Kylin O'Brien and Neil Redding's live-work loft is the kind of place that everyone thinks no longer exists in DUMBO, but their building actually houses six awesome spaces for creative professionals like O'Brien and Redding. The white walls of the high-ceilinged living room and studio are covered in Kylin's original paintings, collages and prints, many of which incorporate her daughter's and other children's drawings. Having spent a good deal of time in their home (Full disclosure: they're friends) I can assure you that no significant tidying happened before the photos were taken—it's always as immaculate and peaceful. Both Neil and Kylin are able to work from home often; with a space this beautiful, how could they not?
Brooklyn Magazine: The light up here is awesome! What's the exposure?
Kylin O'Brien: Indirect from the north plus the skylights. I could use more direct sun, but maybe that would make it too hot in the summer. I’m like a cat and seek out warm spots. Especially in the winter.
Neil Redding: About 2,000.
What is your favorite design element in the space?
Kylin: The skylights. I love skylights. Also, I built that huge kitchen table because I wanted to have dinner parties. But I don’t like to cook. So, still not so many dinner parties.
Neil: I also love the light up here reflected from neighboring buildings and the skylights. It's mysterious and enchanting.
Any weird quirks about the space or the building?
Kylin: Where to start? It’s an old factory loft built out by the artist and owner. Quirks abound. As for the building, well, it’s obviously crumbling.
Neil: There's a brush factory on the first two floors. They've been there since the dark days.
So, this space is definitely the unicorn of Brooklyn apartments—a beautiful live-work loft in DUMBO that a family of artists can afford. Every Brooklynite wants to know. How did you come to live here?
Kylin: We are the luckiest people. That and maybe some good Feng Shui karma. I nerd out over my spaces. I make them as beautiful as possible and take great care of things, often improving them. I think the gods of home look out for us and our landlords and bring us together. We were getting priced out of our first DUMBO loft and were resigned to having to leave the neighborhood. One of our friends, artist and bon vivant, John Ensor Parker, tells Neil “No you can’t leave. I will find you a place.” I thought that was super sweet, but delusional. Alas, he DID find us a place. This place. Did I mention we are the luckiest people? Affordable artist’s lofts in DUMBO don’t actually exist. This place, it is not real. I am dreaming.
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What do you lucky people fill your days doing up here?
Neil: I fill my days dreaming in between strategy and technology work for agencies and brands. Sometimes the dreams take musical shape, more often they manifest as words, and most often they are beyond articulation. I motorcycle when I can, and always want more of it—especially off road. I notice mushrooms everywhere and my most exciting dreams are about bringing them into new edible forms accessible to everyone.
Kylin: I’m an artist as well as a holistic well-being and Feng Shui consultant.
And your daughter Bey? What is she up to?
Kylin: She’s totally at home amidst all the art and excitement of the city. She goes to a rock and roll camp for girls in the summer, and over the last year she's been performing in the city. Recently, she met Chuck Close and he just sent her a signed book and drew a picture of her in it. I just hope we’re exemplifying grounded values for her, so she becomes fulfilled no matter what. Being useful and compassionate, these are attributes that bring true success, in my experience. I hope she lives to know that kind of deep, peaceful truth—in addition to having a rockin’ good time. I couldn’t love her more. I am so grateful she is in my life.
How long have you lived in New York?
Kylin: Was born here! But have lived all over. Came back in 2004. Neil is that right?
Where else have you lived?
Kylin: Well I have moved almost every two years since I was 14… Do you really want the list? Highlights include: Miami, The Outer Banks of North Carolina, San Francisco, Yorkshire, Amsterdam and West Bengal, India.
What's the best part about the neighborhood?
Neil: DUMBO melds multiple eras, it's a quintessentially New York place that feels like nowhere else. The bridges create cathedral-like public spaces, the towering aging brick and concrete factories connected with the decaying sinews of rail transport to and from the river, there's a unique blend of grandeur and intimacy that I love even more deeply now after five years than when I first arrived. It was love at first sight back then, a Gotham-ish Saturday night with rain pouring from the Manhattan Bridge and the warm glow of Superfine beckoning us inside. Over time the rough beauty, the narrow river bringing us within a stone's throw of the dark island and the mysterious unknownness of the neighborhood to most New Yorkers have utterly seduced me, to the point where I feel profound joy many days upon my return home.
Kylin: We call it DUMBO village. Everybody knows everybody and people are super interesting and diverse. Bey has been able to roam around the neighborhood on her own since she was in sixth grade. Our neighbors and local business owners look out for her and we know it and are grateful. The artistic legacy also lives on here and there is interesting cultural whatnot and people around all the time. And then of course the views from the water. If you ever want to feel grandiose about living in New York, it’s a great place to do that. Also, I walk all the time, so being just a bridge away from Manhattan is great... Plus, the bridges are so architecturally lovely I can’t really complain about the train noise.