After studying neuroscience and art history at Tufts University, Ellen Van Dusen launched Dusen Dusen, a clothing and textiles line known for its lively original prints and creative use of color.
Two years ago, she found her perfect Brooklyn home, an 1899 brownstone loaded with original character but not totally falling apart. “I saw a lot of cool old places, but didn’t want to get into a major renovation,” she says. “This place needed work but it was still livable, so I went for it.” Then there were electrical issues, followed by plumbing problems, followed by a major renovation. Fortunately for this designer, her parents are architects.
When it was done, she had a safer apartment, improved layout, new kitchen – with cabinets CNC-routed with one of her patterns – and plenty of space for playing with color. “I wanted to have a little oasis that just felt very me and comfortable.”
Walking in, the first thing you notice are doorknobs painted like eyes. Then you see a 7-foot-tall red tulip, a black-and-white dog with a massive stuffed pink pig in her mouth and bright yellow and green bookshelves. Custom made by her friend Sam Keene, the shelves also help hide a TV, which pops out of the top via an interior shelf on a piston lift. Ellen designed the circle and square pattern, which also appears on one of her towels for DWR.
In both her work and home, Ellen uses bold patterns, blocky shapes and fun color combinations. “I like pairing an intense version of a color with a mellow version of another color,” she says. “I’m very inspired by the artist Anne Truitt. The way she used colors and wrote about colors is unbelievable.”
Other inspirations include midcentury architecture, Scandinavian textiles and anything that catches her eye. “I’m constantly taking pictures of things I like. Then I’ll look for the common thread in them and use that to create something new.”