When Adam Kopelman moved to Manhattan last year after divorcing from his wife of eight years he had one piece of furniture: a couch.
It was a perfectly nice couch — handsome, comfortable, good for sleeping on and great for watching the game. Still, Kopelman, 30, had an entire 700-square-foot apartment to outfit and he had no idea where to begin.
“I met my ex-wife in college and, you know, every place we moved, she was always the person who designed it,” said Kopelman, who works in legal services and has three children.
Now, in his new place — a one-bedroom condo at One Manhattan Square next to the Manhattan bridge (where one-bedroom prices start at just over $1 million) — he was confronting the mysteries of the decorative arts for the first time.
“I didn’t really have a clue of what I needed,” he said. “It was a little overwhelming.”
Help arrived via a tip from a single dad friend, who had recently faced a similar enigma.
“I was telling him, ‘dude, I came here with a couch, I don’t know what to do,’ ” Kopelman said. “And he was like, I’ve got the perfect person for you.”
That person was designer Stacey Herman, the founder of Stripe Street Studio, a home design firm that specializes in divorced dads.
Formerly an event producer and manager for outfits including Vanity Fair and Elle Décor, Herman, 50, started an interior design firm, Fluid Design + Relocation, in 2015 that specialized in décor for private homes and custom pieces for corporate clients. Last year, she shifted focus, to help clueless dudes get their acts together.
“It really started when a couple of divorced dads approached me [for design work],” Herman said. “I took such a liking to it because I really felt like I was helping these dads and especially their kids, so it was more than just interior design work for me.”
Over the last year, Herman has worked on more than a dozen projects for dads in spots including New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and Washington DC. The designer splits her time between New York City and Tulsa, Okla.
“Setting up a functional, well-designed home,” is key for dads regaining their footing after a divorce, Herman said, adding that it “will benefit all other aspects of your life.”
Like many single fathers, Kopelman told Herman that he would “sleep in the bathtub” so long as his children had a nice place to stay and felt welcome. In his new apartment that meant squeezing his daughters, ages 10 and 8, and his 5-year-old son into a single space during their bi-weekly visits.
“It was really kind of important to utilize the space efficiently,” he said, noting that Herman came up with the plan to make everything fit, using pieces like a pull-out bed to get the most out of the apartment.
“She made a place in the closet for the kid’s stuff, she bought a piece for under the TV that I could keep their toys in,” he said. “She set up a table where I could play games and do their homework with them. She really thought of everything.”
Herman also added fun touches like a literal candy bar with containers filled with candies picked out by each of the kids.
Herman’s design kept him in mind, as well.
For instance, she found a coffee kegerator for his cold brew. For a personal touch, she used Kopelman’s amateur cage-fighting hobby as inspiration for his apartment’s décor, framing his gloves and wrappings from his first fight.
“I try to tell them, you know, you’re important,” she said. “You need to lay your head down every evening and feel good and wake up every morning and feel like an adult and not like you’re sleeping on a mattress on the floor.”
But Herman didn’t just decorate Kopelman’s apartment, she systematized it, he said.
“She made it very easy for me, like where everything goes down to the sheets, the towels, everything,” Kopelman said. “She shows up, she puts everything together, your clothes are all nice in the closet, and you’re just like, great! She makes sure everything is systematic and organized and, you know, it’s just a matter of maintaining it at that point.”
So will he, as a man now left largely to his own devices, be able to maintain it?
“Yeah,” he said. “I mean, that’s the plan.”