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Elizabeth Roberts featuring the Bianca chair

Published on 16 Apr 2020

Elizabeth Roberts - The NYC architect who’s established a cult-worthy signature aesthetic.

Elizabeth Roberts has become quite known for her signature take on the Brooklyn Brownstone. You know the look. You’ve probably saved, shared, pinned or pined over one of her show-stopping open kitchen designs with a statement slab of marble the size of a submarine. Or her white-walled parlors that strike the perfect mix of modern and historic. All flooded with natural light of course, thanks to her go-to approach: “blowing out the back” (swapping rear walls for airy, glass-walled extensions). It’s 19th-century charm blended effortlessly with modern 21st-century luxury and family-friendly comfort — and via her namesake architecture firm, she’s swept the notable style across 40 NYC townhouses to date.

Considering her cult following these days, and her obviously impeccable taste, we were buzzing when Roberts wanted to incorporate one of our pieces into her own home. Located on a quiet block in Clinton Hill, the architect’s space — a four-story townhouse she shares with her husband and son — is decorated fairly modest (but full of personal artifacts).

Q: The Bianca chair looks amazing in your living room. Why did you choose this one?

A: I love the shape of this chair, the tactile softness of the leather. I also love the back — it's a shame it faces the corner, but this was the perfect spot for it… especially in combination with the rug my husband and I got in Marrakesh.

Q: I believe the New York Times called you the “Titan of the townhouse.” How do you approach a residential project, and how does it differ from your approach to commercial work?

A: Residential projects are meant to last decades. I try to create a neutral backdrop for my clients lives; a lasting, long-term backdrop.

In comparison, commercial projects tend to be more of a statement, and require a ton of research and sensitivity to a company's influences and goals. As a result, I tend to be more discerning with the commercial projects I take on, as they require a huge amount of time and energy, and typically require a much faster timeline.

Q: Your business has done so well. You’ve made the AD100 list the last two years in a row, and you’re a really great boss. What did you study?

A: For undergrad, architecture. For my master’s, historical preservation. And fine art on a very freeing semester in Europe.

Q: What does a weekend look like in your family? How do you decompress?

A: On weekends when we’re in the city, we bike, check out art, swing by the farmer's markets; sort of typical things to do in NYC. However, two out of every three weekends we spend in Bellport, Long Island. In the summers there we go to the beach most days, and we also canoe, sail and paddleboard on the Bellport Bay. In the winter we go for cold-weather beach walks and enjoy a roaring fire. We also love to soak.

Q: Soak? Go on.

A: We have a 7' antique porcelain tub that's over 100 years old from a sanitarium that operated in the late 1800's. There’s a large steel beam that spans the entire width of the house and supports the tub on the second floor. Soaking is how I decompress — I try to encourage my residential clients to incorporate bathtubs in their homes as well.

One my favorite rooms in my house is a small room just off the master bedroom. It’s very cozy, with just an antique writing desk, a single chair, some personal items — and a soaking tub. I use it often.

This interview was conducted in November 2019.