This year, Rebecca Hessel Cohen celebrates 10 years since she launched her ultrafeminine super-maximalist clothing and lifestyle business, LoveShackFancy. Frilly and floral, the hugely popular brand is a wildly unabashed ode to romanticism in a current design environment that so often equates elegance with minimalism and great taste with 50 shades of wan. It should come as no surprise, then, that when she and her husband, Todd Cohen (also her business partner), took on a West Village town house renovation for their family over five years ago, their adventure was nothing short of an epic love story filled with passion, indulgence, and obsession. One need only consider the home’s 154 antique decorative light fixtures to understand the monumental scope of it all.
The couple, both native New Yorkers from the Upper East Side, had been renting a town house, as new parents, in the neighborhood for a few years when they came across their dream home. “It was a total shell,” recalls Hessel Cohen. “But when I first walked through it and then out to the carriage house in the back—which was the most magnificent thing I’ve ever seen in New York City—I was like, ‘I don’t know what we need to do, but we need to grab this house.’”
Grab they did, and Cohen soon started in on the renovations. “I had built new buildings before,” he says, noting that he develops real estate in addition to working alongside his wife. “But I’d never done anything of this scale—for my loved ones. I didn’t realize how intense it all would be.” On his immediate to-do list: Connect the carriage house to the main structure, install a new staircase, and create a new basement. “The house dates from the late 1800s,” he says, “so you just had to have the nerve to go through with all those changes.” —Ariel Foxman
When the artist Jorge Pardo decided to move his studio from Los Angeles to the Yucatán nine years ago, it made sense to transfer his American home base east to New York. The city was a short hop from Cancún and a place where he could easily connect with galleries and visit his daughter, Penelope, who had recently relocated there. Looking to imprint his original and exuberantly colored vision, he landed on an early 1900s carriage house nestled between a low-rise apartment building and a garage in Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood that has so far resisted full-scale gentrification.
“I’m an immigrant, and this was an immigrant community I really liked,” says Pardo, a Cuban American who grew up in Chicago from the age of six. “It’s Latin, with people selling food on the street and little cell-phone-fixing stores,” not to mention a Popeyes chicken, his beloved Starbucks, and the L train close at hand. It reminds him, he says, of East L.A., where he lived happily for many years after enrolling at Art Center College of Design in the ’80s. —Eve MacSweeney