By Donna Bulseco
The founders of Curious Yellow Design like to tell people a fact about their business that indeed seems curious: “We’ve been partners for nearly 13 years. Wow. Without any fights.” For those of us with decades-long partnerships—in business, friendship or love—this proclamation from Anna Cappelen and Chloe Pollack-Robbins may seem disingenuous. But the duo have a zen approach to collaboration. Their interior architecture and interior design firm, with offices in Oslo, Norway, and the Hamptons has redone spaces in Norway, the Hamptons and all over Manhattan for 13 years, creating interiors with a sort of emotional feng shui that makes spaces easy to live in, yet quietly chic.
Cappelen’s Norwegian grandparents, both professors in architecture, would shuttle her and her brother on summer jaunts to architectural landmarks; she credits her “hard-core” grandmother’s tutelage as her first design inspiration. Pollack-Robbins, on the other hand, was a precocious critic of her parent’s decor choices: “As a young child, I would say to my parents: ‘This is ugly. We can’t have family over.’ And I would rearrange the entire living room, and they’d say, ‘OK, fine.’”
About their soothing, sophisticated aesthetic, Pollack-Robbins wryly says, “We want to be around beautiful, clean things. It’s in Anna’s blood. I’m also 10% Norwegian, I found out. We like textural, clean, bright, white, neutral spaces. But then, we’re crazy people! We don’t want to be bored. So we coax a client into doing a pop of color, especially in a powder room, because it’s a small place that can be fun and playful. We go to town on a couple of rooms, but make sure the overall effect flows.”
The firm’s gut renovation of a seven-bedroom Ocean Road summer house for a family of four proves that their philosophy, if indeed crazy, is also crazy good. A central principle of Curious Yellow’s practice is in “understanding the whole concept of [a client’s] lifestyle. We get into people’s heads and create their desired spaces through understanding the flow of their lives,” says Cappelen. For this project, they were given the directive to make it unpretentious, with an inside-outside culture. “They’re very chill people that want something that’s also beautiful,” says Pollack-Robbins. “They’re not telling their sporty and rambunctious teen boys they can’t walk through the house with wet feet.”
The great room exemplifies how the designers bring texture, materials and a tonal palette into balance. Here, a wool rug, leather chairs and an oak daybed mix with a travertine coffee table and a bouclé couch. “Everything is a different material, but they’re all very subtle neutrals,” says Cappelen. “We try to keep that [neutrality] in the main spaces, whereas the primary bedroom is like a cloud, because we want that cozy effect.” The palette is bolder in the main dining room, with its intense blue Kelly Wearstler Graffito wallpaper. “We personally wouldn’t put a wild wallpaper in a bedroom, because it changes your mood so much.” Cappelen adds: “We also wanted to make it timeless. It’s expensive to do these houses and we don’t want people to get tired of the design.” It’s hard to argue with their reasoning, or their results. curiousyellownyc.com