Modern Matter Blog
A Brooklyn Brownstone That Bursts With Color
Designer Bena Langford of Studio Lang New York lets vivid jewel tones take center stage on this striking Brooklyn brownstone. Langford creates depth and intrigue by juxtaposing vibrant colors with airy, nature-inspired interiors that are fun while maintaining a serene sensibility.
Q: Tell us a bit about this project.
A: This project took me out of my comfort zone with color, but the client and I had a blast. The brief was to design her home using jewel tones together with her love of plants and nature, so greenery was an absolute must.
One of her favorite hotels is the Manicou River Resort in Dominica, where the scenery is a rainforest. So I knew I had to try to incorporate that in the kitchen because we had the space and a good amount of natural light to pull it off. I presented her with a chart of all the jewel tones to decide which colors we would go with. Her husband, who had recently passed away, favorite color was green, and together with her love of plants and nature, she automatically selected emerald as the kitchen color.
Moving to the bathroom, her favorite color is orange, so we decided to move forward with Citrine but much brighter and bolder. Once we selected the colors, the true task at hand was deciding which paint manufacturers we would use. Not only did the color have to look perfect after drying, but it also had to be able to seamlessly work on the custom cabinetry and stand the test of time.
All photography by Olivia Morales Photography
Q: What was your design process? Any challenges?
A: My design process always begins with the concept and the mood. I always start by asking the client which 2-3 words describe how they want their new space to look and feel. In this case, her words were nature, peaceful, and vibrant.
At first thought, having peaceful and vibrant in the same sentence appears to contradict itself—but that's what I love about design. There is always a way to do both, and I think in this project, we were totally able to achieve what she asked for.
In every project, there is always a challenge: sometimes its space, other times structure, and often the budget vs. the clients' desires. In this case, it was neither of those; it's a beautiful spacious brownstone in Brooklyn, so we had the space, structure, and budget. My biggest challenge in this project was the colors and the custom cabinetry. This was the first time in my life color gave me night sweats. When a client is spending thousands of dollars on custom cabinetry and paint, there is zero room for mistakes. The degree of my stalking of the millwork team was probably illegal at one point.
Q: When designing these spaces, what was the most important factor for you?
A: The most important factor to me was the layout and ensuring it was functional for her. We had a good amount of space in the kitchen and the bathroom, so it was really about how we could use all the space while incorporating my client's desires. My goal is always for my clients to say wow every single day they walk into their space. But also make sure the layout makes sense for how the client functions. She loves her coffee in the morning and her wine in the evening, so those areas needed to be accessible and stress-free on a daily basis.
Q: How do you think of hardware when designing a space?
A: Hardware is one of my favorite parts of the project. The dazzle that cabinet hardware can add to a project is out of this world. I think of hardware as the icing on the cake. It has to be there, and it has to speak loudly. Cabinet hardware is one of those elements that it’s always ok to be extra because it’s that touch of extra that makes the statement.
The only rule I have with cabinet hardware is scale. Making sure they are the right size for the right sized cabinet. Too small for a large cabinet and too big for a smaller cabinet never works. The right size, as well as the right mix, is what it takes to pop.
Q: Why did you use the Cosmos Pull and the Star Backplate and Scallop Knob?
A: The hardware selection for this project was fun because we were adding the finishing touch to color, so the excitement was through the roof. How could we nail this? I had to make sure that the hardware was not too subtle that no one cared, but still not too much for the kitchen.
The Cosmos pulls for the kitchen was just the perfect balance of simplicity with an edge. I wanted something that would compliment the cabinet color, and it did so beautifully. For the bathroom, I was given the freedom to go bold. We had already selected the floor tile, so I decided to let the floor tile guide the cabinet hardware decision. And once I saw the Star Backplate and Scallop Knob combo, and put it on the design presentation concept board next to the tile and the color sample, I knew we had a winner—and the client felt the same.
I had zero pushback when it came to the hardware selections I chose. I was very thankful for that because she allowed my creativity to shine, and the end result was more than she asked for in a good way.
Q: What are your favorite details or products used on this project?
A: This is a hard one because I love so many things about this project: the bold colors, the cabinet hardware, of course, the amount of natural light in the kitchen, and how we were able to achieve the rainforest look and feel, the wine bar... But if I had to narrow it down, it would be the cabinet hardware in the bathroom, the Aerin pendant lights in the kitchen, and the mosaic bathroom tile—I love mosaics!
Q: I love how you used vibrant colors in these spaces. Do you have any rules for mixing colors and coordinating them with hardware?
A: Color is tough! I'm still learning new things daily, and I'm currently studying for a color certification as well. Number one for me when it comes to mixing colors is to create a concept board. Mixing off the top of your head can get you into trouble. I never design or make selections without our project concept board.
I take my client's selected images, with items with the colors they are interested in, to the concept board. Then, look at how all the colors blended together. That's my first glance at how the colors will mix and blend together. After that, I place the concept board into a program like Canva or Adobe and have it create a color palette using the colors from the concept board. Once I have a palette to work with, I move forward by looking for paint colors that match the palette to decide what selections will be based on your palette. But I never start a project without a concept board. It's a lifesaver—especially with color.
Q: What is your go-to tip to elevate an interior?
A: Lighting and a main event, as I mentioned previously. The right balance of natural and artificial lighting, as well as the lighting selections, plus one or a few wow-factor elements such as the cabinet hardware, and the pendant light or sconces, can take a space out of this world. I have seen even the simplest kitchen refreshed with new decorative lighting and a wow factor addition like a backsplash or just new cabinet hardware, and it was an entirely new kitchen, no renovation required.
Q: Where can we keep up with your work?
A: My company website is www.studio-lang.com, and you can also follow me on Instagram @bena.lang, as well as our new brand specifically focused on kitchens @perfectlydesignedkitchen.