Alison & Jeff's Eclectic Williamsburg Railroad

Green Tour

Name: Alison Feldmann of TeenAngster and Jeff Bergstrom, as well as cats Bug and Dagmar
Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
Years lived in: 1 year

Perched on the top floor of a Williamsburg walkup, Alison and Jeff's eclectic railroad was filled with warm afternoon light the day I visited. Streaming in with unobstructed access, it lit surfaces and highlighted textures, softening the space this couple has made their own. Basking in the warm sun, their furry roommates gave me the tour, making sure to never leave my side.

Intending to live as if the railroad was one large space, Alison and Jeff removed doors and curtains hung by previous dwellers so their living room flows into their den through their bedroom and dressing room into their kitchen. Doing this has not only made the space open and more functional, but it lets light stream throughout while your gaze reaches the entire length of the unit. Because of the apartment's linear layout, where each element is adjacent to only its neighbor, it's possible to still feel a sense of privacy and quiet from the living room to the bedroom even after they've created such easy flow.

Every collectible Alison and Jeff have acquired over the years is either on display or is passed along to its next owner. Of course this editing is a challenge, but it's one that keeps their collection alive and appreciated. Pottery, quilts, books, deeds, bookends, and antique lamps artfully adorn their walls, mantels, and surfaces in such a way that communicates intention and heritage while also being creative.

With most of their possessions passed from family members or acquired from thrift stores, flea markets or Craigslist, this couple has very little new mass manufactured product. For décor, they've often turned to Etsy; particularly for their bookends, which were handmade from reclaimed wood by Peg and Awl, and their ceramic skull by Mudpuppy. Alison and Jeff's love of handmade and vintage have warmed their home and our hearts.

Re-Nest Survey:

Our style: Recycled elements from old time salons, lodges, men's clubs, and secret libraries. We love our books, our collections and our cats.

Inspiration: We're inspired by the snug feeling you find in old homes and places that aren't composed of steel studs, sheetrock, and clean lines. We like a little wonkiness in our day-to-day.

Favorite Element: Our salon-style wall display, comprised of anything from antique group photos to oil paintings.

Biggest Challenge: We knew moving in that railroad apartments were not standard fare, so we made a point to decorate each room into the next. Since there are no doors, everything needed to flow together.

What Friends Say: They are mostly stunned by our use of vertical space and our aesthetic tendencies. We are people who collect things and want them to be displayed, not shoved in a box. Our interests are so similar that establishing our look was a cinch.

Proudest DIY: When we moved in together, two pretty significant book and DVD libraries joined together and we had no place to put them. Enter my carpenter brother. Over the course of a weekend we built floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, as well as shelving in our bedroom. Between these shelving areas and some shelving units we inherited from friends who moved to India, our books and miscellany have a home.

Biggest Indulgence: A Pendleton blanket for cold winter nights. The design originated in the 1920s (it's called Silver Bark), and the colors really fit our bedroom. Also a huge TV. As much as we like to hold onto the styles of the past, we wouldn't be true Americans if we didn't have the desire to amuse ourselves to death.

Best Advice: Don't try to decorate in a day, a week or a month. Let things coalesce over time and your style will never be forced. And never settle for anything less than what you want. Craigslist will provide!

Green Elements/Initiatives: Pretty much everything (and we mean everything) was found at out-of-town thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales, on Craigslist, eBay or Etsy, or found on the curb. We buy next to nothing new, ever. As a couple decorating on a budget, we wanted to create a cozy space that reflected our tastes (with no Ikea anything in sight). We live by vintage and handmade.

Resources:

Hardware: Jeff rescued our crystal doorknobs from some antique doors headed for the trash.

Furniture: Every piece of furniture is secondhand. Interesting story: Our kitchen table is actually a hand-me-down from Jeff's great-aunt and uncle. After some futile attempts to locate a table, Jeff's parents realized this beauty had been sitting in their basement for twenty years. Best of all, the original receipt from 1930 was taped to the bottom of the table when we got it. Craziness.

Accessories: From the antiques on our mantles to Masonic pins from the early 1900s, there are knick knacks all over the place. We also love plants, pottery and morbid tidbits (see our many skulls).

Lighting: We don't believe in overhead lighting, so we make use of mid-century lamps (as well as some curvaceous glass lamps we couldn't resist at West Elm). Energy-saving bulbs are essential.

Rugs and Carpets: Vintage is the way to go. Our cow skin came to us through a friend, and we just bought an antique Persian rug on eBay.

Artwork: Our art collection is made up of an eclectic mix of antique photographs, self-taught portraits, hand-pieced quilts and lots of folk art.

Paint: We painted every single room in our apartment upon moving in. The previous tenants had painted each room a different, hideous color -- snot yellow, eggplant purple, chipping blue and bright orange. Creating a cohesive, neutral palette of blues and grays was key.

Flooring: We're quite enamored of the original hardwood flooring.

(Thanks, Alison and Jeff!)

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(Images: Landis Carey)

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Landis is a ceramic artist who hand-makes heirloom-quality pottery for the kitchen, table, and home. She writes about tabletop design and entertaining for The Kitchn and lives in Maplewood, NJ with her husband and toddler.

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