Picture of Tracy Martin's lounge with handpainted wall

At first glance, the Brooklyn home of Tracy Hurley Martin has all the standard ingredients of a stylish town house: elegant proportions, period mouldings and a cohesive mix of vintage pieces and antiques. But look a little closer, and you might spot something more unexpected: a preserved insect; an anatomical print; or perhaps a framed Victorian mourning wreath made from human hair.

Tracy Martin's parlour: buffalo hide is thrown over a leather sofa alongside vintage furniture
Buffalo hide is thrown over a leather sofa in the parlour, while the stools are Spanish, from the early 20th century Credit: Bruce Buck

This is not your average Brooklyn brownstone, and its design is far from off-the-peg. Tracy runs a film and TV production company with her twin sister, the writer Tonya Hurley, and the pair also co-founded the Morbid Anatomy Museum, which opened in 2014.

Tracy Hurley Martin at home in Brooklyn
Tracy Hurley Martin at home in Brooklyn Credit: Bruce Buck

Occupying an imposing black building on Brooklyn’s Third Avenue and encompassing an exhibition space, library, café and shop, the museum is dedicated to ‘death, beauty and that which falls between the cracks’.

Its current exhibition is of pathological waxworks, and its workshop series has covered anything from rodent taxidermy to arachnid shadowboxes – hence Tracy’s leaning towards the unconventional and somewhat macabre.

Four years ago, Tracy was looking for a new home when she ‘stumbled upon’ this 19th-century four-bedroom brownstone. She was already living in Brooklyn, in the Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighbourhood, which she loved for its river views, but which had become too noisy. This house, in the leafy Park Slope area, was perfect.

‘It was love at first sight,’ recalls Tracy, who shares her town house with her husband, Vince Clarke (one half of Erasure and a founding member of Depeche Mode) and their 10-year-old son.

‘I just walked in. I didn’t have an appointment, but the realtor was there so I said, “Please, just let me take a peek.” I put in an offer the next day. I was not going to let it go.’

iI the master bedroom of Tracy Martin's home, antique Dutch botanical engravings are set against aubergine paint from Fine Paints of Europe
In the master bedroom, antique Dutch botanical engravings are set against aubergine paint from Fine Paints of Europe Credit: Bruce Buck

When it came to decoration, Tracy’s starting point was a sculpture she had bought by Kate MacDowell, titled Migrant, in the form of two white porcelain feet with roots growing out from the soles. ‘I’d never really put a lot into my surroundings before,’ she says, ‘but I thought, “I feel like in this house I’m home, I’m rooted.” I started to get really serious about my home.’

After it took her months to choose a sofa, she realised she could do with some help, and started researching interior designers. Nothing she found, however, suited her style. ‘Everything screamed, to me, “Showcase”, and I can’t live in that,’ she says. ‘I’d rather live in a tent; I’d rather sleep on dirt. I wanted it to be an organic space.’

Rush chairs in Tracy Martin's classic kitchen are mid-20th-century French
Rush chairs in the classic kitchen are mid-20th-century French Credit: Bruce Buck

That was when she came across the Manhattan design duo Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, aka Roman & Williams, known for their starry client list (Ben Stiller, Kate Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow included) and their work on New York hotels such as the Standard and the Ace. The pair had been film-set designers, and this was, for Tracy, part of the appeal.

‘They’re curating your house, based on your life,’ she says. ‘It’s like you’re walking into your own movie set.’

Nature is the prevailing theme throughout, not only in the human hair, dead insects and skull motifs, but also in antique Dutch botanical engravings and exquisite hand-painted silk Fromental wall­coverings depicting branches, blossom and birds.

Antique and vintage pieces from dealers in New York and around the world range from a dramatic black Swedish armoire and an early-20th-century French cabinet to a green-painted pier glass in the late-19th-century American Eastlake style.

An arch opens from the 
spare room into an en suite bathroom in Tracy Martin's home
An arch opens from the spare room into an en suite bathroom Credit: Bruce Buck

Tracy’s favourite space is the ground-floor parlour, which comprises the dining and sitting areas and encapsulates the eclectic mood of the house, teaming ornate chandeliers and oversize gilt mirrors, with art-deco leather club chairs, a Beni Ourain rug and a buffalo hide draped over the sofa.

‘It’s very inspirational,’ she says. ‘I love sitting on the couch and looking out of the window; it’s a meditative place.’

It is these diverse elements of dark drama and delicate botanicals, together with shots of pure glamour, that combine to give the house its unique aesthetic – which Tracy describes as ‘Victorian 19th century meets ’60s opium den’. ‘You would think, “Wow that sounds horrific,”’ she adds, ‘but it just works.’

[Source:- Telegraph]