Nurse Ellen Capuano Parker lives with her husband, Darrell, their schnauzer, Gerty, and their cat, Shabooms, in a cozy apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. “Ellen isn’t happy until you feel at home,” Darrell says, “She won’t stand for it!” The couple also makes their own furniture and lighting under the name Parker Dearest. Here’s a look inside…
On creating a beautiful home: Ellen: We’ve actually been able to do more with the apartment during the pandemic because you’re thinking about how to make your home comfortable and cozy. I always light candles and have hot beverages on hand. I’m now excited to spend the winter here.
Sofa: Joybird. Hot dog pillow: similar. Pink and gold pillow: West Elm, similar. Turkish rug ottoman: Parker Dearest. Dresser: Craigslist, mirror: Yesterday’s News, gold-leafed by Parker Dearest. White chair: CB2, found on Craigslist. Rug: Houzz.
On learning to downsize: Ellen: I really like living small. It’s less stressful and we only have things we really love. We used to have a three-bedroom house in Mississippi, and it was so easy to accumulate everything. Now, a couple times a year, I reorganize to keep the apartment feeling fresh. If I have something I can’t keep, I put it out on the stoop so somebody else can walk by and grab it.
Darrell: We’ve also been restoring furniture since we moved in together in Mississippi. It started when Ellen wanted a really expensive cowhide ottoman, which we couldn’t afford, so I made one myself, and it kind of went from there. There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes from making things with your hands.
On Gerty and her name: Ellen: We adore Gerty girl! We got her in Mississippi six years ago, and she’s our best friend. Schnauzers look like little old people, with their eyebrows and mustaches, so we knew she needed an old name. We had the name Gertrude picked out before we got her.
On the right tunes: Ellen: We like oldies and Chet Baker and Django Reinhardt — things that are meant to be played on a record player. It makes a difference when you hear them played that way. We just started getting into Moody Blues, and Darrell bought me this David Bowie ‘Nothing Has Changed’ album. Someone who buys you David Bowie records is someone worth keeping.
On the best furniture find: Ellen: We bought this dresser in Mississippi, and we refinished, stripped and repainted it. I also like the lights in this room because they create such warmth and ambiance. I really love the lights that Darrell makes.
Telescope: Celestron 8SE. Oliver No. 3 typewriter: The Antiques Warehouse. Bird portraits: Phyllis Newman Collection, found at Grand Bazaar NYC. Gold frames: Tony’s Creations Company. Desk: Yesterday’s News. Pink chair: found on the street, redone by Parker Dearest.
On hobbies: Ellen: Darrell has been into stargazing since he was a kid. This year, he got this telescope for his birthday and he geeks out. We also enjoy planning trips, which we haven’t been able to do this year. Our last really good trip was to Paris for my 30th birthday/our delayed honeymoon. It was cold and rainy the whole time, but so much fun.
On music in the house: Ellen: My dad always played guitar, and I wanted to learn to play the banjo. When we moved here, Darrell got me lessons for Christmas. I play the usual bluegrass stuff, but I also ask to learn Radiohead or La Vie en Rose. This is pretty much where you’ll find us on Saturday mornings: Gerty’s watching guard over the apartment, Darrell is reading the paper, and I’m practicing the banjo.
French press: Bodum CHAMBORD. Mug: CB2, similar. Round cutting board: The Painted Swan. Rectangle cutting board: PW Short General Store. Recipe tin: Rifle Paper Co.. Room scent warmer: Scentsy (old), similar.
On holiday traditions: Ellen: If we’re in New York during a big holiday, we usually have friends over to celebrate. One Christmas, we made a big prime rib with mashed potatoes. We do all our southern casseroles, filled with cheese, and lots of pies. I make my grandmother’s chocolate pie and my mom’s strawberry and cream pie. My mom does this fruit jello with sour cream that she calls a salad. We miss those big dinners from home, so we’ve tried to mimic that here. We lined the counters with casseroles and we got extra chairs and had desserts on tables in the bedroom and just made room! I’m already planning where to put the Christmas tree this year. One of our favorite stores is Yesterday’s News, where I got some beautiful vintage ornaments.
On a favorite custom build: Ellen: Sometimes I’ll get an idea and ask Darrell if he can build something, but this coffee bar was an original piece that just came to him.
Darrell: We needed something on this wall in the kitchen but didn’t have anything that would work. I worked in food and beverage for a long time, so these are just cast-iron table bases from a restaurant supply store, and I found the antique oak flooring from the building where I used to work, and we got the stone from a marble guy in Gowanus.
On the perfect quilt: Ellen: I love handmade quilts, and I’m always looking on quilt sites like, ‘Darrell! It’s time to buy another quilt!’ My favorite places to look are Quilt Queen Studio and Stitched & Found. My cousin’s grandmother hand-looms her quilts and I want to learn so badly from her.
On the best meet-cute: Darrell: We grew up a town apart and went to the same college and even had some of the same friends, but never met. After college, Ellen was nursing in New York and I was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We both came home for Christmas break and went out with friends; Ellen’s friend introduced us and then we started hanging out every day. When Ellen returned to New York, I went back to Baton Rouge, quit my job and packed up all my stuff. It was wild. I remember telling my mom, ‘First of all, I got all my stuff in the truck, I’m not in Baton Rouge anymore, and also I’ve bought a one-way ticket to New York and I’m gonna go see this girl I met three weeks ago,’ and that was it! We knew from the very beginning, and I was never one of those people who believed in that, but it happened.
Thank you, Ellen and Darrell!
P.S. More home tours, including a downsized dream home in Sacramento and a book-filled Manhattan apartment where everything tells a story.
(Photos by Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo.)