What if a friend moved into your home and completely redecorated? That basically happened with us! Last year, our beloved former apartment became available for rent, and my friend Gisela Gueiros ended up moving in with her husband and twin boys. Full of plants and color, the space now feels really different. Here, the lovely Gisela talks about raising twins, hanging art and entertaining like a Brazilian…
On moving countries: I arrived in New York City eleven years ago, to get my master’s degree in art history. My English was very rusty, but I was always eager to communicate, never embarrassed. I probably should have been embarrassed! When I met my now-husband Tom at a karaoke bar, it’s a miracle that we managed to have a conversation. He didn’t speak Portuguese back then, but now he understands everything, so I can’t talk shit about him when I’m talking with my mom on the phone.
On handmade ceramics: Every Sunday, I go to a three-hour ceramics class, and it takes me to another place. I’m addicted to my phone, but you can’t touch your phone while working with clay. It’s very grounding to work with your hands; you’re touching earth and matter. It also helps you deal with frustration — something cracks and you’re like, oh, those eight hours got lost, but maybe you learned something and that’s enough. I recommend that everyone tries one. I also like Mociun ceramics.
Plant stand: vintage ironing board.
On a Brazilian vibe: Friends come to my place and say, oh, the plants make me feel like I’m in a Brazilian apartment. There’s definitely a tropical vibe. My grandmother taught me to treat them like pets: ‘Do you see how happy they are when we water them?’ I don’t want to be too cheesy, but if you live with them every day, it’s like they each have a personality. When we moved apartments, I was like, how are the plants going to deal with change?
On throwing parties: We love to host! People make your home vibrant. Even the day after a party, the house feels better. We’ll do a Brazilian cheese bread — it’s a piece of paradise. Plus, cold rosé wine. Tom’s guacamole. Lots of candles. And one trick: If the host sits on the floor, everybody immediately feels more comfortable. I always end up lounging on the rug, nibbling snacks!
On late nights: In Brazil, parties never have a time to be over. Never. It’s a concept that doesn’t exist. If a party lasts long, it’s a good party; if it doesn’t, it’s not a good party. In the mind of a Brazilian, you’re like, oh, it wasn’t that fun, otherwise you couldn’t leave.
On hanging art: You can choose themes when you’re hanging artwork around your home. For our apartment, over the sofa, it’s all neutral works on paper. Over the credenza, we hung painted portraits. For our dining table, I wanted paintings that had a landscape feel. Even if the theme only makes sense to you, it feels good.
Coat rack: Eames.
On the perfect height: Many people hang things too high or too low. The trick is that the middle of the artwork should be 60″ off the floor — which is the eye level of the average person.
Bed: similar. Duvet: Roberta Roller Rabbit. Sheets: Restoration Hardware Belgian Linen. Dresser: Pottery Barn. Nightstand: Urban Outfitters, similar. Lamp: Jieldé. Sculptural lamp: Townsend Design. Rug: similar.
On a warm glow: Lighting can change the whole mood of a room. When we want to feel cozy, we’ll turn on every lamp in our apartment except the overheads, and every switch has dimmers.
On a celebrity crush: We watch shows on a laptop in bed. I recently enjoyed Love. I have a crush on Paul Rust, the nerdiest of the nerds. This clip explains why. Awwww, he’s so nerdy and so cute, I would marry him.
On parenting twins: It’s a magical relationship to witness. I was like, do you want to each have your room? And they were like, why would we do that? Before they turned four, though, there were moments that were so hard. When they were toddlers, Tom was traveling, so I had a weekend alone with them. They were all over the place. I was so tired that I remember fantasizing about leaving them at home and walking around the block. I needed a break so badly. And then I looked around and was like, oh, no, they might die. So, I didn’t do it.
On Ikea magic: This Ikea armchair had a weird pattern, so I got it reupholstered with an old Mexican blanket. All three of us pile on to read at night — one on top of the other! And the bunk bed is from Ikea. Fred and Otto constantly draw and put stickers on it. That’s the beauty of an Ikea bed.
Wooden wall shelves: built by Thomas. Animal coat rack: All Lovely Stuff.
On different personalities: We try hard to respect their personalities. Otto is taking soccer, and Fred is taking ceramics. Also, little things: we always have two cakes for their birthdays. And we never refer to them as ‘the twins,’ because we think of them as two separate people.
Piano: similar. Tennis poster: Dan Shapiro.
On playful music: Both boys take piano lessons. Since it’s an electric piano, you can turn it into drumming sounds or water sounds, so of course that’s what they do. So, you never actually hear the piano. It’s always ‘wah wah wah.’
On working in the art world: As an art curator and educator, I think art isn’t just beautiful but is also a great excuse to open up about stuff we can’t always talk about. In my guided tours, I often end up talking about seemingly inappropriate topics — like sexuality or mortality — which become totally acceptable when approached through art.
On opening your mind: I love a story that artist Alex Katz told the Telegraph about Cézanne. He went to an exhibition of the French artist and thought ‘the guy couldn’t paint, it’s terrible.’ Then he got on a train in the south of France, and all he could see were Cézanne’s landscapes. Cézanne’s strong vision completely took over. Art changes the way we see and understand the world.
Thank you so much, Gisela! Above is the floorplan, and here are photos of the apartment when we lived there, if you’d like to see the difference. (Anton’s nursery = their master bedroom; Toby’s bedroom = the boys’ bedroom; our master bedroom = their home office.)