This Bright Brooklyn Heights Studio Feels Way Bigger Than It Actually Is

This Bright Brooklyn Heights Studio Feels Way Bigger Than It Actually Is

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Alexis Buryk
May 21, 2017
(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

Name: Felicity Graham Sargent; educator and interior designer/owner's representative at Felicity Sargent Design
Location: Brooklyn Heights; Brooklyn, NY
Size: 800 square feet (studio with mezzanine)
Years lived in: 2.5 years; Owned

A visit to Felicity's magnificent two-story studio in Brooklyn Heights is a study in the wonders of architecture and design, past and present. Located within a late 19th-century mansion-turned-apartments, the space respects its structural and aesthetic roots while expressing its owner's modern needs and personal perspective on quintessential Brooklyn home style.

(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

So much of home design is having the boldness to envision that which may be impossible, and then figuring out how to make it a reality. When Felicity first walked into the space that would become her studio, she saw a tall room with a lofted bed area that blocked sweeping windows and the light they could provide. The true magnitude of the place was diminished, and she left the space thinking that the builders of this iteration of the studio had had it backwards: the loft belonged on the back wall, allowing for the full grandeur of the room to be highlighted. But was her idea even feasible?

→ See what this apartment looked like before! A Dark Studio Gets a Smart New Layout & A lot More Light

(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

Unable to shake the potential of the home she envisioned in her mind, Felicity dove into the redesign process, cultivating along the way her already-present love of design and architecture. She weathered the ups and downs of constructions in order to realize the full possibilities of her new home.

I love how she has been able to create the feel of multiple rooms within the studio, and really marvel at her use of color and texture. And although she draws inspiration from her travels around the world and the US (particularly Jackson, WY), she made a conscious decision to source as many design elements as possible for the apartment from Brooklyn, paying particular attention to historic details like the American Chestnut flooring in the mezzanine area. This attention, in addition to the beautiful flow of the design, the art and the personal artifacts, makes her home simultaneously cozy and soaring, historic and modern, of the wider world and her very own little corner of Brooklyn.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic

Inspiration: Travel, family history, and a passion for art. I love contrast, and I try to incorporate texture and sculptural elements wherever possible. My apartment is a tapestry of my travels.

Favorite Element: When I relocated the enormous mirror to the space opposite the window, the whole room opened up. Not only did it brighten the room and enlarge the space, but also it plays tricks on the eyes. The reflection of the brownstones from across the street creates the illusion that the room is part of a freestanding home. Even more exciting was the discovery of a fireplace behind the original location of the mirror! I had it restored and re-purposed existing moulding to create a mantel that matches the other trim in the apartment.

Biggest Challenge: Every. Single. Thing. Rewiring, so that all electrical was concealed within the walls; determining that the ceiling was structurally sound enough to support a mezzanine suspended by eight thin steel rods; moving a 12-foot mirror to the opposite end of the room without damage or injury; locating a vital piece of steel within the lintel of the pocket doors; searching for ducts in the walls to install a split-unit air conditioner; relining 70 feet of chimney—the list goes on and on. I took each challenge as it presented itself and tackled them one by one. From the beginning, I decided that I didn't want to force anything that wasn't meant to be. With each hurdle I was eventually able to come up with a creative solution before moving on to the next. In the end, the greatest accomplishment was being able to create many "rooms" within a single studio, and figuring out how to best utilize vertical space.

What Friends Say: There were many who thought I was crazy to take on such a huge project. I spent months living on an air mattress in a construction zone. I think most people are shocked when they walk in the door, particularly those who saw the "before".

Biggest Embarrassment: Living in a fishbowl. The massive windows mean that my apartment is in full view, particularly during peak "peeping" hours! Finding someone to replicate historic brownstone pocket shutters was a challenge. With any luck, they will finally be installed in the next month or so.

Proudest DIY: Concept and design. When I walked into the space, I immediately thought, "This building is spectacular. It's too bad the space will never work." There was a u-shaped loft that resembled scaffolding, which wrapped around half of the perimeter of the room. It was constructed right in front of the windows, blocking much of the light and the views. The space just hadn't been well planned. Because of its shape, there was scarcely enough room in the loft to squeeze a double bed into the corner, yet there was much wasted space in the middle. I remember standing in the center of the room studying it, thinking, "They did this all wrong." And it suddenly hit me that the design should have been inverted; the space under the loft should have been left open, and the loft should have been built above the open space at the back of the room. I really had no intention of carrying out this plan myself—I simply wanted to solve the design puzzle. When I got home that night, I sketched a layout for a new loft. It seemed to work so well on paper, that I decided to return to the space the following day, and I confirmed with my builder that my plan was feasible.

Biggest Indulgence: Truthfully, the entire apartment has felt like a tremendous indulgence. I feel so fortunate to have found the space and to have had a trusted friend who could rebuild it for me. I made a point to preserve the historic elements that I could and to create clean lines that wouldn't detract from the building's original charm. I used reclaimed materials wherever I could, and I tried to stay true to the period of the home.

Best Advice: Seek out unique pieces that reflect your style, and don't be afraid to go to any length to drag them home! In the end, the extra effort pays off.

Dream Sources: Brimfield Antique Show, Lindsey Adelman, Dmitriy & Co

Resources

• Patrick Murtha, Contractor

PAINT & COLORS

  • Walls: "Gray Owl" Benjamin Moore
  • Ceiling: "Swiss Coffee" Benjamin Moore
  • Trim: "Ancient Ivory" Benjamin Moore
  • ENTRY

    • Lantern: Found at Brimfield Antique Show, originally from a bridge in Northern Michigan; glass panes added, and then piece electrified at The Lamp Doctor in Coney Island, Brooklyn

    • Desk: 26th St flea market, NY; wood from Bali

    • Seat: found on the street in Manhattan

    • Yellow lamp: The Second Yard in Charlottesville, VA

    • Bark Art: Grid of Birch Bark, Owen Mortenson

    • Pear-Shaped Tealight Holders: Wildflower in Austin, TX

    • Candelabra: Housing Works on Montague St in Brooklyn, NY

    LIVING ROOM

    • Pink sofa: Great-grandmother's piece, recovered by Felicity

    • Golden sofa: Brunschwig and Fils, from a silent auction school fundraiser in Jackson, WY

    • Lamps: Festive Living gift store in Victor, Idaho

    • Gold nesting tables: Atmosphere on Smith St in Brooklyn

    • Turquoise Vase with feathers: Judy Jackson Stoneware

    • White Armoire: Find Home Furnishings in Gowanus, Brooklyn

    • Coffee table: Olde Good Things

    DINING AREA

  • Round table: Craig's List
  • Antique French chairs: Originally from a hotel in Paris, given to Felicity by a design client
  • Candles and candlesticks: Collected from Ebay and Kenny Ball Antiques, in Charlottesville, VA
  • Textiles: Turkish towels, procured Nashville Antiques and Garden show
  • Painting reproduction by Felicity: Madame Réciamier, original by Jacques-Louis David
  • Painting reproduction by Felicity: Orphan Girl at Cemetery, original by Eugène Delacroix
  • KITCHEN AND TV NOOK

  • Soapstone counters and sink: Foro Marble Co
  • Stools: Crate and Barrel
  • Rugs: Brought back from travels to Romania, Dubai, Turkey as well as the Brooklyn Flea
  • MEZZANINE

  • Painting on front of Mezzanine: by artist James Peery
  • Reclaimed American Chestnut floors: Build it Green, Brooklyn; chosen for historical accuracy
  • Stair slabs: M Fine Lumber
  • Custom closets: Sons & Co Woodworking
  • Drawer and closet pulls: Rocky Mountain Hardware
  • Mid-century dresser: Reeves Antiques in Houston, TX
  • Armchair: Found on a sidewalk in Manhattan and recovered
  • Bed: BoConcept, hydraulic bed with storage
  • Bedlinens: Restoration Hardware; throw pillow with fringe from Society of Wonderland
  • Gold floor lamp: The Collection Home & Design
  • White marble bookends: Finch in Hudson, NY
  • Rugs and other textiles: From travels abroad, including to Jordan
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    Thanks, Felicity!

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