May 22, 2024

Sometimes a move is necessitated by a growing brood or a lifestyle change. But sometimes a move is just an opportunity to experiment. That’s how designer and New Yorker Timothy Brown approached his upgrade from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom unit in the same building.

“It’s prewar but not prissy,” Brown says of the Manhattan building. Plus, with his office just around the corner at the New York Design Center, staying put made sense. “It makes a walk with the dog super easy in the morning,” he adds.

a living room with a blue rug

Richard Powers

In the living room, Brown reupholstered the couch and brought in a new cocktail table. Much of the decor and art came out of storage.

The new apartment, which he moved into in October 2020, also offered ample room for entertaining—a priority after the pandemic. “I needed to spread out a little bit,” he says. “I had to figure out how to make the space function if I wanted to have eight people over for dinner where we’re not sitting on top of each other.”

“I can love it or hate it, but I’m not going to fire myself.”

That second bedroom, then, became the perfect spot for additional dining and office space. From there, Brown simply made tweaks, like changing out the toilet and the vanity in the bathroom. The galley kitchen is accessible from two sides so that if he and his partner, the fashion designer (and soon-to-be cookbook author) Peter Som, decide to host a dinner party, whoever is cooking needn’t feel cut off from the festivities.

a room with a table and chairs

Brown then outfitted the space with pieces he’s collected over the years, using it as a playground to discover what would work for his clients. He also was able to introduce more color than usual. “This is a bit more saturated for me,” he says. “It gives me a chance to play with what works and what doesn’t work—to experiment on a larger scale. I can love it or hate it, but I’m not going to fire myself.”

“Here I allowed myself to nest a little bit.”

He had the sofa reupholstered to give it a new life and brought in new chairs and a cocktail table. “I used to be really good about not showing everything, but here I allowed myself to nest a little bit. I think we all sort of have that bug in us, and I think that comes from seeing so many things, from traveling—you’re always wondering how you can make it work. I just wanted stuff around me.”

a bed with a painting on the wall

Richard Powers

Despite moving into a two-bedroom unit, Brown used only one bedroom and turned the other into a dining area and home office.

Now, with a new home in Sag Harbor, New York, that keeps him “busy in the garden all summer,” Brown is sizing back down in the city, to a one bedroom—and yes, it’s in the same building. “I’m ready for a blank slate,” he says with a laugh. “For me, it’s like, How minimal can I make it but still be comfortable? This was a fun, big experiment. But I need to feel like I’m in a white box, again.”

Headshot of Sean Santiago

Sean Santiago is ELLE Decor‘s Deputy Editor, covering news, trends and talents in interior design, hospitality, travel, and luxury. He writes the So Courant! column for the magazine and


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