The thing that drew me most to my apartment was the windows: two in the bedroom, two in the living room, one in the bathroom, and one in the kitchen. There is a glorious abundance of light throughout the apartment … except for in the hallway.
We strongly suspect that this corner of the building used to house one large apartment that at some point was carved into two with an L-shaped wall. So, when you enter our home, you have to walk down a long, narrow, windowless hallway, which opens up into the main space.
We weren’t thrilled with the idea of guests being greeted by a dimly lit, drab, claustrophobic entryway. So we brainstormed ways to brighten it. I suggested wallpaper, which my architect fella protested. He suggested inviting a street artist to try something. “But we don’t know any street artists,” I said. We looked through some street art on Instagram until I found this account. Filled with kitties and fantastical, wide-eyed creatures, Cern’s art was fresh and interesting, without being so edgy that it would give me the willies every time I walked in.
“Oh, I know that guy!” Illich said. Turns out Cern had worked on a mural on the outside of a Brazilian café right around the corner from Illich’s old apartment. One day when we had tried (and failed) to walk our cat Pancho on a leash, Cern had caught Pancho on camera, straining forward on his leach like a legit tamed tiger. Illich and Cern exchanged info so Cern could send Illich the picture. So we texted Cern and asked him if he would be interested in doing a private commission for our apartment.
We visited Cern in his studio, right next to the Williamsburg warehouse that would burn down a few months later, and looked through his pieces, pointing out things we liked – the drips, the gold accents, the pastels, and the cute animals. I know it sounds like nursery decor, but Cern’s execution makes it grownup, while still being wondrous.
It took him three days of painting, and then we had our fantasyland hallway. When you walk in, you’re surrounded on all sides by creeping flowers and hidden creatures. Every few months we discover yet another set of eyes hiding inside the flora. And Pancho is in the middle, watching a pigeon.
Cern dubbed it “Pancho’s Paradise.”
Unfortunately, I’m afraid I can’t get a great picture of it. Because it’s tucked inside the hallway, this stitched-together panorama will have to do.
To the left is a little door stopper we made ourselves out of cement and rope. Then a Fair Trade, handmade, sustainable storage basket from Dharma Door,* where we keep our fans and sunscreen in the summer, and our mittens and hats in the winter. All Dharma Door products are made by hand using traditional techniques in modern forms. All of the artisans work within Fair Trade groups who are focused on providing healthcare, education and fair wages.
The bench is made out of reclaimed cedar milled from old NYC water towers we got from Big Reuse (formerly known as Build It Green!). When we come home after a trip, we always notice afresh that the hallway smells like cedar!
Here’s the opposite wall:
Our friends and family love walking into the apartment for the first time, and we love that we walk through an art piece every time we come home and leave!
Now that you’ve seen his work, you’ll probably recognize Cern’s murals around Williamsburg and Bushwick, and even on a couple of trucks. Just keep an eye out for his strong and beautiful women – and his adorable cats.
*They sent this to me for free.