Image: Nicole Cohen
After a series of nips and tucks, a derelict brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y., reaches its full potential – and then some.
Four years ago, Nicole and Jordan Stein made the trip from the maelstrom of midtown Manhattan to a quiet, leafy street in Brooklyn that, compared with the city, felt downright pastoral. They had come to tour a brownstone as part of an estate sale, and immediately saw its potential despite certain drawbacks.
“I definitely had some trepidation because the house was in extremely rough shape,” says Nicole, who designs fine jewellery she sells through her online Etsy shop, ByNicoleAlexis. Conversely, Jordan, a Montreal-born business consultant and entrepreneur, was confident it could be brought back to life – after all, he had watched his parents successfully transform a beat-up Vermont ranch when he was younger.
“Our goal was to marry classic architecture with a modern aesthetic,” says Nicole, who wanted the interior envelope to look original to the house. Though the idea of gutting the space and blasting out the walls was brought up, it didn’t get far. “We bought a brownstone, not a condo,” says Nicole cheekily. “Sure, we have a narrow hallway and a tiny powder room, and yes, it’s a little quirky, but it’s true to the original home.” So the small rooms remained intact and were slowly brought back to code over the course of a year under their contractor’s exacting eye.
Next up? Christine Dovey, a designer based in Oakville, Ont., who has remotely kitted out homes (via email) from America to Norway, stepped in to apply her signature style: ravishing rooms with traditional architectural details in a modern palette of black and white with bursts of pink; spaces in which provocative contemporary artwork often sits alongside antique furnishings.
To deliver an authentic period look, Christine suggested the homeowners invest in crown mouldings. “Nicole wanted something that looked like it was there originally, so we went with big plaster mouldings as a splurge on the living room ceiling but regular crown throughout,” says Christine. Making sure the interior looked more downtown than Downton, the designer balanced the historic architectural elements with what she calls “a mixed bag of edgy yet elegant furnishings.”
In need of some hand holding a little closer to home, Nicole also worked with local designer Natalie Kraiem, who helped achieve the look by choosing key pieces including the rugs and living room artwork.
The sculptural replace in the eat-in area of this Brooklyn, N.Y., brownstone was in such rough shape, it had to be removed and rebuilt. Above it, the enormous antique filigree mirror that belonged to the previous owners lends romance to the space. “We loved it so much we negotiated it as part of the sale of the house,” says homeowner Nicole Stein.
Dripping with crystal beads, the antique brass basket chandelier was a splurge, but Nicole insists it’s a forever piece. “I’m crazy about it too,” says designer Christine Dovey. “I love how it contrasts the rough-hewn wooden table.” The bespoke kitchen peninsula, with its marble waterfall edge, was also pricey, but Nicole had the fabricator use the scraps to make luxurious window ledges. “Everyone comments on them,” she says.
A blend of vintage- and modern-look furnishings gives the formal living room an eclectic, collected feel. Sculptural retro Alky chairs are a fun contrast to the stiff-backed caned settee. Heavyweight-cotton curtains draw the eye up to the 11-foot- high ceiling. They were originally placeholders, but looked so fabulous that Nicole decided to keep them – proving that you don’t always need to spend a mint on custom drapery.
Inspired by the iconoclastic Mexican painter, Frida is a punchy print that presides over this area of the living room, where a brass Sputnik lamp, oversized mirror and sculptural fireplace surround offer exciting diversions.
Wild! This spotted antelope-print runner gives an unexpected punch, introducing a graphic pattern into the front hall. “It’s classic but edgy,” says Christine.
Show-stopping architectural details on the ceiling of the living room’s media area are period appropriate but were non-existent when the couple bought the brownstone. Nicole tracked down a plaster restoration specialist in Long Island, N.Y., and sent Christine samples to narrow down the options. The installation took a week and was definitely a splurge. “It’s a real art. There is literally someone there with a cotton swab and a fine blade forming everything by hand,” says Nicole.
Contemporary clean lines gives this bathroom its timeless look and spa-like feel.
A soothing palette gives this master bathroom its spa-like feel.
"Balance" was the operative word when Sophie Burke and Jennifer Millar created the master bathroom in this new-build Vancouver house. The homeowners wanted the space to emulate an airy retreat – something spa-like but not too fussy. So the designers injected the room with traditional character and contemporary clean lines – a timeless combination showcased throughout the home, which the duo designed as well. They also incorporated equal amounts of sleek and textural elements and functional and decorative features for an interesting yet well-balanced result.
The vanity’s open shelves and extra counter space provide spots to place decorative items and bath-time essentials.
The free-standing bathtub is a sculptural, contemporary element. “It’s large enough to relax and bathe in, but it’s not so big that it overwhelms the space,” says one of the homeowners. The simple linen café curtains offer privacy while keeping the tops of the windows uncovered, allowing for pretty treetop views.
Steel-framed mirrors and simple sconces, which are actually picture lights, inject a retro-industrial vibe.
In lieu of the usual two sinks, designers Sophie Burke and Jennifer Millar used one oversized basin with two wall-mounted faucets. “The sink is shallow enough so that the top drawers of the vanity actually open,” says one of the homeowners. Wainscotting, created out of ceramic subway tiles that continue from the shower, offers texture and character. “We used dark grout and added a chair rail detail throughout, which contribute to the space’s vintage look.”
Forgoing a curb in the glass-enclosed shower, made possible by sloping the floor toward the drain, creates a streamlined feel. “We were able to do that because the house is a new construction,” says Sophie. This application also lets the herringbone marble-tiled floor run right through without being interrupted. “It’s a really nice detail,” she adds.
We've got the scoop on what's popular in bathroom designs for 2017.
When it comes to resale value, kitchens and bathrooms typically give homeowners the greatest return on their investment, which makes them the optimal rooms to update and renovate. As we head into a new year, we asked designers what some of the hottest trends in bathroom design are for 2017. Looks like this is the year to get creative with those bathroom tiles! Check out what seven designers had to say.
Photography: Donna Griffith
1 "Accent walls have been around for a while but traditional accents walls have been achieved with paint or wallpaper. In 2017, we'll see mosaic glass tiled accent walls. From over-sized florals, confetti bursts and subtle damask prints, the small squares of the mosaic glass tile offer a cool pixelated look, tipping its hat to today's digital world. Whether behind a free-standing tub, shower or bathroom floor, the mosaic tile accent wall can add a whimsical wow factor into any bathroom." - Designer, Andrea Haraldsen.
Photography: Stacey Brandford & Donna Griffith
2 "Since bathroom are typically one of the smaller rooms of the house, they are the perfect place to create interest on the floor by splurging on mosaic tiles. Create a border in the room with a larger format of the mosaic inlay. You won’t want to cover these beautiful tiles with an area rug, so consider heated floors." - Interior Designer, Tara Fingold.
Photography: Stacey Brandford
3 "A streamlined, contemporary bathroom with wall-mounted toilet and a ledge to house bathroom essentials or display artwork is on top of my dream bathroom list. If you are going to install a wall-mounted toilet, you will need to build out the wall to facilitate the flushing mechanism. So why not make it a design statement and practical feature? Best of all, a tailored, refined bathroom is always in style and will definitely bring in top dollar at resell." - Blogger and Decorator, Tim Lam.
Photography: Angus Fergusson
4 "Graphic floors continue to be a strong trend in 2017. Printed encaustic tiles in beautiful graphic patterns will continue to prevail, but I am also loving patterns created with solid coloured tiles laid in interesting patterns. For example, three colours of the same hexagonal tile laid in a random pattern, or in a pattern that gives the floor the look of an ombré gradient, can create beautiful impact in bathrooms large or small." - Designer, Lisa Canning.
5 "Bold geometric and mosaic tiles in the bathroom have been popular in recent years but a shift to simple and creative tile patterns will gain traction in 2017. While a classic white ceramic tile will never go out of style, it feels fresh when laid in a herringbone pattern instead of traditional subway running bond. Or create chic appeal with solid square tiles in a trio of colours laid out in a trendy yet timeless buffalo check pattern." - Blogger and Designer, Jennifer Flores.
Photography: Phil Crozier
6 "All white bathrooms will continue to be popular as they are timeless and tend to evoke a spa feel that people crave in a bathroom. Introducing lighter wood tones befitting of Scandinavian spaces will continue to be on trend and warm up an all-white space. Mixing metals will gain popularity as homeowners realize they can mix a chrome faucet with a gold or brass mirror and wall sconces to great effect. Busy patterned floor tile will lose its appeal as consumers realize that they will tire of them and they will date very quickly." - Interior Designer, Vanessa Francis.
Photography: Stacey Brandford
7 "Move over subway tile and make room for shapes and geometrics. Whether the shape or pattern is part of the tile or simply created by installing in a geometric pattern, we’re seeing diamonds, hexagons, fish scale, chevron, herringbone, ovals, penny rounds and more. Regardless of the tile, basic white, bold colour or natural stone, creating pattern through shape is sure to elevate your bathroom in a classic, yet current way." - Interior Designer, Nyla Free.