Due Diligence

Designer Jarret Yoshida lives in a former 'crack house,' thinks New York rewards those who are persistent

Jarret Yoshida, and an apartment he recently designed near the High Line.

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Interior designer Jarret Yoshida is known for evoking a feeling of accessible indulgence. Yoshida, who just completed work on an apartment on the High Line (see photo below), grew up in Hawaii and draws inspiration from Japanese aesthetics.

He has studied at the Corcoran Gallery School in Washington, DC, Parsons and FIT in New York and, most recently, the École des Beaux Arts et Décoratifs in Paris. After apprenticing with a well-known designer, he founded Jarret Yoshida Designs in 2002. His firm now works on projects ranging from individual homes to a 700-unit vacation complex. Here's what he had to say about sticking it out in NYC and living in a 120-year-old former crack house in Brooklyn.

1. What neighborhood do you live in?

I live in Bed-Stuy or as long-term residents know it, Bedford-Stuyvesant.

2. Is this your dream neighborhood or is there someplace else in NYC you’d prefer to settle in?

I sometimes wish I lived in other neighborhoods for different reasons, but it depends on the day and what I am in the mood to eat!   

3. Do you own or rent?

I own a brownstone that was most recently a crack house and then abandoned.  It was all I could afford, but I am glad I had the vision to think ahead.

4. How’d you find it?

Craigslist. When we moved here, there was no multiple listing service.  There was no heat, no front doors, and I came to find burst pipes so imagine me scraping ice off linoleum floors in 20-degree weather.   

5. What’s the one thing you love most about it?

 The age. It is at least 120 years old.  You can’t buy this kind of detail.

6. If there’s one thing you could change about your apartment, what would it be?

The age. It is at least 120 years old. You have to buy a lot of help to fix up something 120 years old. Imagine roof issues, sewer line problems, electrical drama…

7. In three words, describe the first apartment you've ever lived in.

Homogenous, banal, exciting.

8. Do you prefer old NYC or this NYC?

Old NYC had way too many horses and poop on the streets. And cholera. The new New York is so much better. 

9. Tell us about your favorite apartment you’ve ever had.

I lived six blocks from the U.S. Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in a prewar building called the Linville. It was the first apartment I owned and came replete with quarter-cut Southern pine heartwood floors in the most amazing caramel orange color, beautiful light, and prewar details. I still miss it.

10. And the worst?

USC dorm housing in South Central Los Angeles during the '80s that came fully loaded with horrible brown shag carpeting that was only eclipsed by the random gunfire and drug-fueled violence of the neighborhood.

11. Name one NYC service you couldn’t live without.

The subway. I could not work the way I do without reliable transportation that I can work on while heading to a showroom or a client’s apartment.  

12. What's your favorite spot in the city?

My backyard. I am from Hawaii and having a green lawn 20 minutes from the Financial District is the ultimate luxury for me so I can remain connected somewhat with nature.

13. Which would you rather: Brooklyn brownstone or a penthouse in a shiny, new condo?

Can I have both? Weekend brownstone and then the penthouse for the work week.   

14. If you could live elsewhere, where would it be? 

Florence. Italy understands the relationship between humanity and architecture in the most breathtaking way. Classic architecture there feels elegant without trying hard. I think I’ve been there five times now and each visit still blows me away. 

15. Any advice for a recent New York transplant?

DO NOT GIVE UP.  New York rewards people who are optimistic and persistent.  Stick it out and you will be rewarded like I have. I am from an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. If I can do it, you can, too!

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