African Inspiration in Brooklyn Heights

African Inspiration in Brooklyn Heights

African Inspiration in Brooklyn Heights


Crystal Sinclair designs an eclectic and organic two-story Brooklyn condo with plenty of surprising design elements (that wallpaper!) to look up to.

Photos by Claire Esparros.

Moving from Africa to Brooklyn is a big adjustment. Couple that with the stress of expecting, and you can understand why Carrie Kreifels and her husband needed some help designing their new home.

Thankfully, Crystal Sinclair was on hand to help fill their two-story Brooklyn Heights space with the vibrant comforts of their former home, plus some.

“They literally had no furniture, so it was completely a fresh start,” Crystal explains. “I wanted to mix old and new in a very bohemian, African, organic, yet modern way.”

That means a playful space that leans on rich textures, loads of colors, and unexpected wallpaper (not just in pattern, but in application—look up). While Crystal tends to keep things neutral, she leaned in to her client’s love of color.

“I just thought let’s just go all out,” Crystal explains. “Most clients don’t go that bold, but they did.”

Of course, Crystal went out within reason—grounding each space with natural materials, like raw wood, grasscloth, and linen.

“The common thread is texture,” Crystal explains. “It’s the same idea for each room, nothing that’s too modern with organic textures as the base. From there, we added small doses of color and nothing that was too geometric, except for the ceiling in the den.”

In the entryway that means grasscloth wallpaper paired with globally-inspired accents and bold banana leaf wallpaper on the ceiling. Walk down the hallway to find a seating area across from the kitchen kitted out with a rich leather sofa, raw wood lamp, furry chair, beaded pillows, and a clear acrylic table with pebble-smooth, wooden stools.

“I love layering,” Crystal explains. “I’ve been wanting to do a waterfall table with something under it and the wooden tables/stools can be additional seating if you want, while adding a sculptural element to the space.”

Crystal worked to layer in functionality as well.

“The columns that were built into the building left some weird corners,” Crystal explains. “The best way to utilize the space was to add cabinetry. Initially, Carrie wanted a pull-out desk for her husband because he wanted to stand in front of the window. As the project progressed, he ended up not working from home and she wanted a desk where she could sit. So there’s a little desk in there that’s on wheels that could be pulled out if you wanted it. It can be put completely away, and the desk chair can be turned around and used in the sitting area.”

The home’s split-level layout means an expansive great room greets you once you descend from the kitchen. A boho mixture of teal, golden rod, and rust is capped off by a stunning grand piano, making the space ideal for entertaining. But it didn’t come as easily as the space looks.

“The ideas is that this is the space that everyone would go to lounge—the view’s amazing,” Crystal explains. “We struggled so hard to figure out if this was going to be a room with a sofa, and then we just wanted it to be a room where people can gather and stand or perch. The husband can read a book in his lounger there. We wanted it to be open and we didn’t want the outdoor area closed off. The cabinet is a bar so they can also go downstairs and have a little whiskey neat and sit.”

While the vibe of the lounge space is effortless and relaxed, the nearby den offers a high glamour feel. Nubby greys and plush blues are contrasted with pops of gold—not just from a stunning faceted coffee table but from a second pop of wallpaper on the ceiling—this time a gilded geometric print that offers Art Deco contrast to the rest of the home’s organic accents.

“Whenever we initially sat down for the consultation Carrie wanted a room that would be more moody,” Crystal explains. “This was the room where they’d watch television together, so we wanted a cozy room that felt set off from the rest of the house, but still tied in.”

Continuing the trend of contrast, the master bedroom offers an airy anecdote. Crystal once again layered in additional texture through luxe wallpapers and opulent textures. Here subverting the application for a sky-hued ceiling that contrasted with a tonal, cream pattern on the walls. The patterns are capped with a bone-inlay bed worthy of anyone’s dreams, rough-hewn nightstands, and a contrasting refined glass chandelier.

“Whenever she liked the blue concept for the ceiling we worked with ABC Carpet to find something that worked for the floor,” Crystal explains. We had a piece resized to fit the room better. We started with the ceiling and worked down to rug.”

In the nursery, the enveloping feeling is repeated. A silk blue rug flecked with luminous hues mirrors blue grasscloth wallpaper on the ceiling. A cactus-patterned paper adds even more kid-friendly excitement to the space.

“The room itself is so dark, it’s in a corner, has a window but doesn’t get a lot of light, so we definitely wanted to brighten it up,” Crystal explains. “I showed the couple more expected options and then put this wild one in there—and that’s the one they liked.”

The wild option makes the space forward-thinking for tots, teens and adults alike.

“It feels like a kids room, but it could totally be a guest room—she could be 32 in there or three weeks—just change out the furniture,” Crystals says.

Image courtesy of Crystal Sinclair

As the home was previously a white box, Crystal worked hard to ensure that everything felt homey and comfortable. Her goal was to add life and vibrancy to what was once a clean-lined space.

“New construction can feel so cold,” Crystal explains. “Even if you want a modern feel, I still add a lot of texture and, in their case, I was able to add a lot of solid modern curves.”

Through the design process, Crystal was pleased to see not just the space evolve but her clients as well.

“When I met her she was pregnant, then she had her daughter and I was able to see the transition of them going from a couple to a family and watch her go through the whole transformation of motherhood, which is something I get to experience now. And the space is still kind of evolving too,” Crystal explains. “They are still texting me with ideas they want to work on.”

Read more about the space and its evolution on Domino or sign up with Homepolish to have Crystal help you create your own space.

In this tour:
Living Room