Jenny Dina Kirschner

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Photographs by Jeff Hirsch

After being something of a serial taker of college degrees (she has four), interior designer Jenny Kirschner quickly struck out on her own some twelve years ago and has managed to sustain a solid business along with being a mother of two daughters, PTA Leader and keeping up with some art making of her own. The family moved to their tall, airy apartment in Prospect Heights mostly for the school to which they wanted to send their daughters but there is, Jenny says, something about the neighborhood that reminds her of one of her most fondly remembered cities, London, where she made the initial decision to study interior design.

It’s fabulous this place.

Thank you, it’s very bright and airy and we like it a lot.

How did you end up living in Brooklyn if you mostly lived in Manhattan before this?

It was really the school—we were looking for the right one and we ended up with Luria Academy. It’s like a Jewish day school that is Montessori-based, and it’s phenomenal. It’s progressive, pluralistic and has a methodology and model that no other school has, like, anywhere. They’re pioneers.

Entering Jenny and her husband, Aari Itzkowitz’s Prospect Heights condo. A painting by André Masson hangs above a denim and glass console by Thislexik.
“Self Portrait” a conceptual piece created by Jenny hangs on a wall in the front entryway. “It deals with many of my innermost thoughts, including my constant strive for perfection and my struggle to remain true to my feminist ideals while still feeling a nostalgic attachment to and love for my favorite childhood toy, Barbie.” The work is created from many dozens of Barbie shoes, both vintage and new, deliberately and perfectly mapped out to closely match the color-coding of a Damien Hirst painting.
Once a single-level studio apartment, Jenny completely overhauled the soaring space of her triplex including the precarious installation of this oversized vintage chandelier purchased from Venfield. The chandelier originally hung in a church in Amsterdam.
A view across the dining room table into the main seating area. Jenny designed a recessed entertaining area that includes storage, a fireplace from Ecosmart Fire, a flat screen TV and bookcases filled with paperback novels.
Looking across the living room’s sectional sofa from ABC Carpet & Home toward the dining area. The pillows are from Holland & Sherry and the Rug Company.
The steel and glass staircase leading to the mezzanine and 1,200 square foot roof terrace were freshened up with white paint and a gray carpet runner from Holland & Sherry.

How religious is it?

They call it open orthodox. We have the entire spectrum. We have mixed marriage couples, where like the father is Jewish, the mother is not Jewish … we have everything. We have families that are not observant at all but they want their children to have this progressive Jewish education and then we have families that are a hundred percent observant. And it’s only five minutes away, just off what I like to call the High Street—I lived in London. I love that Brooklyn has streets similar to London.

Yes, I sometimes feel that some parts of Brooklyn have a London feel. Although your designs are very contemporary when I was looking at your Pinterest feed, I looked at the landscape photos and they were all quite “ye olde worlde” country house and quite nostalgic. I was wondering which sensibility would win out in the end?

I want to mix everything. Even if the space, like this one, is contemporary, everything in here is old; about ninety percent of it is old. It’s vintage, it’s not necessarily antique. I probably would incorporate more antiques … if I had them.

What would win out? That’s the worst kind of question!

Yes, it’s a cruel question with which to begin!

It’s okay—ask away! But I do get very attached and I am very nostalgic.

A pair of distressed stools stands behind the sectional sofa that is draped in a quilt from Thompson Street Studio.
A shagreen tray and Tiffany crystal candlesticks are arranged atop the living room coffee table.
Jenny used 72 yards of Kravet fabric, trimmed with a Fret tape for the stunning floor-to-ceiling drapes of the 30-foot high living space.
A pair of vintage Milo Baughman chairs covered in fabric from Hinson, are positioned in front of Jenny’s glass-walled office.
Peeking into Jenny office. A desk chair from Crate & Barrel is dressed up with a pink sheepskin found on Etsy. Jenny draped the desk with pink silk fabric from Joe’s Fabric. The wall behind the desk opens to a Murphy bed, providing an extra sleeping area for the occasional guest.
The office wall is arranged with work from various artists, including mixed media and collages by Kristian Glynn, embroideries by Iviva Olenick and sculptural flutes by Boris Katz.
Jenny carved out a first floor playroom with its own loft for daughters, five-year-old Lulu and seven-year-old Minnie.
Pink Ghost Chairs from Kartell are tucked under a built in desk recessed into a niche that is covered in wallpaper from Schumacher. The rug is from NuLoom.
“Mona Lisa” by Larry Moss hangs above picture ledges with some of the girls’ favorite books. Nearby numbered storage pockets from Land of Nod keeps “the clutter contained.” The bean bag chairs are from Serena & Lily.
A cork wall displays Minnie’s and Lulu’s recent artwork and keepsakes. The stairway leads up to the playroom’s loft, which houses the girls’ play kitchen and can one day be used as a bedroom.
A view from the loft into the playroom. The hanging ceiling pendants are by Flos.
The playroom kitchen, outfitted for a feast!

Do you see yourself as a city person then?

I do not see myself as a city person.

Where do you see yourself?

On the beach. If I had my way, I would probably be living down in Miami. My parents live in Miami part-time. I’ve always gravitated towards the beach and the water. I feel very at peace and very calm there. I want to eat healthier. I want to exercise more. I mean I get plenty of exercise in New York City because I use the subway—that’s my exercise, running up and down the stairs.

But you grew up in St. Louis—what was that like?

It was lovely. We grew up in a little bit of a bubble. I didn’t know anything different. Now, I would be bored out of my mind. I left when I was eighteen to go to college—I couldn’t wait. But I’m very much not a planner … I don’t think about where I’ll be in five years or ten years from now. I let life take me wherever I needed to be, so I went to the University of Michigan, to their arts school and then I just decided to go to FIT. I had started focusing on jewelry design at Michigan and FIT had a really excellent jewelry design program. My mom said, “Why don’t you just go and do that for a year?” Of course, I then wanted to stay in New York.

Vintage Baker dining chairs covered in fabric from C&C Milano surround the coordinating vintage Baker dining table.
A large work made out of Duct tape by Israeli-born artist Tirtzah Bassel hangs above a vintage Baker sideboard.

A view towards the front door.
Jenny’s streamlined open kitchen.
Jenny designed the kitchen with white custom cabinets and a contrasting island out of black marble from ABC Worldwide Stone. The light pendants are from Rejuvenation. Jean Prouvé chairs surround the cantilevered marble dining table that wraps around the kitchen island.
In the first floor bath a custom string chandelier by Patrick Townsend is suspended above a custom vanity designed by Jenny with oversized knobs from Du Verre. The black mosaic tile is from Ann Sacks.

I’m interested that your mother said, “go and do jewelry design!” Most parents would not be saying that. They would be saying go and study something that you means you can get a job.

My parents were very supportive. They were all for it. I [also] had an amazing art teacher who I really hold responsible for getting me where I am today. She’s very close to me and my parents.

I want to get to the part where your boyfriend broke up with you.

I love that you’ve read all this! You don’t even know the half of it! I started working on my master’s degree at NYU to teach fine arts and I met somebody and we got engaged … and I was 21.

Were your parents as supportive of that as they were of the jewelry design?

They were … look, he was from a very nice family … but [my parents] didn’t love the guy. We were engaged for four or five months and I was getting an earful—typical Jewish Mom. [Eventually] I went to London for a month in the winter and a friend of mine set me up with her brother, who was an expat from New York. That was how I ended up in London. I needed a student visa … so this was going to be my fourth degree. The day I arrived my boyfriend picked me up at the airport and he said, “I don’t think this is going to work.” I was there with my duffel bag and I was like, “What?”

Across the open, light-filled first floor living space.
The second floor bridge that leads to the family’s bedrooms has the feeling of being suspended in the air.
Textiles found on Etsy make for colorful wall art at the top of the second floor landing.
Peeking into the master bedroom. The black-and-white “Barbary Toile” wallpaper is by Nina Campbell.
In the master bedroom an abstract painting by an unknown artist hangs above a comfy quilted bed dressed up with a black faux fur throw from Restoration Hardware and orange pillows from ABC Carpet & Home. The sconces are by Workstead.

A charming series of prints by Niki de Saint Phalle fills the master bedroom wall.

So what happened then?

I stayed in London but I couldn’t stand the program and I wasn’t dating the guy anymore. I had to find something to do and a friend said, “Hey, why don’t you try interior design? You’re an artist already.” [So] I went to the American Intercontinental University for two years. Then I moved back and I worked for an architecture firm.

What did you like about living in London?

Oh my gosh. It’s the perfect balance between city life and suburban life. I lived in Maida Vale; it’s a charming intimate neighborhood but I could just walk twenty minutes into town. London is also cleaner than New York. To this day I would choose London over Manhattan.

And how did you get going with your business?

I worked at the architecture firm but they wanted me to start doing more CAD work and I was like, “Sorry not for me.” I was introduced to another interior designer who was overwhelmed with work and then I just started getting work on my own.

An interior balcony extending from the master bedroom provides another space to relax, read or play music.
A view of the interior balcony.
A view of the bedroom from the interior balcony.
In a corner of the balcony a vintage chair is covered in a checked-wool fabric from Holland & Sherry and topped with a leopard pillow from CB2. The vintage footstool was recovered in leather from Moore & Giles.

Jenny’s shoe and bag collection.

Wow, that was quick!

Yes, I went on my own very quickly.

You said you were not a planner, which I thought was interesting because your house is very organized and also your job involves rather a lot of planning, so have you changed?

No. I am a neat freak. They say that creative people usually work better amongst clutter—I am not that person. When my house is messy, I cannot focus. It makes me nervous. I guess I have an organized chaotic way of living. I don’t make plans really far in advance. I don’t make travel plans far in advance. I do not need to have my calendar scheduled out.

Is it something to do with a wariness of the future?

Hmmm … I think it’s just more living in the moment. I have a self-portrait I did, my Barbie piece. One of the reasons why it is a self-portrait is because it’s this very organized, precise, mapped out [work] but there’s no order to the colors. It’s like organized chaos. Even like my email, I have over a hundred thousand emails in my inbox and my husband says, “How can you live this way?” I don’t want to delete anything because I might need it.

A vintage chaise by Adrian Pearsall covered in custom quilted fabric from Schumacher is positioned across from the family piano. An heirloom Bokara from Jenny’s grandmother has been laid on top of a sisal rug from Rugs USA.
The art above the piano is by street artist Matthew Courtney.
A vintage cart found at an upstate antiques store serves as a perfect and convenient place for a home bar.
Minnie’s and Lulu’s bedroom from the upstairs landing.
The walls of Minnie’s and Lulu’s cozy bedroom are covered in a wallpaper mural by artist Rebekah Maysles for Anthropologie; The convertible crib beds are by Stokke and the small stool upholstered in pink sheepskin was purchased on Etsy. Jenny made the bird mobile hanging on the upper right.

Family photos.
Lulu’s and Minnie’s closet isn’t all about clothes.
Stuffed animals find a home in the bedroom corner basket.
Some more favorite stuffed animals keep watch at the bedroom doorway.
Looking over the balcony rail towards the kitchen and dining room.
A view of the first floor through the vast eight-foot by fourteen-foot mid-century chandelier that once hung in an Amsterdam church.

You’re an email hoarder! But doesn’t design involve planning?

It does involve planning but for me, it’s a different type of planning and a lot of it can also be spontaneous. Sometimes I will find one thing, like a piece of marble and I’ll just say I’m using that and I’m designing the whole room around it. Maybe [though] there is so much planning and organizing in my job, that’s why I don’t like doing so much in other areas of my life. I never thought about that! Maybe that’s why I need to feel that sense of freedom, just going with the flow of life.

What sort of art do you make?

All kinds but I do love working in three dimensionality. I’ve been making things since I was five years old. I would get miniature dollhouse things and make earrings out of them and sell them to my friends. I started sewing when I was ten years old and I would make my own clothing.

To economize on space and give a sense of openness, Jenny combined the bath and shower into one space. Distinctive marble from ABC Worldwide stone covers the wall and the top of the custom vanity was designed by Jenny.
The bathtub is American Standard and the wall tiles are from Artistic Tile.
The stairs leading to the upstairs roof terrace.
The wall sculpture is by Curtis Jeré and a witty neon light is displayed on wallpaper from Cole & Son.
Views from the roof across the ever-expanding Prospect Heights neighborhood.

Time to go.

Did you have a set of concerns when it came to making art, something you wanted to say?

Always, at different times. More conceptual type of work started when I was working on my master’s degree. We had to do a completely open-ended studio project on obsession and we could do anything we wanted. I chose chocolate and I took a bath in forty gallons of chocolate syrup. It was a massive production! [And] I’m not a strong feminist but I’m a feminist and I was really angry, maybe burnt out by going on dates with guys who were objectifying me … the cute skinny girl and they weren’t calling me! So for another studio project, I had t-shirts made and it just had this bald statement on it … I think it said something like, “I want to fuck you but I don’t love you.” I wish I could remember the exact words.

Oh I’m shocked! You don’t seem like someone who would make a thing like that!

I have one t-shirt in storage. I saved it!

When your daughters are teenagers, you’ll have to take it out.

You know what, they should know!

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