A Tribeca Loft With African Touches and Lots of Light


The Ghana-born, London-raised interior designer Nina Barnieh Blair and her British husband moved from London to New York in 2007. They found a 2,000-square-foot loft in a grand, cast-iron building from 1861 on White Street in Tribeca that had everything going for it — except light.

“We fell in love with the building,” says Barnieh Blair, “but we needed light!” It was 2007, right before the market crashed, when she and her then-boyfriend (now her husband), Magnus Blair, were trying to decide if they would make a permanent move from London. Seeing this loft space helped seal the deal, in spite of the fact that it needed a total rehaul. “We lived in it for about four years before we did the renovation,” Barnieh Blair says. When the couple finally got around to it, the overhaul involved first taking down awkward partitions and walls.

Today the loft is filled with bright color and a blend of African and Scandinavian influences. Donna Wilson’s hand-knitted Motley ottoman, seen above, picks up the colors from an abstract painting (not shown) by 20th-­century Ghanaian artist Ablade Glover, and Blair’s collection of African Dutch wax-print cushions add even more texture. An Arco lamp hangs over the B&B Italia sofa, and a pair of chairs by Jorge Zalszupin from Espasso add a touch of Brazilian mid-century modern, as does a red Poltrona Frau sofa.

Vitsoe Shelving lines the library, just beyond the living-room area, and an original Eames lounge chair adds to the leisurely vibe. A Florence Knoll credenza for storage is topped with a black vase from South African woodturner Andrew Early. The black-and-white rug from Nanimarquina pulls the corner together. Photo: Amy Barkow/Barkow Photo
The biggest design feat was opening up the outdated kitchen, which had been boxed in behind a wall, hiding the beautiful original Corinthian columns. The elegant result is a pristine painted-glass white kitchen from Valcucine. The ceiling was dropped to delineate the space from the rest of the open floor. Photo: Amy Barkow/Barkow Photo
Beyond the library, Barnieh Blair put B&B Italia’s Athos table for the family to gather round for meals and entertaining. Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chairs, a classic Eames La Chaise chair, and a colorful Andy Warhol Volkswagen print punctuate the space. Photo: Amy Barkow/Barkow Photo
The welcoming corner guest room has Tom Dixon Mirror Ball lights hanging on each side of the Flou Italia bed. Photo: Amy Barkow/Barkow Photo
The renovation expanded the master bath by forfeiting an awkward closet. Lee Broom’s Crescent light hangs above the Wetstyle bathtub. The Ashanti stool was a wedding gift from Barnieh Blair’s family. Photo: Amy Barkow/Barkow Photo
The master bedroom is a quiet retreat with handmade indigo pillows originally from Mali but bought in Brooklyn, Ingo Maurer lights by the bed, and a Norman Cherner chair paired with a mid-century-modern desk found on eBay. Philippe Starck’s Caadre mirror stands against the wall, and a Light Shade by MOOOI hangs by the entrance. Photo: Amy Barkow/Barkow Photo
A Tribeca Loft With African Touches and Lots of Light