Tour a Modernist New York City Apartment That’s All About Brazilian Design
When Bonobos founder Andy Dunn and his wife, Manuela Zoninsein, purchased their three-bedroom New York City apartment on the historic Great Jones Street, they knew that creating an open floor plan—designed by BKSK Architects—was paramount. After all, they both have big families (hers Brazilian and his American, Indian, and Scandinavian) and love to play host. Plus, after welcoming their first child, Izzo, in October of 2020, moving into a bigger home with fewer walls made sense. The couple, therefore, gave their trusted friend, New York interior designer Becky Shea, a call and, suffice to say, she delivered. “I created the layout with the sole purpose of entertaining in mind,” explains Shea, who also outfitted the pair’s previous apartment in Greenwich Village. “What was fun about working with Becky on our last home and again on this one is that she has a good sense of our aesthetic,” Zoninsein says. That aesthetic includes a deep appreciation for Brazilian modernism, which is undoubtedly evident in this second abode.
In the apartment, simple and organic elements often appear in glass, wood, and stone—all of which are hallmark materials of traditional Brazilian design. “Manuela was the driving force behind the interiors,” Shea notes of her client, whose heritage is especially evident in the apartment’s main area. (In fact, a whopping 90% of the furniture in the apartment is by Brazilian makers.) Shea explains, “Every piece could stand alone and you could still appreciate its materiality and design. This kind of harmonizing of material and structure is what Brazilian [craft] is known for.”
Zoninsein also likes the idea of repurposing—whether it’s reclaimed wood on the dining table from their former apartment or a passed-down piece of art in the den. “If you invest in something beautiful then it can be beautiful forever,” she reflects. The Rio de Janeiro native also finds it comforting that so many of the iconic Brazilian pieces, including the vintage sofas in the living area, are ones that she is very familiar with. “Everything you see…is something I have seen and sat on as a child in Brazil,” she says with a laugh.
Though Shea fully intended to decorate the whole apartment in that Brazilian modernist style, she adjusted her vision for one specific room—Dunn’s den—which Shea jokingly describes as “a crazy, cool acid trip.” For his little nook, the design inspiration shifted away from Brazil and toward the U.S. (and more specifically, to the Old World–inspired hotels of downtown Manhattan). “I really wanted that feeling of being in a library like the one at the NoMad New York.” Dunn notes, adding “I’ve always found that when you move into a new place, it doesn’t feel like home until the books go up.”
Shea journeyed downtown to the iconic NoMad Hotel to analyze every detail of its design—from the soft-to-the-touch textures on the sofas to the moody hues on the walls—and created her own twist on that worldly, masculine interior. “You really get the feeling of being in an environment that feels warm and cozy,” Dunn reflects. Plus “all of the colors of the books just pop.”
What the couple loves most about their new home, however, is the narrative behind it. “They are romantics and storytellers,” Shea readily admits. Dunn and Zoninsein were so intentional in every decision they made because they wanted to feel connected to each and every piece. “I always want to tell people the whole story of where we got everything, but I have to hold back,” Zoninsein explains with a chuckle. “Every detail is very personal to us, and that was the point.” Indeed.
Department of Architecture: https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-architecture/