Monochrome, Modern Magic in the Lower East Side

Monochrome, Modern Magic in the Lower East Side

Monochrome, Modern Magic in the Lower East Side


Jae Joo transforms a tech entrepreneur’s condo into a starkly stylish, immensely comfortable, and imminently covetable art-filled pad.

Photos by Julia Robbs

When Homepolish designer Jae Joo laid eyes on her client David Yaffe’s 3,700-square-foot condo in the Lower East Side, she immediately had big dreams. The tech entrepreneur had a stunning collection of modern art and a two-story space that begged for more than the cosmetic renovation he intended.

“The space was really outdated,” Jae explains. “It was suffering from bad flooring and crooked walls, but had amazing bones. It eventually turned into a much bigger project—once some of the walls were gone we all recognized the potential of the space and just couldn’t resist.”

Now helming a full-tilt renovation, Jae went about reimagining the space room-by-room to create an impeccable, cohesive condo like none we’ve ever seen.

“I am all about stylish comfort,” Jae says. “I like to create a space that is well curated but also livable and relaxing.”

Of course, this version of liveable is still pretty luxe. Think marble slabs, a 1,000-pound sink that required new wall supports, sizable French antiques, and that art collection—which features works by Richard Avedon and Vik Muniz.

“We made sure to incorporate his collection into the design from the very beginning,” Jae explains. “He also wanted to create a minimal, gallery-like space that could be functional as well as comfortable.”

To strike that balance, Jae drew from her travels to mix materials unexpected materials like seamless concrete to create a streamlined, yet sublimely textural backdrop.

“My inspiration for this project was a recent trip to Barcelona,” Jae explains. “I stayed at a hotel that was super sleek modern with masculine charm. Every surface was either concrete or marble and I was in love.”

That mixture of organic materials shines in the kitchen. Swathed in black and white marble, the space opens onto a shockingly ample outdoor space. Dine at either the live edge dining table or tucked into the breakfast nook, both have artful views.

“When I first did a walk through here, I remember thinking this space deserved a super sexy kitchen,” Jae explains. “It has such an amazing outdoor space, I wanted to create an area that was perfect for entertaining in addition to providing picturesque moments for guests to remember. The Richard Avedon piece is the highlight of the breakfast nook area, same as Vik Muniz’ Marilyn Monroe in the dining area.”

The art plays just as critical a role in the living areas. Upstairs a clean palette is accentuated by rich leather butterfly chairs and a stunning painting. In the more relaxed downstairs living area, the subject matter riffs on the purpose. Roy Lichtenstein’s “Modern room” perfectly compliments the sprawling sectional and chill vibes.

“It feels like a room within a room,” Jae explains. “I love the quirkiness it adds to the space.”

In the downstairs in the guest bedrooms and master spaces, quirkiness is swapped for serenity, with Jae making the most of the architectural features she was given—and creating even more.

“Since the space is so massive with incredibly high ceilings, I made sure all the rooms could have a moment of warmth,” Jae explains. “My client wanted Mapplethorpe pieces for his master bedroom and those were a huge inspiration to me. I wanted to create a room that carried enough elements where it wouldn’t feel bare, but wouldn’t overpower the simplicity of the art on the walls.”

In the master bedroom that exposed beams, a fireplace with nearby wood storage and tons of clean linens. In the master bathroom that meant a realization of Jae’s material vision.

“That master bath is a dream come true,” Jae gushes. “It doesn’t translate well to photos but the entire space is covered with layers and layers of concrete. I was hugely inspired by seamless European bathrooms. I love the concrete tub and a custom slab sink, but my favorite is the hidden, vaulted ceiling shower.”

We think it translates to photos just fine.

See more images in the gallery, and if you’re ready for your design dreams to be realized, sign up for Homepolish today.

In this tour: