New York-based design/build architecture and interiors firm, Studio DB creates unexpectedly beautiful residential and commercial spaces. Headed by partners Damian Zunino and Britt Zunino, their projects pack a creative punch that is filled with unique solutions and handcrafted details. The design duo’s skill was more evident than ever in this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Show House.
Downtown: We fell in love with your room at the Kips Bay Decorator Show House. What was the concept?
Britt Zunino and Damian Zunino of Studio DB: We created ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ as a modern interpretation of a sexy boudoir. The space is an antidote to the demands of modern connectivity and embraces the luxury of solitude. The room provides a platform to indulge in self-care, with a grand clawfoot soaking tub, a sensuous curving window seat, and a custom bar and make-up vanity. The soft arches of the entry hall create a dramatic sense of arrival with deep green walls and rich stone detailing. A striking hand-painted mural by de Gournay, inspired by the iconic Elsie de Wolfe, anchors the main salon. Contemporary art is juxtaposed against old-world charm throughout. Graphic, multi-colored marble tiles from Alison Rose for Artistic Tile add a modern spin to a traditional material palette in the separate bathroom space. The thoughtful details and layers of luxury create the ultimate escape from our hectic lives.
Downtown: Is this your first time designing a room at the Kips Bay Decorator Show House? If so, what was the experience like for you?
BZ + DZ: This is our first time designing a room for the Kips Bay Show House, and it has been a fantastic experience. It’s truly an incredible honor to be asked to participate. Throughout the project, the camaraderie of the house was so inspiring. Our design team, our partners in construction and material donations, and the talented group of designers working in the house all collaborated together seamlessly and supported one another. It’s very fast paced, if something doesn’t go as planned you must pivot to the next thing and move on. There’s no time for drama or second guessing, you have to go with your instincts, which makes for a better project. I think we’ve grown as designers from being a part of this journey.
Downtown: What architectural changes did you make to the room to create an open, inviting space?
BZ + DZ: The space was originally a staff room/apartment with a small bedroom, large closet, a kitchenette, and tiny bathroom. We tore down all of the walls and demolished the bathroom. We installed new wood flooring from the Hudson Company, added the dramatic arched ceiling down the hallway and rounded ceiling details flanking the bathtub. To widen the narrow room, we designed a custom sofa that spills out into the room and installed a sheer drapery panel from wall to wall, which visually expanded the tiny window wall. We painted the walls and ceiling a deep, rich green which makes the walls recede. It feels much larger than the original volume, but it is still sexy and cozy.
Downtown: What are some of the design elements you brought into play to achieve a dark and moody woman’s boudoir?
BZ + DZ: The dramatic paint color on the walls and ceiling combined with the metallic finish on the wallpaper created a very moody vibe for our boudoir. We also loved mixing in very contemporary pieces with more traditional elements, like the very modern blackened steel firewood holder from APD juxtaposed with the lavender marble hearth from Chesneys. It’s all a bit unexpected, which feels very chic and sophisticated.
Downtown: Tell us about the shower concept, it is absolutely beautiful! We love the various tiles and fixtures, where are they from? What drew you to those particular tiles?
BZ + DZ: We were limited to the existing footprint of the functional bathroom, due to a plumbing riser and an old electrical panel, so we wanted to make the most of it. We partnered with Artistic Tile to make our multi-colored marble jewel box happen! The inspiration started with a trip to the Artistic Tile factory. Our team was offered a tour of their production line and which then wrapped up in the design department. It was awe-inspiring! We were excited to see the capabilities of the machinery and the endless options of available materials. We happened upon Alison Rose’s tiles, which were in development, and instantly fell in love with their creative design and fresh spin on a traditional stone mosaic. We knew her tile would be perfect in our room, which is blend of contemporary design tempered by old-world craftsmanship and details. Because the Euclid series is made of four different designs that you can mix or match, we thought the house was a great place to showcase its potential. The bathroom is very small, so we opted to create a pattern of both the Large Stripe and Large Moon in a custom color-way of soft colored marbles. The result is playful, but not too busy and feels modern with a touch a vintage charm.
Downtown: What inspired your work with de Gournay? Tell us about the murals!
BZ + DZ: We love working with de Gournay for so many reasons. The history of the company, the beauty of the hand-painted murals, and the endless options to customize and create something special for our clients keep us coming back to de Gournay, time and again. Kips Bay gave us a unique opportunity to use a mural that was in development and had never been seen before. The mural is based on an original painting by the artist Charles Baskerville, which was created for a Beverly Hills home designed by the legendary decorator Elsie de Wolfe. Marlene Dietrich rented the home in the 30s and we incorporated a photo of her posing in a silk robe in front of the mural. It’s very in-keeping with our boudoir theme!
Downtown: The modular bar is spectacular. Can you tell us more about it?
BZ + DZ: We had always planned to incorporate a bar and vanity into our boudoir scheme, which we originally envisioned as two separate areas. I was researching vintage vanities and was inspired to create a piece that could serve as both. Our bar is a contemporary spin on a vintage Poltrona Frau vanity, designed by Luigi Massoni. It has a blackened steel exterior, which opens to a sexy faux fur interior.
Downtown: What was the idea behind the freestanding purple Kohler tub and rose gold plumbing? What made you want to include the tub and sconce in that particular part of the room?
BZ + DZ: We partnered with Kohler on the bathroom fixtures for our room. In all of our projects, we strive for interesting materials and finishes and Kips Bay was no different. We knew we needed a dark clawfoot tub to contrast the lavender marble and metallic mural, but we assumed it would be black. When Kohler said they had just developed a new deep plum color, we were sold! The rose gold finish for the fittings was the perfect warm accent and a fresh departure from our standard brass. It was perfect with the Artistic Tile pink marble in the bathroom as well.
Downtown: Why did you choose the paint color you did and where did you source it? It seems to be quite on trend these days.
BZ + DZ: The paint is Viridian Green from Benjamin Moore’s Century Collection, which is their small-batch curated collection of paints. I was sold on their little glass sample pots! The rich, deep green is a favorite of ours and we loved the idea of a moody dark color as the backdrop for contemporary art and furniture.
Downtown: We love the moody yet inviting ambiance of the seating and fireplace area. What made you want to create a cozy corner, and how did you achieve such a simple yet striking vignette?
BZ + DZ: The room is very narrow, under seven feet wide, so a custom sofa was necessary. We liked the idea of a curving, sinuous sofa spilling out from the awkward space, which helped define that area and make it feel more spacious. The original fireplace had been removed, so we added a violet marble mantel from Chesneys to anchor the seating area. Who wouldn’t want to curl up with a good book by the fire?
Downtown: Where did you find those Eucalyptus sconces? They are quite beautiful, especially paired with that particular paint color.
BZ + DZ: The Eucalyptus sconces are from Ochre. We thought their dynamic branching design was perfect for the long hallway. The light is very soft and moody.
Downtown: What were your favorite aspects about the room and why?
BZ + DZ: We love the coziness of it all. When people visit and respond unprompted that they have found their escape room, we are thrilled. We wanted to create a chic space that wasn’t fussy, a place to with everything you could possibly need to relax. A soaking tub, a fireplace, and sinuous sofa, and a bar of course!
Downtown: What were some of your favorite rooms in the house and why?
BZ + DZ: Every room has a backstory and we love them all! One of the most interesting things about the house is how the rooms came together. The stairwell installation, designed by Gluckstein Design and Richard Rabel, was fascinating to watch. They had to work their magic, including hand-painting the wallpaper, while over 20 construction crews used the stairs to carry materials up and down. It was amazing! It was not for the faint of heart and they were completely calm and collected. Hats off to those two!