Peter’s 1892 Brooklyn Brownstone
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Name: Peter Hassler: web producer by day, designer by night
Location: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York
Size: Whole house roughly 4,000 square feet, owner living area roughly 2,000 square feet
Years lived in: 9 years
What I love most about the East Coast is the really old architecture, especially brownstones! Peter lives in my dream home, with tall ceilings, original moulding, and stunning woodwork everywhere. His mix of old and new and how it plays off each other really works in his home.
Peter is a part-time designer who recently teamed up with LA based Design Vidal. He is going to be running their New York office. With Design Vidal restoring historical homes in Los Angeles and Peter tackling the beautiful old architecture of New York, I am sure they are going to make a great team!
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Contemporary with deep respect for history and preservation. A bit of whimsy, eclecticism and minimalism for good measure.
Inspiration: The inspiration for the home was the house itself. Built in 1892, it oozes original Victorian detail. The house was originally built for an upper-middle class family, so not only is it loaded with detail, it’s loaded with high end detail. For example, the wood on the garden level is oak, while the wood on the parlor floor is either cherry or mahogany — all intricately carved. I wanted to let those details stand out and not have my re-design get in the way, but at the same time, I aimed to create a comfortable and functional space.
So instead of trying to match the existing design, I opted for contrast: I used clean lines, geometric shapes, and solid whites and blacks to contrast the leaf and flower motifs in the wood and plasterwork. I wanted to let the best of the house shine through, while creating a bright and airy space. Another goal was restoration: I had the woodwork stripped and the parquet wood floors restored. For the most part, I maintained the original layout of the house. That meant the kitchen stayed in the back of the garden floor where it had always been. The benefit is not only having a kitchen adjacent to a garden, but having two enormous rooms on the parlor floor (instead of putting a kitchen there.) Again, out of respect for the fine craftsmanship of the home, my philosophy precluded re-creating the old; rather, I used what would be considered contemporary fine craftsmanship, using salvaged items whenever possible.
Favorite Element: My favorite element is certainly the kitchen. I love to cook. For me, it’s a dream come true to have a very functional and spacious kitchen that opens up onto a garden. I have a 5-burner gas stovetop, double convection oven, a concealed dishwasher and an efficient refrigerator.
Biggest Challenge: This project was more than design; it was a full renovation. The house was fully rewired and replumbed, including new heating and water systems. (There were two boilers in the basement, including the original one, as well as an unused oil tank. All of it had to be removed.) One challenge was running new electrical wires through the house without damaging any of the original plasterwork. We succeeded! There was also the time I had to direct traffic on the street when it was blocked by a cement mixer that was pumping the new cement floor into the basement.
On the design front, my biggest challenge was staying true to the authenticity and originality of the house, while making it highly usable. This challenge included comfortably incorporating a rental apartment within the townhouse, while maintaining the original layout of the house, with the goal of one day taking it over the entirety.
What Friends Say: “You live in a mansion!”
Biggest Embarrassment: The biggest embarrassment came when I saw the “Put a Bird On It” episode on “Portlandia.” Unfortunately, I had fallen victim to the stenciling craze and spray painted black birds onto the seats of my white dining room chairs.
Proudest DIY: I learned I’m not very good at DIY. However, a couple of noted accomplishments include salvaging old bed frame posts, stripping them, cutting them to size and using them as the new posts of the fireplace. They blended in perfectly! I also found a whole set of staircase newel posts at a junk shop in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, which I had the crew strip and use to replace the mismatched old set. Also, we repurposed old hinged doors as pocket doors and used old, rustic floor beams as a bench and shelves in the kitchen.
Biggest Indulgence: Finishing the basement. It was really an extra expense that probably doesn’t add much resale value. But now it’s an absolutely stunning room. The original brick arches were cleaned up and the original stonework was repointed. There’s also the laundry room and a new cement staircase into the garden.
Best Advice: What you decide not to do is as important as what you decide to do. Especially with older homes, find the perfection in imperfections.
Dream Sources: The U.K. magazine Living Etc. and furniture shops in SoHo.
Resources of Note:
- Weinstein’s in Brooklyn (California Paints and Benjamin Moore)
RUGS & CARPETS
TILES & STONE
- Brooklyn Kitchen (out of business now)
- Bergen Tile
- Also from a bed maker in Spitalfields market in London
- Mostly mine and friends
- Hanna Werning
(Images: Patrick Mulcahy)
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