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For an artist couple, a Brooklyn home offers a rich canvas

Curbed logo Curbed 5/13/2019 Samantha Weiss Hills
a living room filled with furniture and vase of flowers on a table

Lisa Hunt and Kyle Goen reconcile their differing tastes with texture and color

The Prospect-Lefferts Gardens home of artists Lisa Hunt and Kyle Goen is a study in personal history, art practice, and comfort. It’s also a study in aesthetic compromise—though you wouldn’t guess it upon first look.

The story goes like this: Hunt had been living in the apartment for three years when she met Goen in 2011. At the time, Goen lived in Fort Greene, and made the move to Lefferts Gardens—not an easy decision, says Hunt.

The neighborhood—bordered by Empire Boulevard on the north, Clarkson Avenue on the south, Nostrand Avenue on the east, and Flatbush Avenue on the west—is small as ones in Brooklyn go, and offers leafy respite from the bustling thoroughfares that demarcate its outer edges.

a yellow flower in front of a building
The apartment is located in Brooklyn’s Prospect-Lefferts Gardens neighborhood, where white-stone rowhouses are typical.

Located on the top floor of a two-story stone townhouse typical of the area, the couple’s light-filled two-bedroom apartment runs the full length of the building. Among its charms are the original prewar floors and wall moldings and the magnolia tree that blooms right outside the couple’s living room. There’s also a washer-dryer in the unit, which Hunt astutely points out is a real rarity in New York City.

At first, fusing their styles took some work. “Kyle is an artist and I’m an artist, so we [both] definitely have a creative sensibility,” Hunt says. “Kyle likes less clutter and a very clean, modern aesthetic. I like living with my books and things that I’ve collected from my mother or my grandmother.” However, the couple found common ground in objects with sentimental value.

a living room with a book shelf
In the dining room, house books and assorted objects from the couple’s life. A screen print by Goen (Assata, 2008) hangs at center. Of the lamp, Hunt says that “a neighbor was throwing it out! We put it on a dolly and rolled it two blocks to our apartment.” The dining table is from a flea market, and the chairs are from One Kings Lane.
a couple of people posing for the camera
Goen and Hunt at home in their Prospect-Lefferts Gardens apartment.

Goen “has his record collection and turntable,” says Hunt. “He used to DJ, and punk rock in particular was a huge influence in his life and in his work.” Hunt, meanwhile, acquired a sizable collection of family photographs from both her late mother and her grandmother. “I have a lot of my grandmother’s jewelry,” she adds. “He appreciates those things being on display. It’s our history; it’s who we are. I think that’s really important, more than a particular couch or coffee table.”

Hunt says that the drapes in their living room are a good example of their blended aesthetic: A bold black-and-white graphic (which aligns with Goen’s interests in minimalism) in a repeated pattern (a motif Hunt is drawn to in her own work). Colorful pillows, flat-weave rugs, rows of books, and the couple’s beloved plush sofa each bring in elements of color and texture throughout the home, too.

Additionally, the couple’s work, as well as that of other artists, is present throughout the home.

“A lot of the work that I do is loosely based on the idea of repeat patterns in textiles,” says Hunt, who is developing a line of textiles based on her work and a line of wallpaper that is launching next year. “Kyle’s work—he’s an artist and an activist—is closely tied to his activism around social justice.” Goen’s screen prints of Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman, and Assata Shakur hang on the walls, and all of Goen’s work is rooted in social movements, research, and organizing meant to translate into direct action.

a room filled with furniture and a book shelf
Two of Hunt’s works (Love & Arrows I and II, 2016) hang above records and books, and make use of a material Hunt often deploys in her work: gold leaf. “It’s definitely a big component of my work and I’m drawn to it for aesthetic reasons,” she says of the gold leaf.
a glass door
In the hallway, an outdoor sign for the exhibition Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, which Hunt’s friend, the artist Cey Adams gave Hunt as a gift, hangs beside a Hunt work called Abstract Coils, 2017.
a room with a book shelf
A print by Goen of Harriet Tubman hangs in the dining room.

In the living room, two of Hunt’s pieces (Love & Arrows I, II, 2016) hang above records and books, making use of a material that she deploys in a majority of her work: gold leaf. Hunt says she was initially drawn to gold leaf because of its finish and the allure of its reflectivity and “illuminative quality.” When asked what the gold leaf represents, Hunt says she hasn’t even answered that for herself; as she has worked more often with gold leaf, though, she’s become more attuned to the different types of meaning it takes on, and the implications of its use as ornamentation.

a red leather couch in a living room
A piece by Goen depicting Nelson Mandela hangs above the couple’s sofa. Their dog, Sally, snuggles in some pillows.

Elsewhere in the couple’s home, a mix of items collected from family, travels, and other artists mingles together. In the hallway, for example, an outdoor sign for the exhibition Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, gifted to Hunt by her friend, the artist Cey Adams, hangs beside a work by Hunt called Abstract Coils, 2017. Adams scored two of the Kerry James Marshall exhibition signs when the show was coming down in LA, says Hunt. “Kyle and I did a trade with him—Kyle’s Harriet Tubman print for the sign. I love Kerry James Marshall and this is the closest I’ll probably get to owning one of his paintings. I love the couple [in the painting]; seeing them makes me happy.”

Along with art, Hunt is also inspired by other interiors. “I used to be in magazine publishing and at one point I did art direction and photography, still-life photography, home interiors,” she says. “It’s definitely something that I’m keyed into and am always looking at.”

a bedroom with a large bed in a hotel room
A work by Hunt called Infinity Diptych, 2016, hangs above the couple’s bed, which is covered in a John Robshaw bedspread and ABC Carpet & Home bedding. The side tables are from Urban Outfitters and the lamps are from One Kings Lane.

What you won’t find Hunt doing is emulating decor trends gaining popularity across social media. “It’s hard not to be influenced by that and feel like you need to clean-plate everything, [that] it all has to have this certain aesthetic,” says Hunt. “I don’t think I would ever be able to do that even if I tried,” she adds. “It’s really important to have things that Kyle and I respond to versus trend.”

Home is a vital space for them, a place where they host friends for pizza nights (Goen makes his own dough), celebrate the holidays with Hunt’s sisters, and relax after days in their shared DUMBO studio.

“We’ve made a lot of really great memories here,” says Hunt. “For me, the most important thing in the home is that it’s comfortable, warm, and inviting—no matter what.”

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