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This Staten Island Renovation Blends Family History and Contemporary Cool

September 14, 2023

Designer Williams Martinez turned his late in-laws' traditional Staten Island home into a charismatic, artistic new space that celebrates his husband's childhood memories, his own Venezuelan history and the new story they're writing together. This before-and-after is overflowing with style and soul.

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Photo: Venjhamin Reyes Photography

A Family Tree Grows in Staten Island

Designer Williams Martinez and his Staten Island home go way, way back. Completed in 1967, it welcomed a clan that would build their lives there for the next half century. “My husband and his family moved in when it was finished, so it’s been in the family for over 56 years,” Williams says.

That said, his decision to write its next chapter was a plot twist. The property is a two-family home that comprises a second-floor unit and a first-floor-plus-finished-basement unit. “We were living in the second-floor unit while caring for the best mother-in-law I could have asked for,” Williams recalls. “After her passing, we talked about where we wanted to move. We considered all options, and I presented the idea of buying the house from the estate. My husband was very reluctant at first but in the end, we both thought it was the best decision since we both love the house and neighborhood so much.”

They knew that making the house their home would involve both sweeping changes and grounding personal touches that celebrate Williams’s childhood in Venezuela, his husband’s history in New York and the life they’ve built together. Come on in for an unforgettable introduction to their beautifully blended family.

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Photo: Williams Martinez

Before: The Living Room

Williams and his husband are fond of entertaining, and they undertook renovation with an eye to creating the perfect home for themselves, their favorite people and their art collection. That meant combining practical characteristics of the galleries they love to visit with the aesthetic they’ve developed as a couple.

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Photo: Venjhamin Reyes Photography

After: The Living Room

The showstopping leather sectional was the first piece Williams selected for the living room. “This piece we saw and bought in Florida while I was still living there right before I moved to New York,” he explains. It took six months to arrive, but it was well worth the wait: “We love it so much, and we spend most of our time here [in the living room].”

Williams’s thoughtful updates have been a resounding success. “People love our home; they feel it is comfortable and inviting. Friends and family who knew the house before are the ones that get the most enjoyment out of seeing the changes that we made,” he says.

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Photo: Venjhamin Reyes Photography

Dramatic Photography and a Sculptural Plant Welcome Guests

The massive photo to the right of the front door sets the tone for the home beyond it. “Both of us have admired Peter Lik’s work, and when we saw ‘The Sentinel’ [an image of the Manhattan Bridge] and ‘Emerald Mist' [a Coney Island photo in their bedroom] — both iconic New York landmarks — we knew we had to have them, personally as a lover of New York and [for] my husband as a native New Yorker,” Williams says.

The leafy greeter beyond it, in turn, is a mainstay of Williams’s designs. “I always like to bring greenery to the spaces I design. In this case, we fell in love with a seven-foot Golden Pothos. Perfect for that corner!”

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