Dramatic Decor in a Traditional Brooklyn Brownstone

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Location: Bedford-Stuyvesant — Brooklyn, New York
Size: 3,900 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years

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This Brooklyn brownstone is pretty much perfect: tall ceilings, ten-foot doors, all those glorious moldings, and floors to die for. But it wasn’t always this way. Working through endless rounds of renovations—and living in the house while it was updated—was a real labor of love for the owner.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)
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A vintage chandelier graces the entrance hallway. (Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

The original plan was to renovate just one bathroom, but the project grew from there to include the whole house — and is still ongoing. The basement (or garden level) apartment is still being renovated, and will eventually be home to a lucky tenant. After seeing how lovely this house is, you may want to move in.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Eclectic, dramatic and fun. I tried to avoid serious traditional style décor here, because our home already came with pretty intense original details like the moldings, fireplaces, giant doors, etc. I wanted the space to feel light and entertaining to be in, a place where it feels ok to eat dinner on the couch in. Not that I’d ever allow that to happen, but you know what I mean.

Inspiration: Fashion magazines and shows, movies, beautiful hotels and restaurants we saw on our vacation, and constant reading and researching.

Favorite Element: The house itself. I love the dramatic 10 foot doors, intricate moldings, giant windows, original parquet hardwood floors, and the high ceilings.

Biggest Challenge: Besides the boring things like plumbing, electrical and foundation issues, having to be patient was definitely the biggest challenge. Because the house had so many major problems, the cosmetic repairs had to wait and it came verrry slowly. I was living here during the construction too, which made it feel like everything was moving so slowly or not progressing at all.

What Friends Say: “Wait. This room looks different again.”

Biggest Embarrassment: The only thing the previous owners cared about was the yard. It was pretty and really nicely organized. Then I moved in, and decided to grow some more ‘flowers’ and build a fire pit. Basically the worst decision ever.

Proudest DIY: WHITE FLOORS in our master bedroom! It was a lot of work. First, we were so worried if it was a horrible crime to paint the original hardwood floors but honestly, they were in an awful condition. So one day, we just decided to do it. Took about 15 days of really hard work. Sanding, buffing, letting the paint dry, sanding again, clear coat, etc. But we are very proud of it, and we like it a lot.

Biggest Indulgence: The kitchen. The commercial style stove, super quiet and big dishwasher and the garbage disposal that could shred just about anything in the world. Also, I should mention, at least 5-6 different color layers of Farrow & Ball paint too, which is hidden under white Benjamin Moore paint now, but they’re there.

Best Advice: Be super patient, especially if you’re not working with a designer! Decorate and rearrange continuously, but do it little by little. I’m the most impatient person in the world, but that really is my best advice. I ordered everything all at once when I first got here. I was heavily inspired by Givenchy Haute couture fall/winter 2009 collection and bought major furniture pieces in black/gold with strong edges in intense shapes. Not to mention, with dark teal walls. Pretty gothic, which I LOVE, but for this house, it was just too much. It was definitely sexy as anything to look at, but the décor scared the crap out of some people. Those furniture pieces are still here and work well scattered around the house, just not in all one room. Took numerous trials and errors to get here, and I AM an interior designer! It definitely is such an exciting and fun process but take your time with it. Get the couch you’ve been dreaming of first. And then get the antique coffee table that fits perfectly and then colorful accent chairs, wall hangings etc. I swear, it works better that way, and the space will feel so much more special to you.

Dream Sources: 1stdibs, European antique stores, and Morocco.


(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


• Benjamin Moore: Decorators white, misty gray, abyss
(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


  • Chandelier – Vintage store
  • (Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


    • Lamp – Horchow • Papasan chairs – Vintage store • Couch – Kosas collections • Coffee table – Henzler

    • Rug – Overstock

    (Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


    • Table –Custom made • Chairs – Dot & bo • Arm Chairs – Baxton Studios • Mirror – Antique • Plates– Fornasetti • Nude painting – JessBrett.com

    • Red & Pink – Beth Hoeckel

    (Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


    • Stove – Fivestar • Fridge – LG • Dishwasher – Bosch • Chandelier – Pottery Barn

    • Plates – Fornasetti

    (Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


    • side tables – horchow • lamp – Rober Abbey • Couch – Ikea • Mirror – Horchow

    • Rug – Overstock

    (Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


    • Faucets – Kohler • Sink – Kohler

    • Toilet – Kohler

    (Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


    • Bed – Pottery Barn • Bedding – etsy • Couch – Antique • Table – Custom Made
    (Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)


    • Bed – Ikea • Bedding – Zara Home

    • Vanity – vintage

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