The Warmth of the Caribbean in a Brooklyn Duplex

turquoise living room with goldenrod velvet sofa, brown sofa, and colorful painted portraits on walls

A report by Shoko Wanger with photos by Max Burkhalter for Architectural Digest.Click on the link for the original report and more photos.

The turquoise front door—offset by white brick and a flight of yellow stairs—is the first indication of what’s to come at Malene Barnett’s home in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. “I wanted to set the tone before you even walk in,” she says. “So that you know right away this is something very different on the block.” Mission accomplished. On the other side of that eye-catching façade is a home drenched in color, with floors stained a bright teal, an interior staircase in burning orange, and the master bedroom cloaked in a soothing, sleep-inducing lavender. “I wanted my home to reflect my Caribbean heritage,” says the designer, whose multidisciplinary business, Malene B, specializes in textiles, fine art, and sculpture. “The color palette you see here is in sync with one you’d find there.”

While her Caribbean background has played a pivotal role in the direction of her home’s design, Malene, an avid traveler, has peppered the space with art and objects that carry stories of the 20-plus countries she’s visited over the span of her career: glass paintings from Senegal, clay vases from Colombia, metalwork from Nepal, a birthing chair from West Africa.

woman smiling in kitchen
Malene holds court in her favorite room in the house. “I don’t feel a kitchen is just for cooking,” she says. “I like to display art that I’ve collected during my travels in addition to books—and not just books about cooking, either. I want whoever’s there to feel stimulated and inspired in different ways.”

Interspersed throughout are items from places closer to home—some passed down from family members, others salvaged from secondhand stores or handpicked from the designer’s own product offering. (Likely to be added next: pieces from her forthcoming collection of handmade clay vessels, inspired by house decorations painted by women in northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania.)

Though varied, the mix of colors, textures, and artwork appears effortless—and, according to Malene, it is. “I don’t ever have to worry: Does this color match? Is this going to go with that?” she says. “I have so many colors in the space, everything matches.” Keep scrolling to see the full range of hues in this kaleidoscopic home.

light blue kitchen with white cabinets and island
“When I go to the market in the Caribbean or in West Africa, it’s always an open type of environment, with baskets of food and artifacts on display. I wanted to have that same feeling here, so there are no upper cabinets—just open shelves,” says Malene of the kitchen.
red upholstered chair with chrome arms pulled up to wood table; inset shelves in wall with art
In the dining area, built-in shelving serves as a display case of sorts for the designer’s extensive art collection, which includes a treasured set of Senegalese glass paintings.
lavender bedroom with golden yellow upholstered bed and carved wood console
The centerpiece of Malene’s bedroom is a custom-upholstered West Elm bed. “Generally people turn to neutral colors when it comes to beds,” she says. “And it’s funny, they sent me the wrong bed at first—it was gray, and I thought, I can’t live with this. I just can’t do it.”
mosaic tile bathroom through lavender sliding doors
Pocket doors—lavender on one side, hot pink on the other—connect the bedroom to the master bath.Photo: 

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