovation was a chance for the Richters to experiment with finishes, furnishings, and techniques—like powder-coating vintage lights and electroplating a faucet—but also to do it in a way that was economical and scalable for clients in the future. But first, they had to brighten and open up the space.
To do so, they removed a few internal walls, tweaked the floorplan, and painted everything white, including the original wide-plank floorboards, or else tried to use reflective materials to encourage light to bounce around.
They also replaced the previously boarded-up storefront window and updated the small garden out back with the help of landscape designer Alexandria Donatti.
As for the layout, the Richters decided to keep the storefront available for pop-up tenants, with the bathroom and kitchen acting as a communal space and the back room functioning as their office.
Although they kept the kitchen’s original configuration, the duo replaced the existing counter unit with a simple plywood and marble scheme that they custom-designed for the space, and relaid the floors with large, cement-like ceramic tiles and copper Schluter inlays (to match the copper faucet).
Copper is also found in the bathroom, where a round copper mirror sits above a black nero marquina vanity, which they also designed.
In the back, the bright, minimalist office is characterized by those same thick floorboards, a nook of built-in bookshelves, brick fireplace, and a White Arrow-designed gray upholstered corner daybed and large bleached dowel-leg desk.
Other furniture pieces and accents, most of which were salvaged or found on Craigslist and eBay, include the base of an Angelo Mangiarotti table that they retrofitted with a top, vintage Marcel Breuer-style white leather chairs, and a 1970s Motoko Ishii faceted ceiling light.
But the decor isn’t all throwback: A weighted chandelier by Ladies and Gentleman studio hangs above the marble dining table and mint green White Arrow-designed stools surround it, creating a striking but pleasant tableau of the old and new.
“We were interested in figuring out a way to make something feel fresh and contemporary while also respecting the history of the space it’s in,” said Keren. “I don’t think our work is all old-timey or all new and flashy. We try to find a balance in every space, figuring out the push and pull of old and new and making things feel fresh.”