February 26, 2024

For These NY Filmmakers, a New Headquarters Gleams as Brightly as Their Oscar Statuettes

While watching the new Netflix film Nyad, which chronicles long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad’s 2013 attempt to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, designer Britt Zunino spotted her client. Not Annette Bening, the film’s Oscar-nominated star, but rather its directors, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. The giveaway? The neon pink title credits. “I could see [Vasarhelyi’s] hand,” Britt says.

Zunino is, at this point, something of an expert on Vasarhelyi and Chin’s tastes. She and her husband, Damian, principals of the architecture and interiors firm Studio DB, designed the couple’s New York City residence and have known them socially for years.

As Vasarhelyi and Chin’s production studio, Little Monster Films, continued to grow and garnish accolades (among them, the Academy Award–winning documentary Free Solo), the need for a new headquarters became pressing. “We had been in the same space for 22 years, and finally it just didn’t make sense anymore,” says Vasarhelyi.

The pair purchased a more central office space in Lower Manhattan (an easier commute for younger staffers living in Brooklyn) and briefed Studio DB on their myriad needs: a large screening space, soundproof editing suites, and communal areas that could encourage collaboration. On top of all that, the project had to combine Vasarhelyi and Chin’s disparate tastes in decorating: she’s a maximalist; he’s an avowed minimalist. “I wanted a playful space where the talent we work with would feel cherished and appreciated, because we’re lucky to do the work that we do,” says Vasarhelyi.

The 7,000-square foot space marries both filmmakers’ aesthetic proclivities and ties them up in a sophisticated bow. As soon as you step inside the wood-clad entry hall (the panels elegantly mask equipment and storage), you are greeted by a custom-built banquette, whose gold wallpaper backdrop conjures the sheen of an Oscar statuette. Glass-paneled pocket doors allow light from the exterior rooms into the central spaces, while furnishings have a more residential feel. Corridors are lined with posters and ephemera from the studio’s projects, while other upcycled materials—like repurposed stone tabletops and seating upholstered in unused fabric remnants from the couple’s apartment—also make an appearance.

The office’s pièce de résistance is the screening room, a luxury to have in-house, made all the more so by Studio DB’s incorporation of vintage Carlo Scarpa theater chairs (sourced at auction from Rome), some of which are upholstered in a House of Hackney floral with lumbar pillows in a Dedar fabric. “Projects like this are really fun for us, because we get to learn something new,” says Zunino.

“I feel really lucky to have found creative partners in a different genre,” Vasarhelyi adds.

Featured collection: Wanderlust in colorway in Haven and Eden in Mulberry.