The Roots' guitarist on finding sanctuary in Brooklyn

(What I Love): NEW YORK — Four years ago, when the Grammy Award-winning guitarist “Captain” Kirk Douglas began scouting new quarters for his family, he didn’t have to look long and he didn’t have to go far. There was a three-bedroom apartment a few floors up and several doors over from the one-bedroom rental he shared with his wife, Charlotte Holst Douglas, a clothing designer, and the couple’s children, Jaden and Uma, who are now 14 and 11.

The Roots' guitarist on finding sanctuary in Brooklyn

“It doesn’t take much after having two kids for the walls to start feeling like they’re closing in on you,” said Douglas, 46, a member of the Roots, the hip-hop house band for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” “When this apartment opened up, it was exactly what we wanted.”

No need for Douglas to move out of his beloved Brooklyn neighborhood? A view of Prospect Park that makes him feel as if he were living in a treehouse? Neighbors who never complain about the strumming and thrumming of his six string? If this is a dream, please don’t wake him.

“I love the central-ness of where we live,” said Douglas, whose first solo album, “Turbulent Times,” recorded under the name Hundred Watt Heart, was released at the end of May. “I’m a member of the Park Slope Food Co-op. I love being close to the Brooklyn Museum. I love being close to the Botanic Garden. I love being able to take a Saturday and hit the places I love to go, on foot. I love being a half-hour from 30 Rock, where I have to be four days a week. Convenience is kind of high on my priority list.”

At home, art is what’s high on the priority list. “Essentially, me and my wife — we’re both artists,” Douglas said. “So it’s important for us to look around and feel inspired by the things that are on the wall.”

He pointed those things out one by one: a mixed-media likeness of Jimi Hendrix, a gift from its creator, Paul Gerben; a portrait of Assata Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army, by Sophia Dawson; and a few works by Charlotta Janssen, among them a collage that incorporates photos of Douglas’ family.

“One of the first things I did when I was able to do more than just pay my rent was to frame the art I’d had for a long time,” Douglas said.

Sentimental favorites include a pair of very large cardboard unicorns, props for a segment on “The Tonight Show” that he rescued from the trash and brought home as a keepsake for his daughter, and a three-dimensional likeness of the three bears that has followed Douglas since infancy.

“I could probably find a photo of me on my changing table getting a new diaper with that same painting over my head,” he said. “Now I have my own children, and we’ll be having dinner, then I look up and there’s that picture again!”

The increased square footage has been a boon, of course. Finally, there is sufficient space for the large, reclaimed-wood coffee table that was responsible for so many bruised shins in the previous apartment. Douglas and Holst Douglas, who have been married for 17 years, now have a dedicated, if shared, space for making clothes and making music.

“It allows us to be productive in our home, and I think it inspires our kids to see it,” Douglas said. Also, they can actually use the leaves that came with the Formica-topped table they bought for a song at Housing Works.

“We were there trying to furnish the apartment, and we saw a pile of clothes,” Douglas recalled. “Then we looked at the table under the pile, and said, ‘How do we get this?’ The sales people said it was just for displaying stuff, and they offered it to us for something super cheap.”

Many people talk about their home as a haven. Douglas takes it a step further, repeatedly — and very earnestly — calling his home a sanctuary. “This is the incubator for what we do creatively,” he said. “This is the place where we can be ourselves completely.”

Here, songs are composed and played. Here, leather is shaped into corsets and men’s coats. Here, meditation is practiced early every morning. Here, sometimes, the Douglases host a sound bath, which uses an assortment of instruments — in this case, a very large gong from the cymbal manufacturer Zildjian — to calm the nervous system, or so adherents believe. On such occasions, the living room is cleared to make room for participants to lie down and take in the vibrations.

“I joke that this is the house of migrating furniture,” Douglas said. “If we have guests for dinner, we’ll move the kitchen table to the foyer, and we’ll sometimes leave it out there for a month because there’s a better view from the living room windows. If, because of the gong bath, we move the couch to the foyer, we let it stay there for weeks.”

That sofa, a Jennifer convertible, has its own special history as an object of creativity. Upholstered in white leather, it proved irresistible to Uma when she was a toddler armed with a box of crayons. Douglas’ first reaction to his daughter’s choice of canvas: “Oh, no” (and maybe a few stronger words). His second reaction: We need a new sofa. His third reaction: We just need a new cover for the sofa.

The very skilled and unflappable Holst Douglas took on the project — no small job — and reupholstered it in a faux-alligator fabric.

The sofa still folds out. It still sleeps two. But now it’s so much more, Douglas said: “It’s a thing of beauty and a testament to my wife’s artistry. I walk into our home, I see that couch and I’m inspired.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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