On first glance, Anath Benais (anathmusic.com) and Pablo Vergara's rose-colored abode appears to be the dwelling of Moroccan flower children. Not quite, but close: The married couple (she's a singer-songwriter and dance instructor from Israel and France; he's a pianist from Chile) have decked out their cozy apartment with global trinkets, velvet accents and beaded curtains. The 900-square-foot space, which they've owned for three years, also doubles as a recording studio, with pianos, keyboards, guitars and accordions strewn among the exotic kitsch. "What I like the best is that every piece has a story and a past," says Benais. "I'm attracted to the fantasy world—the imaginary world."
"I like mixing international objects from our travels," explains Benais. "I'm also attracted to the fantasy of the theater—deep reds and pinks." She has outfitted the apartment in flea-market finds, Craigslist scores and souvenirs in her preferred hues.
This feather-filled velvet sofa was the ultimate discovery—Benais got it for free via Craigslist. The old-fashioned round-back chairs are also from the online classifieds forum. "They're French Victorian," notes Benais. "I think the original owner found them in an antique store in Fort Greene. That's the beauty about New York, I think: the findings." She purchased the dramatic rectangular mirror from Ikea(1 Beard St at Otsego St, Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-246-4532, ikea.com).
Benais tops an Egyptian handcrafted table with an aged bronze tray from Imports from Marrakesh (importsfrommarrakesh.com), a favorite store formerly located in Chelsea Market that currently operates online only. It serves as an ideal showcase for a metallic painted box from the Park Slope Flea Market; a kalimba, a musical instrument from Argentina; and a Moroccan ashtray. The oriental rug was purchased at Trailer Park (77 Sterling Pl between Sixth and Seventh Aves; 718-623-2170, trailerparkslope.com), a vintage store in neighboring Park Slope.
As a musician, Benais believes her craft affords her the freedom to be creative with aesthetic choices. "I will never have any doubt as far as colors, objects, mixing things and painting go," she explains. "I like to see the beauty—it's important to me to be in an environment that is inspiring." A Moroccan tapestry from Imports from Marrakesh hangs behind a wall of instruments. Benais and Vergara recorded their most recent album, Dark Lullaby, in the living room.
"We can't really afford to do fancy renovations," admits Benais, "so everything we do, we do it one step at a time and we do it ourselves." Take, for example, this carved mantel, which did not come with the apartment. Benais found the piece at the Park Slope Flea Market and added faux firewood from Lowe's (locations throughout the city; visit lowes.com).
"These are from different places and different religions," Benais says of the accessories cluttering the mantel, including a Jewish menorah, a Mexican nativity scene, a Peruvian cross and various African trinkets. She picked up the gilded mirror at a stoop sale in Park Slope and draped it in star-shaped lights from Ikea for added sparkle.
Although Benais prefers vintage items, she turns to Ikea for affordable modern staples. This white dining set, as well as the bookcases along the back wall, are courtesy of the home-goods giant. Vibrant Benjamin Moore paint in Outrageous Orange was sponged with a glossy red hue to create the accent wall. "I want to paint all of these walls, but not in the same color," says Benais of her plan to turn the apartment into a multihued patchwork. The beaded curtain was purchased at the New York International Gift Fair (nyigf.com).
"I've always loved houses that have libraries," says Benais. "I would do a room with a library all over." For now, this book-case-lined wall is a fine substitute. "We're very old-fashioned because we like to keep books, CDs and LPs," she says. "We will never throw a book away [just] because we have it in the computer."
The bedroom is covered in splashes of Benais' signature red and hot pink. "I'm just attracted to soft and luxurious fabric, like fur and silk," says Benais. "I love red velvet." That explains the dramatic duvet cover, purchased in France, on top of the Ikea four-post bed. She adorned the bedposts with feather boas from Ricky's (locations throughout the city; visit rickysnyc.com) and hung fabric from India as a headboard.
All of the dressers and desks in the bedroom, including this glass-topped nightstand, were scored on Craigslist or at the Park Slope Flea Market. Benais cleverly uses the piece as a scrapbook by slipping family photos underneath the glass.
"One day, I was coming from a show in the Meatpacking District at midnight, and there was this little van selling records and things," recalls Benais of the moment she purchased this plush cow. "I never had a stuffed animal as a child, so this is my first one. I named him Ruby. He makes me think of my father, who passed away." Ruby sits on top of an Egyptian stool covered by a cushion that Benais fashioned out of fabric from Mood(225 W 37th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves, third floor; 212-730-5003, moodfabrics.com). An embroidered Indian shawl from Israel functions as a sheer curtain.
"It's just the theater influence," Benais says of her love for costume jewelry. She hangs a pearl necklace from local designer Miss Ellie (miss-ellie.net) on a romantic mirror from Urban Outfitters(locations throughout the city; visit urbanoutfitters.com), while the rest of her treasures are heaped onto an antique tray found at the Park Slope Flea Market.
Benais painted this dresser from the Park Slope Flea Market bubblegum pink and topped it with a birdcage, old-fashioned clocks and other dreamy knickknacks that fit in with the apartment's fantastical theme. "Maybe it's nostalgia for something I lived or I didn't live," muses Benais. "An imaginary childhood I built for myself."
The red-painted desk was a vintage discovery from a Park Slope store, which Benais covers with an old-timey painting found at the Park Slope Flea Market, a miniature lamp from Paris boutique Le Monde Sauvage (lemondesauvage.com) and a vintage French jewelry box from the '70s.
"These were made by an artist who helped us with our video clip for our new album," Benais explains of the celestial wall decorations. "We had this person make the sun and moon because day and night are mentioned in the song, and we made a scene where we were holding them." Benais dolls up the desk chair by covering it with fabric purchased in the Garment District, while the gold Moroccan pouf was purchased at Imports from Marrakesh.
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Park Slope Flea Market(Seventh Ave between 1st and 2nd Sts, Park Slope, Brooklyn; parkslopefleamarket.com; Sat, Sun 8am–6pm)
Benais has picked up multiple tables, dressers and desks with ornate, vintage flair at this weekends-only bazaar at P.S. 321.
Lee's Art Shop(220 W 57th St between Broadway and Seventh Ave; 212-247-0110, leesartshop.com)
It's no secret that Benais and Vergara's abode is jam-packed with artsy accents. Benais heads to this crafty mecca "for special finds and details."