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Brooklyn Reborn

Only 40 minutes from Downtown Manhattan, a Victorian townhouse—designed with an urban family in mind—subtly intertwines preserved historical details and modern architectural elements.

A few steps from Prospect Park—the second-largest public park in Brooklyn—historic Park Slope is known for its charming traditional brownstone homes. In this now family-oriented neighbourhood, a Victorian townhouse originally built in 1890 recently started a new chapter after a complete makeover. The architectural designers of Frances Mildred and the interior designers of nune helped the new owners restore the house with absolute integrity.

After remaining in the hands of the same family for many years, the property was in a state of disrepair. The new owners, the founders of residential restoration and renovation firm Branca & Co., immediately saw the potential of transforming it into a high-end home with authentic details. “We salvaged several doors and pieces of crown moulding during the demolition”, says Sheena Murphy, founder of nune. “Although the staircase needed reinforcing, we were able to retain the original treads, balusters and handrail.” Visible within seconds of entering the property, this sculptural element creates an immediate visual impact.

“Its contrast and shape provide immediate architectural anchoring, with its soaring ceilings and large overall proportions”, Murphy adds.

Spread over four storeys (plus the basement), the house includes four bedrooms, an office and three full bathrooms. “The layout was one of the biggest considerations”, explains Murphy. Focusing on appropriate proportions, ensuring the right flow between the spaces and making sure there was enough detail and interest in every room were key. “The design team created a fictional family in order to really play out how the house would be used in an effort to ensure the layout worked programmatically for a modern urban family.”

Furnished with armchairs by Milo Baughman and a custom coffee table by Year of None, the living room occupies the parlour level where a vintage chandelier by Morentz takes centre stage. “The shape, finish and age of this standout piece feel perfect here, and draw your eye up to the incredible plaster work on the ceiling”, says Murphy. The room is connected to a large kitchen-dining area, also the heart of the home. “The colour is so subtle but important as a contrast to the rest of the home. The ghosted brick wall gives a true sense of being in an old house and the light is magical throughout the day, making it a really welcoming space.”

Pendant lights by Allied Maker hang above the island, while dining chairs by &tradition surround a table by Brooklyn-based studio Vonnegut/Kraft. The floor above hosts the peaceful master bedroom and an office adorned with artwork by Block Shop Textiles, a credenza by Egg Collective, a custom desk by Vonnegut/Kraft and a chair by Charlotte Perriand. The approach highlights a mix of old and new, and international and local designers in every corner. The family room, one guest bedroom and a bathroom are situated on the garden level while the two kids’ bedrooms, one bathroom and the attic are on the top floor.

“This home was a bit of a puzzle”, confesses Murphy. “Trying to ascertain a consistent language to determine where and how period details met modern architectural and design interventions was a challenge, but a very exciting one. It was a really important part of the process so the transition between old and new didn’t feel like patchwork, but instead felt very thoughtful and as seamless as possible.”

In order to unify the whole and reflect a sense of calmness, a restrained palette of colours and materials—such as wood, mostly oak and bleached maple; metal, including brass and polished nickel; linen; cottons; wool; leather; and glass—was chosen. “We painted the interior walls Sherwin Williams Origami White, which has a very soft and ethereal quality to it”, says Murphy. “We largely stayed within the neutral spectrum with a slight deviation to add colour in the kitchen, at the entry floor tile and on the master bathroom floor. The idea behind this was twofold: to let the architectural details of the home shine by not applying distracting tones and shapes to the space, and to create a cocooning refuge from the busy city outside.” The final outcome has certainly achieved the objective.

Photographer: Nicole Franzen