Lyndsay and Fitzhugh's Summer Cottage in the City

Green Tour from the Archives

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Name: Lyndsay Caleo and Fitzhugh Karol
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Size: 1,350 sq/ft
Years lived in: 4 years, owned

Lyndsay and Fitzhugh have always loved designing interiors. When the artistic couple graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, they tackled their first joint project: their own home. Flooded with light and studded with rich woods and soft stone, the airy apartment feels like a summer cottage in the city.

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Starting with white as their canvas, Lyndsay and Fitzhugh gave reclaimed materials new life—creating a couch out of recycled ceiling beams, the fireplace sculpture from wood scraps—and mixed them effortlessly with more contemporary pieces. An Ikea sideboard sits next to an Indian daybed, and a 1920s cast iron kitchen sink lives in a custom stone countertop. "The old materials," Fitzhugh says, "help the new ones make sense."

Creating their home, as they tell it, was a treasure hunt, gleaning treasures from eBay, flea markets, and farms across the Northeast. When I visited, Fitzhugh had just driven down 12,000 pounds of fallen trees from an upstate golf course, all destined for a second life as furniture.

They laugh now looking back at their home's renovation ("We had no idea what we were doing!"), but they've fallen in love with the process. In addition to their independent projects, both design layouts for the Brooklyn Home Company, started by Lyndsay's brother.

Re-Nest Survey:

Our style: It's all about creating a departure. We both grew up in the country and we designed the house to be an escape from the city. We designed the layout based on our needs, how we lived and what we had. Our design philosophy involves playing with the balance between new and old. We mix architectural elements that were created 100 years ago with furniture we make, natural elements and modern designs.

Inspiration: We love classically Scandinavian simplicity, particularly old summer cottages. Materials are a huge inspiration. Whether it be an old salvaged chunk of wood or a stack of white linens, materials are often what drive the vision for a space and sometimes stumbling across an object will send us in a new direction on a particular project. We also use light a lot of as a medium and we always try to move light into all corners of a project using the layouts, glass panels and whites.

Favorite Element: The 1920's American Standard cast iron kitchen sink. Lyndsay found it on eBay and then we had to spend a day going to get it. Of all the sinks you can buy today there is still nothing better than this old sink. We also love the barn door that leads to the bathroom. It used to be the door to the sheep barn on the farm where Fitzhugh grew up in New Hampshire.

Biggest Challenge: The most difficult part of this house project was that, at the time, it was the biggest construction project we'd ever been involved with. There was no way for us to have known what we had taken on (or what it would lead to) and becoming comfortable with the process was a learning experience. There were many physical issues we encountered with the house - too many to count. Our persistence in making all the details just right was what ended up winning out in the end. That continues to be one of the keys to success in architectural design. In the end, problems that arise become opportunities to do something different or better.

What Friends Say: Perhaps a secondary goal with the house was creating a gathering space. This is a house for friends and family to gather. We cook and entertain a lot. I guess they must like the place because they keep coming back.

Proudest DIY: Our dining room table that we built together was a great project. Finding the kitchen sink in Massachusetts was exciting. But maybe building the garden. We diverted our attention to the garden for a while. We used the old bricks from the back of the house to build a retaining wall and planting beds and used bluestone window sills from the back of the house to top them off. The two of us transported 25,000 pounds of soil, stone and mulch one bag at a time through the house to the garden. It was a labor of love.

Biggest Indulgence: Linens.

Best Advice: Take risks. Trust your emotions. Don't be afraid of doing something that seems bigger than you're used to. Doing a project like this forces you to overcome challenges, know what you want and go with the flow.

Dream Source: The barn.

Green Elements/Initiatives: Lots of reclaimed wood and stone: all the furniture we made and as much of the building materials was possible. Salvaged lighting [in the kitchen the lighting was from an Indian ship]. Salvaged Appliances [American Standard cast iron kitchen sink]. Salvaged furniture [Indian daybed and downstairs the couch was made from reclaimed ceiling beams].

Resources:

Appliances: Subzero fridge. Capital range. Bosch dishwasher.

Furniture: We make as much as possible. We made the dining table. Lyndsay made the mahogany shelves downstairs. Fitzhugh made the Island top, the stools, the bed, stairs, coffee table, bedroom storage, outdoor table the couch downstairs, captain's bed, desktop. We have a sideboard from Ikea, dressers from Brocade Home. The library ladder is from Alaco Ladder. Leather chairs from American Leather. White and wood chair downstairs and the large mirror in the bedroom are from The Wendell Castle Collection.

Accessories: All over! Iron spheres and pick axe heads from mines in Colorado and Chile. Books! Artwork, made by Fitzhugh and Lyndsay or by friends. Collections that have grown overtime from travels. Playing around with the "art of display" is like playing a game and the collections move around and change frequently.

Lighting: We have salvaged lighting (Indian cage lights in kitchen), a floor lamp from Chris Lehrecke, Ikea lights, Circa lighting picture lights in the bathroom. Jonathan Adler lamps. Shades of light for the smaller lights.

Rugs and Carpets: A few hardwearing rugs in the downstairs hallway from the Scandinavian Design Center. Crate and Barrel Sisal rugs.

Tiles and Stone: We used Ann Sacks limestone in the master bath. Subway tile in the shower. Downstairs we used white Carrara marble in the bathroom. Our counterops are Pietra Cardosa, a soft gray stone that wears wonderfully.

Window Treatments: We made the curtains in the bedroom and used Restoration Hardware curtain rods.

Beds: Fitzhugh made the bed upstairs from a Beech tree that fell in upstate New York, Finger Lakes region where Lyndsay is from. Lyndsay designed the loft bed above the kitchen [which was the original guest room, but when you live in New York it was quickly discovered you have folks staying over all the time] so Lyndsay designed the "Captains Quarters" bedroom downstairs which Fitzhugh built and installed, and the downstairs couch is made up of two mattresses for sleepover guests.

Artwork: The artwork in the bedroom is by Elliotte Puckette and Grace Slick. The print in the bathroom is by Hugo Guiness. There are a number of works from friends, family and teachers. Fitzhugh made the white sculpture above the fireplace. We make frames for maps and objects that we find as well.

Paint: We used a lot of Benjamin Moore Super White. On the floors we used a Benjamin Moore floor paint ("lots of coats").

(Thanks, Lindsay and Fitzhugh!)

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(Images: Liz Vidyarthi. Originally published 2010-12-15)

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