Living Aloft in Bushwick

An Afternoon at Duncan & Tony's Clubhouse

By Taylor Smith

A New York Love Story

Duncan Goodwin and Tony Rotunno met in 2011 in what Tony calls a “very New York story.” Duncan, a reservationist for Keith McNally’s restaurant group, was working at the J. Crew Men’s Shop in SoHo, where Tony, editor of THE THICK, regularly shopped for Oxford shirts for his former job at Vanity Fair. But after a couple of sales floor chats showed a bit of promise, Tony gave up shopping for Lent.

 

Tony and Duncan moved into their Bushwick loft in mid-January along with their Sphynx, Pebbles. Says Tony, “I don’t know if this bubble will burst but it hasn’t yet and I’m thinking that maybe it won’t… It feels like we have a home.”

“When my period of abstinence ended I obviously needed to buy more shirts, so I went back to J. Crew and was looking at—I remember it clearly as I know you do—an indigo-dyed t-shirt, and this voice behind me said something along the lines of, ‘I would be wary of buying that because they bleed in the wash,’ and I turned around and it was Duncan.”

 

Tony asked Duncan to go out for a drink the next night. Fast-forward five years and a roughly 300-square-foot apartment in the East Village, and the two are now loving life in their new loft in Bushwick, which they see as something of a clubhouse for the friends they so love to entertain.

“After seven or eight years, it was time for a change. Everyone knows that Manhattan, for young—or when I was young—professionals, is just difficult, and I think we were ready to see what life would be like across the bridge. There’s something about Bushwick that is, I know it makes me seem old when I say it, but it’s still very hip,” says Tony. “It’s where a lot of young people are; there’s also a lot of culture here a lot of diversity. It’s kind of like the version of New York City you think about when you move here or the reason you want to move here. It’s not this like glass tower-filled, finance-driven shell city where people disappear on the weekends because they’re from foreign countries. There’s life here and a social fabric that’s really nice.”

Duncan, who lived in Bushwick once before, agrees: “Our last apartment was the perfect first apartment, but this is one that we could stay in for years.”

After admiring Duncan and Tony’s new abode for months via Instagram, we couldn’t wait to see for ourselves. The stylish couple—old friends from a previous New York life—were nice enough to have us over for the afternoon and, with dinner stewing in the Crock-Pot, show us around their lovely home.

 

Family Ties

The entrance to Duncan and Tony’s apartment leads straight into the dining room, in which the most striking pieces reveal strong family connections.

Tony inherited the fine china on the credenza from his great aunts, while the broad, mid-century brushstrokes of the canvasses on the wall belong to Duncan’s late grandfather, artist Albert Goodspeed. Duncan’s grandmother Janna Goodspeed’s paintings adorn the living room.

“Duncan’s parents have this incredible loft filled with his grandparents’ art, stacked with canvasses like these and it’s really special. I wish I knew more about art; I feel like I’m constantly learning. But in terms of what we hang, the fact that there’s a personal connection to it makes it really special, and I also love the way it looks.”

“It’s nice for us to have the wall space to put it up,” Duncan adds. On both of their faces, the joy at even having the opportunity to decorate a dining room was clear. “I mean, who has a dining room?” Tony says. For contrast, the quaint white garden bed (an Amazon find) that now marks the seating area was the primary couch and, per Duncan, “biggest thing” in their East Village pad.

The main attraction is another family heirloom: a wooden dining table crafted by Duncan’s grandfather.

Dining Table

Their handmade dining table lends the room a sentimental touch not likely to be found in a mass-produced alternative.

“The other thing in here that we wanted to decorate around was obviously the table. Because A, we were joking before, how many people get to have a dining room table?” Tony says. “And it’s just a really dramatic piece when you walk in, so we definitely wanted to give it the attention it deserves. And from that we set up the table the dining area first and then worked on this seating area which has kind of grown.”

Adds Duncan, “There have definitely been a lot of iterations of this room.”

Family mementos are sprinkled throughout the apartment, but the couple has taken advantage of their new loft space in other ways as well—the dining room in particular puts their respective green thumbs on full display.

“I think for this room, I personally tend to be a very—I like things, I like trinkets, I like small—whatever, if it’s an ash tray or a little statue, what have you. But what I love about the loft is that you sort of want it to be open and airy,” Tony says. “…And we always wanted to keep it really green. I love plants, I love watering them; my favorite thing to do on the weekend is to water all the plants and we benefit in that we get really nice light for all of these plants, so it’s nice to have so many in here. It feels very lush.”

Amid the statement pieces and delicate trinkets, easily the most significant adornment to Duncan and Tony’s beloved homespace? Their Sphynx, Pebbles.

 

The Star of the Show

Poised to celebrate her second birthday in November, Duncan and Tony’s “Brooklyn baby” is already a force to be reckoned with. Among the many items dedicated to her in the apartment: an oil painting by the couple’s friend Nina, a stuffed animal in her likeness courtesy of Tony’s parents, a warthog sculpture (a gift from an old VF friend, symbolizing the real warthog adopted in Tony’s honor) that now sits under the garden bench as her companion, and a sculpture of Pebbles herself, sent by Buenos Aires by an artist who found the budding feline star on Instagram. Do yourself a favor and check her out: @pebblesthesphynx.

Both Duncan and Tony are dog people, but knew a small cat would be better suited to their urban environment. During their search, a friend of theirs told them her new Sphynx had a sister. Though Duncan had a few reservations about purchasing a hairless pet, they quickly fell in love.

Pebbles

“Her vet also conveniently only makes house calls,” Tony says, “so she is quite literally the most spoiled cat in Bushwick.”

“She’s just such a special animal,” he says. “She plays fetch, she sleeps with us every night… She demands a lot of attention, and at the end of the day is a cat, but she’s just a special, special little animal.”

Special and vocal. Young Pebbles, whom Duncan calls a “foodie,” participated actively in our interview, and though during the photo shoot she succumbed to a bit of a diva moment (yelling and storming off à la Naomi Campbell), she pulled through like a pro.

The couple also owns a Siamese fighting fish named Pablo, who resides on the dining room windowsill. Pablo doesn’t do much.

 

Past Lives

When it comes to decorating with their own purchases, the couple searches for stories. Part of what drew them to their current residence—apart from the rent-stabilized building on Lawton and Broadway and almost twice the space for the same amount of money—was the complex’s past life. According to the manager, the building was once a garter factory, and was converted around the 1990s.

The “factory feel” holds special significance for Duncan, whose own childhood home was a factory in the 1800s.

Tony & Duncan

Along with their own mock covers, rejected Vanity Fair proofs featuring the likes of Angelina Jolie dot the window sill behind their dining table. Says Tony, “One man’s trash…”

Since moving in, they’ve sought to infuse the space with similar meaning:

“Without being able to describe it, I think Duncan and I share an aesthetic for décor… Maybe it’s because of what I do, but I like pieces that have stories to them, or have some sort of connection, deeper connection than just being something that you bought.”

Accordingly, you won’t find them poring over the style files. “When I feel like something starts to look too design-bloggy I get uncomfortable,” Duncan says. “My mom, when I was growing up, always loved furniture. And it’s been very nice because she’s been very nice about giving us a lot of furniture, but I think that a lot of my and our aesthetic is similar to hers, which is like a mixture of antiques. I think we both, or at least I, like a mid-century modern piece [laughs]. Nothing too modern.”

Tony & Duncan

Though the lighting is, per Duncan, “not great,” the two are fond of their unique bathroom. They were asked if they wanted to remove the wooden medicine cabinet upon moving in, but thought it looked perfect, and could use the storage space.

To achieve the lived-in, modern-vintage look they strive for, Duncan and Tony love to bargain hunt, and search for antiques and other secondhand pieces from hidden neighborhood gems and flea markets—the credenza beneath their china was a “flea market/rummage sale” find near Duncan’s family home—though they note flea markets in the city are becoming over-priced.

For accessory splurges, they like to visit John Derian. After giving a friend a Cire Trudon candle—a post-couch-surfing thank you—they found themselves seeing green. And out of that jealousy came their “joint anniversary present to each other”: their own bust from the French candlemaker, titled “L’Esclave.”

Their living room shelves boast an array of trinkets that weave a story of their 20s.

Tony & Duncan

“The St. Bernard statue actually at one point had liquor in it,” says Tony. “My grandfather owned a liquor store in Milbrook, New York, where my father grew up, and I got that from my great aunts who gave me the China.”

Relics of their “Chinese lucky arm cat phase,” the miniature cats are products of love and theft: Duncan gave Tony the small gold solar-powered one before they moved in together, while the others were nicked from a friend’s wedding reception. The matryoshka dolls were similarly acquired—this time from a reception at the Russian Tea Room. As for the partially obscured Fleetwood Mac record, it was a gift to “passionate fan” Tony, who also procured the voodoo doll—”for health and harmony in your home, not the type you put pins in”—on a family trip to New Orleans.

 

Creative Solutions

As Tony notes, the clubhouse vibe is strongest in the pair’s bedroom, which features open shelving pioneered by Duncan. The lack of closets and storage in general has been one of their biggest decorating challenges, but they’ve risen to it, finding “a little more adult” wooden rack raisers to elevate their bed, and a ladder on the street to reach the top shelf holding their clothing.

In an unfortunate turn of events, said ladder had betrayed Tony earlier that day, leaving him hobbling throughout our visit, but he still loves it.

The pickup sticks in the right corner add a fun pop of color to the living room that disguises potential danger. Says Duncan, “Definitely not fun if you’ve been drinking.”

Another minor challenge is the lack of overhead lighting, which they’ve worked around by filling their home with lamps illuminating some of their favorite smaller items.

Tony & Duncan

While it is for sale at John Derian, Duncan suspects his décor-savvy mother found the porcine ornament elsewhere.

The ceramic pig in their living room was a gift to Tony from Duncan’s mother, while the lamp was a gift to Tony from Tony. Assigned to buy library-style lamps in bulk while at Vanity Fair, he wound up with extras: “I may or may not have treated myself to a lamp back when I couldn’t afford to buy a restoration hardware lamp. And the pig is really cute, Pebbles loves the pig.” According to Duncan, the pig also holds the honor of being one of Pebbles’ favorite pieces to knock over.

 

Tricks of the Trade

Though they sorted out the basics rather quickly, Duncan and Tony still call their loft a work in progress.

Says Duncan, “Every once in a while we’ll go up to see my parents and have a list of things we would like, and we look around and find what we can get. It’s sort of a continuing process of stuff that we want, but I feel like at this point there’s nothing that we feel like we need, so now it’s a fun point to just play around.”

For young people decorating their first apartments, he says the most important thing is to keep your eyes open:

“Go in anywhere that looks interesting, because you might find something.”

Tony & Duncan's Entryway

All photos taken by the talented Maya Reid. Follow her on Twitter @mtbee.

 

Taylor Smith is a student living in NYC and the summer co-editor for Friends of Friends. 


Visit these NYC antique shops to bring your own clubhouse to life:

Brooklyn:

The Lions Den (a Duncan and Tony favorite!)
1113 Broadway

Erie Basin
388 Van Brunt St.

Eclectic Collectibles and Antiques
285 Metropolitan Ave

Manhattan:

Pippin Vintage Home
112 ½ West 17th St.

Furnish Green
1261 Broadway Suite 609 (at 32nd Street)

Authentiques
255 West 18th St.