Photography by Eric Isaac

Jeff Johnson & Lotte van Velzen

Designer, The Arrivals | Interior Designer

| Clinton Hill

Though newlyweds Lotte van Velzen and Jeff Johnson now call Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill “home,” it was in the Netherlands that the two first met. Johnson, who grew up in San Diego, landed in Amsterdam to put his Masters in architecture to use; Dutch native van Velzen was living in the city pursuing interior design (plus, branding, industrial and furniture design and art direction… no biggie). But whereas some couples may struggle with too many shared interests (designers in particular), they seemed to spitball off of one another— their visions becoming more dynamic and awe-inspiring when combined. (Case in point: the couple’s larger-than-life white balloon installation they conceptualized, designed and built together for their recent wedding.) Their decision to lay roots in Brooklyn came about via The Arrivals, Johnson’s made-in-NY, architectural answer to fashion— specifically, to superior unisex outerwear. Co-founding the direct-to-consumer online label with serial investor Kal Vepuri (how does a former investment portfolio of Reformation, Warby Parker and Sweetgreen stack up for ya?), Johnson serves as Creative Director meaning he’s the guy you can thank for The Arrivals’ highly functional, highly affordable retro-meets-modern layers (think athleisure bombers, leather and denim jackets, and winter parkas made by the same artisans A.P.C. uses, but at a fraction of the price). Though van Velzen is currently full-time at WeWork where she designs interiors for their HQ locations worldwide, the insanely creative couple still puts their heads together for projects like The Arrivals’ seasonal pop-up shops (interiors are, of course, designed by van Velzen). But, like they say, two heads are better than one. Here, they sits down with CITIPHILE to reveal their little black books on NYC.

NEIGHBORHOOD STANDBY: L: Colonia Verde on Dekalb (MAP ITBOOK ITx). They are famous for their steak (which is delicious), but I often go for their vegetarian arepas. They also have a very romantic garden where Jeff and I had our rehearsal dinner for our wedding.

COFFEE OR TEA: L: Coffee from any corner deli because I love a good cup of mediocre drip coffee.
J: Definitely coffee at Sweatshop (MAP IT, x), an understated Aussie-run coffee shop with consistently perfect espresso, small bites and a minimal Scandinavian interior. It’s the perfect weekend pit-stop for long days out in Brooklyn.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE RESTAURANT: L: De Maria (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x) is one of my favorites— it’s a greatly designed place with good vibes and amazing food and drinks. I recommend trying all of their small sizes plates, but some of my favorites are the ceviche and the chickpea fritters.
J: Uncle Boons (MAP ITBOOK ITx)— the authentic little Northern Thai spot tucked away in Nolita— is definitely at the top of my list..Their “Yum Kai Has Pli” (spicy rotisserie chicken with banana blossom and roasted chili) is wickedly hot, but extremely delicious.

COCKTAIL DE LA NUIT: L: An Aperol spritz at Sel Rrose on Bowery and Delancey (MAP ITx) because they have sidewalk seating. It’s a hectic corner, but that’s the charm of the city. I grew up in the Netherlands and drinking outside on a terrace is part of the culture; everyone loves it.
J: Anything with mezcal. Having left Amsterdam four years ago, one of the things I miss most is that nearly every restaurant in Amsterdam had a picture perfect terrace out front to soak up a bit of the street life while grabbing a drink after a long day of work. Café Select (MAP ITx)— down on Lafayette and Kenmare— is one of the few NYC cafés with outdoor seating (it has a street-facing, open-air facade facing Lafayette). On top of that, they have a perfect selection of Swiss Austrian pilsners on tap.

DINNER WITH FRIENDS: L: Roberta’s pizza in Bushwick (MAP ITx).

WHERE TO BRING OUT-OF-TOWNERS: L: Our neighborhood. We can walk Fort Greene Park, get coffee at BitterSweet (MAP IT, x), grab dinner at the newly-opened Miss Ada (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x) and finish with a cocktail at Dick and Jane’s (MAP IT, x).
J: Living in NYC, there are typically two types of friends that like to visit: the ones that want to do the “Big Apple” (i.e. Time Square, The Empire State Building, Central Park) and the ones that want to explore an “undiscovered NYC.” For the former, I’ll kindly escort them into the nearest dirty taxi and wave goodbye as they’re whisked away to brave the streets of Midtown. For the latter, I’ll put us on Citi bikes and head up to Greenpoint to wander between bespoke boutiques, family-owned, Polish delis serving handmade perogis and hip, little coffee shops to keep the caffeine buzz going. If we’re feeling extra ambitious, we’ll ride over the Polaski Bridge to check out PS1’s latest exhibition.

MUSIC PICK: L: The Lot Radio in Williamsburg (MAP ITx). It’s basically an empty lot with a shipping container that is used to broadcast live radio. They always have good djs playing (electronic music, mainly).
J: I’m an absolute music junkie so its hard to say I have one favorite genre. In The Arrivals studio, we typically listen to a mix of minimal house with some hip-hop sprinkled in. After hours and on the weekends, I’m obsessed with listening to folk music (I like to pretend I’m in a remote cabin somewhere outside of NYC’s urban enclave). Barrio Chino (MAP ITx)— an amazing little Mexican spot down in Chinatown— always has the perfect playlist to compliment the energy of night, plus it has the best bistec tacos and habañero margaritas!

BEST BRUNCH: L: Glasserie in Greenpoint (MAP ITBOOK ITx). They serve a table-filling feast of Mediterranean-meets-Middle Eastern food for brunch.

J: Toby’s Estate in Williamsburg (MAP IT, x) is amazing for people watching. If you can find a spot on the large bench out front, take it! You’ll see every hipster walk-of-life that Brooklyn has to offer within the span of an hour… Their coffee is great too!

HEALTHY STAPLE: L: Avocado toast at Café Gitane in SoHo (MAP ITx).
I’m a regular at Sweetgreen (MAP IT, x). The “Warm Earth” bowl is seriously tasty and always a solid option when I’m looking for a healthier bite.

GUILTY PLEASURE: L: Doughnuts from Peter Pan in Greenpoint (MAP IT, x).
J: Tía Pol (MAP ITBOOK ITx) might be my all-time favorite tapas place that I’ve ever been to. Everything they do is absolutely delicious and pairs perfectly with their selection of Spanish red [wine]. It’s definitely not the healthiest spot, but if you’re looking for next level tapas, this is the place!

REGULAR AT: L: I hang out in The Strand bookstore (MAP ITx) whenever I get a chance. It’s a labyrinth where you forget what time it is or where you are.
J: There’s a little coffee shop in Union Square called Le Cafe (MAP IT, x) where I grab a coffee every morning on my way into the studio. It’s not the trendiest coffee shop, but what I particularly love about this spot is the energy of the baristas, Don and Darius. Walking in at 8 am, you can expect to hear ‘90s alternative rock playing just a few clicks too loud for the morning commute while Don or Darius dance behind the counter, lip-syncing Nirvana and using the milk steamer as an air-guitar… All, of course, while pouring perfect espressos and sending everyone on their way with a smile. Huge props to them for the morning laughs and killer coffee!

DATE NIGHT STANDBY: L: Our living room with a good bottle of wine, lots of cheese and bread…

DELIVERY GO-TO: L: Castro’s (MAP IT, ORDER IT, x) is our go-to Mexican takeout spot– it’s nothing fancy, but the enchiladas verde with chicken and black beans are so good.

GO-TO GETAWAY: L: We usually go to a new place when we are able to get out of the city. With me being from Amsterdam and Jeff from San Diego, we visit these places quite often to see family. Our next trip will be our honeymoon in December. We are planning to visit Argentina, Patagonia (for the nature) and Buenos Aires (for the culture). One hotel that caught my eye and that I would love to visit [while there] is Aguas Arriba Lodge in Patagonia (MAP IT, x). It’s a wood lodge with the most beautiful views of the mountains and lakes of Patagonia.

TO RELAX AND UNWIND: L: Bike ride to Fort Tilden beach.

CLOSET CHECK: L: I have a pretty simple style— reduced and minimal. I feel comfortable in black and solid colors. I like to go to stores like COS (MAP IT), Acne (MAP IT) and Bird (MAP IT, x).
J: My personal style could be classified as a monochromatic uniform. I’m a creature of habit and the less morning decisions I have to make about how I’m going to present myself, the better. My closet is filled with way too many pairs of black or navy trousers which I usually pair with a white or black (typically oversized) tee, Y-3 sneakers and my ARRIVALS Lautner LMTD jacket.

BEST HOME DÉCOR: L: I’m an interior designer and when Jeff and I moved out from Amsterdam to New York in 2013, we didn’t ship any furniture over. We started out with a very empty apartment which is actually exactly how I like it. We bought a bunch of plants, a rug and a low table (we like to sit on the ground). But it’s hard to keep the house this empty; you gather a lot of stuff over the years. We have a combination of new and vintage furniture bought from flea markets.

BEST HOST/HOSTESS GIFTS: L: I’ll stop by any flower shop; I love bringing flowers as a gift.

GIFTS FOR HIM: L: I got Jeff a bracelet from Miansai recently.

GIFTS FOR HER: J: Sincerely, Tommy (MAP IT, x). It’s a small boutique in Bed-Stuy with an elevated edit of apparel and accessories (plus a small coffee shop inside). It feels like a design oasis within an up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood. 

FIT PICK: L: I like to combine barre classes at Equinox (MAP IT, x) with long rides on my road bike. The road biking is something I adopted from Jeff— he is the pro; I try to keep up. I do spin classes in winter too.
J: I bike 10 miles for my commute to work every day from Brooklyn. On the weekends, I’ll go for long distance bike rides up 9W to Nyak.

BEAUTY/GROOMING BLACK BOOK: L: Getting a haircut is a treat for me– something nice I do for myself. I like to go to this Japanese place in Williamsburg called Commune at Krasi (MAP IT, x). It’s such an oasis of peace and quiet, and they give great head massages when washing your hair.
Derek at Fellow Barber in Williamsburg (MAP IT, x). It’s a great classic barber shop.

ULTIMATE NY MOMENT: L: NYC is a place where the unexpected happens. There are so many moments where I’ve ended up in a place that was completely new and surprising to me– whether it was one of our first nights out in the city, finding myself at ‘The Box’ for a burlesque show, going to ‘C’mon Everybody’ in Bed-Stuy where drag king, Murray Hill hosts a bingo night or biking out to the Rockaways and ending up eating great tacos in a hidden courtyard at Rockaway Beach Club…
NYC has always represented a place of spontaneity, where plans are easily and often overlooked for an opportunity to re-write the script. These moments happen on a daily basis, ranging from a text message on a quiet Wednesday night about a private Hot Chip concert that I have to get to ASAP to foregoing a dinner reservation because you passed by a ramen spot that looked way too good not to try. CP

Jeff & Lotte’s New York

From L to R: First Row: Inside Colonia Verde; Turmeric yogurt at De Maria; Inside De Maria; Outerwear by The Arrivals. Second Row: Peter Pan donuts; Womenswear at Bird; Sweatshop coffee; Flower market blooms.


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