A Greenwich Village Renovation That Steered Its Owners’ Line in a New Direction

Bessie Corral of Arje and Oliver Corral started designing home goods while they were renovating their duplex into a modern and bright sanctuary. Oliver Corral, 48, started making sourdough bread in the early days of the pandemic. He continued to make baguettes and croissants for Bessie’s family while they were in London. But he decided to give up on the idea of opening a bakery. Instead, he began delivering his surplus to friends in the city. The couple also considered updating their apartment in Greenwich Village, which is 2,000 square feet. They left their New York City jobs and homes to go on spring break. What started as a plan to just repaint the walls turned into a complete renovation that they completed themselves when they returned to Manhattan in the summer. Bessie, 35, says that they both have an obsessive world inside their brains. It’s a little scary. The coffee table is an Arje design.Credit…Nicholas CalcottWhen the couple founded their brand, Arje, in 2017, they also had an ambitious holistic vision. They started by selling women’s and mens clothes, drawing from their seven years of experience as co-designers at Urban Zen, Donna Karan’s wellness-oriented lifestyle brand. But they saw these collections as part a larger whole. Bessie says, “We’ve never been in a position to make just a suit or dress.” “We have to design the color of wall the pieces hang on, and the scent in the atmosphere.” This dream was realized when they began to explore housewares. They hoped to create interiors for domestic, restaurant, and hotel rooms that would fully immerse their clients in Arje’s universe. It is one that is characterized by natural materials, earthy colours, and an overarching sense visual, and even spiritual harmony. They began to drift away from their original goals as they saw increased demand for their clothes, which were simple but elegant staples like shearling jackets and suede pants. They felt out of sync with their home, which was essentially an office, with their kitchen serving as a shipping hub and their living room as a showroom. The interiors were also dark gray, and the result of a redesign nine years ago. The pair created an arched opening connecting the dining room and kitchen to reimagine the space as a serene, bright sanctuary. On the counter, a terra-cotta fruit bowl and a vessel by Marta Bonilla.Credit…Nicholas CalcottFITTINGLY, THEY BEGAN with breadboards, wood serving platters with carved handles topped with a circle, a triangle or a square — symbols representing, respectively, mind, body and spirit in the ancient proto-scientific practice of alchemy. These three shapes communicate the Corrals’ philosophy that all things are interconnected and became the defining elements in their apartment. They recur in many configurations and materials and also in Arje Home, the collection they created together with the renovation. Bessie says, “The idea was to connect all the lines in the space.” “So that if a pen was held up and you were drawing it, every shape would start where the other ended.” The first major change Oliver and Bessie made to their duplex was to open up their 10th-floor living space. They cut two large arches into the walls. These arches echo the alchemical circle and also reflect a design trend towards Art Deco-inspired interiors. These interiors feature soft neutrals and metallic ornamentation, along with 1920s-style curves. The one arch is an 8-foot-wide half moon that allows light and meals to pass between their compact kitchen and the dining area. It is surrounded by large windows and a bank of windows. The other arch is an open, curved doorway that connects to the 700-square-foot living space. The Corrals painted the walls of their darkened rooms in a palette luminous beiges and creams to give them a sense of continuity. For the kitchen, which they imagined as an inviting Mediterranean-style enclave in which to cook and welcome guests, they developed a pale blush plaster that they also applied to the countertops to contrast against the black plaster finish of the central island.ImageIn the reading room, Arje’s Enzo chair and ottoman on a Nordic Knots rug.Credit…Nicholas CalcottAll three rooms are anchored by black oxidized oak floors, and there are imaginative hand-rendered details throughout. Instead of resurfacing their laminate kitchen cabinets with oak as they originally planned, the couple sanded and painted them with chalk paint. They used a thick-bristle brush for a faux-wood effect. Bessie says, “Our question was always, “How can we use what we have?” The back wall of the dining area is covered with narrow vertical strips made of oak by Oliver. He painstakingly cut them and shaped them into a half-circle. Oliver visited Home Depot twice a week for much of last year. Every piece of furniture is a duo’s original design. It was based on prototypes Oliver made from plywood. He transformed his small terrace into a workshop, and learned how to use power tools through YouTube tutorials. Later, he had wood fabricated by a Rochester workshop with which Arje now collaborates on larger projects. Oliver says, “We wanted to understand the actual materials and how to communicate to makers.” “So we went on this journey for months, experimenting, going down rabbit holes and learning from craftspeople.”ImageIvory sculptures by Re Jin Lee and ceramics by Giselle Hicks on the shelves surrounding a bed dressed in Cultiver linen sheets.Credit…Nicholas CalcottImageIn the kitchen, a De Jong & Co. bread bowl, glassware by Sticky Glass and a Florentine Kitchen Knives set.Credit…Nicholas CalcottOne of the first pieces he and Bessie created was their coffee table, which sits in front of a deep cream linen-upholstered angular sofa in the living room and consists of a round glass top balanced on a trio of variously circular, square and triangular black walnut legs. The couple created a lounge chair and ottoman with matching ottoman from shearling wrapped arms. They did this in an effort to make their aviator jackets more comfortable. And in the dining room is the eight-foot-long Tessa table, which they designed with a purposefully narrow rounded rectangular walnut top, just 38 inches wide, to allow for physical intimacy and easy conversation.ImageIn the living room, an artwork by Heidi Lanino, a ceramic basket chair by Danny Kaplan and a coffee table by Lee.Credit…Nicholas CalcottImageNear the Arje sofa and shearling cube in the living room, a lamp by Kassandra Thatcher and a pedestal by Lee atop a Nordic Knots rug.Credit…Nicholas CalcottImage The Corrals, both wearing Arje.Credit…Nicholas CalcottWhen it came to decorative objects and smaller furnishings, the Corrals turned to a group of 30 independent artisans that Bessie contacted during the renovation. All these pieces, regardless of whether they were co-designed or curated by the homeowners — and range from sculptural ceramic side table by Danny Kaplan in Brooklyn to anthropomorphic Terra-cotta lamps topped by raffia shades, by Marta Bonilla, a Barcelona-based potter — are available for purchase through Arje’s website. This is especially evident in their upstairs bedroom which is accessed via a white metal spiral staircase that runs parallel to the kitchen. The light-filled, minimalist aerie features lime-washed walls, a low oak platform bed, and shelves with handmade ceramics. It is meant to evoke the simplicity and sun-bleached beauty that Puglia, Italy, where they got married in 2016, and Greece where they spent their honeymoon on a boat among the Aegean islands. Photo assistant: Natassia Kuronen