I’m a lucky guy. I get to share with you a little story about my friend Peter Levinson and his lovely wife Robbin. Their story takes place on a fairly quiet street a few steps away from an even quieter cemetery in the Windsor Terrace section of Brooklyn, NY. Their home is a red-bricked row home adorned with beautifully weathered cerulean wooden garage doors and charming yet distinguishing blue and white striped retractable window awnings.
Here in this home live two people who have not only been life mentors but design mentors as well. I owe this entire site to Peter as he has single-handedly helped to develop my understanding and appreciation for all things design. Without him, I might not know Bob’s Furniture from Le Corbusier or Helvetica from Times New Roman; this is the crux of the very special gift that Peter has bestowed upon me. I met Peter seventeen years ago and he became a key component to making me who I am today.
While in my sophomore year at the High School of Art & Design in 2004, my school partnered with software developer Adobe and the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) to create the Adobe/AIGA mentoring program. The goal was to partner a select group of high school arts students with mentors who were working in the field they aspired to work in. At the time, I had dreams of becoming a prolific graphic designer and so I was paired with Peter Levinson who had been running his own graphic design agency out of his Brooklyn home for about fifteen years. Admittedly, as a seventeen-year-old kid from Queens, I had no idea what I was going to talk about or do with a 40 something year-old man with a wife and kid. Surely, he felt the same way when learning of our pairing. Little did we both know that our pairing would continue on for the next seventeen years of our lives and have an exponential impact on my life.
We began to meet once a week, after school, for lunch or coffee and we’d just walk and talk. I talked about me, he talked about him, I asked a lot of questions about his job, art and design and he did his best to cultivate meaningful answers. We went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, The MOMA and most importantly The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in which I later became very involved.
I had my first Polish meal with Peter at Neptune, my first cappuccino at Café Reggio, and my first cold hot chocolate at De Roberti’s in the East Village. I loved the village and on our many after school treks around town, we would often start there and begin what was essentially neighborhood walking tours. While we walked and talked, Peter would point out interesting New York architecture, funky typefaces on old signs, and local institutions like the New York Central Art Supply store that had been in business for decades. We would sometimes duck into furniture stores where my eyes would light up as he enlightened me on Eames chairs, Nelson clocks, and Noguchi tables and lamps. He exposed me to a world I instantly connected with and not only opened my eyes but, changed my eyes. I’ve never looked at any physical form the same since.
Peter and Robbin’s Brooklyn abode effortlessly reflects an easy, quiet and non-conformist artsy of a laid-back Brooklyn family with a truly developed style. The space has air as well as an air. I describe it as quiet artful non-fuss elegance, Robbin describes it as “a reaction against French Provincial furnishings!”
“A wonderful soundtrack for their lives.”
Peter and Robbin are a musical pair. Robbin fiddled with the mandolin for awhile, while Peter gets on with his guitars. Their son Matt is quite musical as well, which makes them quite the musical family. Throughout their home, the sound of the guitar adds a wonderful soundtrack to their lives..
“A seal about sea and a dog about land.”
Selkie is the Orcadian dialect word for “seal” and is rooted in Orkney Folklore about mythical creatures that appear to be seals in water but take a human form on land. Selkie’s smooth somewhat iridescent fur is indeed seal-like making it quite probable that she is a seal about sea and a dog about land.
The very vintage kitchen is a mix of charm, color, history and old plumbing for the family and so, it’s slated to be renovated in the near future. I will personally miss this staple blue hued cove of culinary development.
Bed, Bath and Beyond
Sleeping above your office is surely the way to the top!
The second level of the home is an amplified minimalism where the functions of sleeping, cleansing and separating from others take center stage. A vintage bathroom with a very necessary skylight and an uber retro shower “room” continue the flow of charm.
A Brooklyn Botanical Backyard
An organic source of pride and joy for Peter and Robbin is their backyard garden. Evidence of their shared love for horticulture grows green right out of the ground in the form of Ferns, Grasses, Hollyhocks and Joe-Pye weed among others. The garden reflects the purposeful minimalism seen in the interior; manicured but not overly so. It’s a great spot to catch some rays, play some chords, sip some tea and breathe some air.
And The Living’s Easy…
Peter and Robbin are great examples of how style is your own, style is developed and how style can be easy when you have a partner that fits your style. I continue to learn a great deal from these two as my phone calls never go unanswered and my questions never go undiscussed. Being a mentor is about being there for someone, providing guidance and example. Peter has done this and so much more over the years and continues to remind me that life isn’t easy but life is good!