Rebecca's Vintage Brownstone

Rebecca's Vintage Brownstone

Liz Vidyarthi
May 20, 2010

Name: Rebecca Lyden
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Size: 1,600 sq/ft
Years lived in: 14 years, owned

Rebecca describes her Brooklyn brownstone as a mix of vintage and modern—vintage for the beautiful original details, including stunning stone fireplaces in nearly every room, and modern for the tasteful renovation that layered 21st century style atop a 20th century structure. It's a charming combination.

When Rebecca first bought the historic house, built in 1899, she spent nearly every weekend restoring the original architecture, like chipping paint off a painted tin ceiling to expose the original patina. But when a decade went by, producing two lovely daughters but little progress on the house, it was time for expert help. In came Gita Nandan from Brooklyn's Thread Collective for a renovation that married existing details with a modern aesthetic.

Preserving the original appliances and furniture, Rebecca and Gita opened up the narrow space, creating an airy kitchen that spills out into onto a raised back deck. A vibrant tile backsplash pops out of the kitchen's rich brown palm and walnut wood, above a marble counter reclaimed from a Wall Street bank.

The wall of folding glass doors lead out to a vegetable garden and a fragrant lawn of wildflowers and herbs, watered by rain barrels that collect runoff from the roof. Downstairs, they added a serene bedroom and richly tiled bath, leaving the original brick exposed to mark the end of the old house and the beginning of the new. In the winter, radiant heat from a super-efficient boiler warms the blue stone floors, sourced from a local quarry, and in the summer individual AC controls keeps the rooms cool.

Re-Nest Survey:

My/Our style: A mix of vintage (as the house is full of original detail) and modern.

Inspiration: 1970s suburban homes probably, especially a friend's split-level home I loved in South Bend, Indiana. Naturalistic design (lots of wood and stone).

Favorite Element: Hands down, the backsplash tile in the kitchen. I was immediately drawn to the colors (again, 1970s) and the way it resembles a landscape to me. This tile will forever be a part of any home in which I might live.

Biggest Challenge: Completing the renovation after my husband left me!

What Friends Say: Perfect house for a party.

Biggest Embarrassment: The tile I choose in the girls' bathroom for the tube surround...why didn't I just use the same tile I used on the floor? Also, getting ripped off by the tile guy at Artisan Interiors.

Proudest DIY: Before the major renovation, my ex-husband and I did almost ALL the work on the house ourselves. Chipping paint off a painted tin ceiling and leaving a beautiful patina in the former living room was satisfying.

Biggest Indulgence: The Nana Wall system in the kitchen, which allows the wall to open out to the deck. Totally worth it!

Best Advice: Have fun being creative and collaborating with your architect.

Dream Source: Not sure really. The New York Times' Home and Garden section always served as an inspiration.


Overall: Thread Collective gave us great leads.

Appliances: Re-used much of what I had, but the Fujitsu Split System Air conditioning system is great and efficient and eco-smart.

Furniture: Much is inherited from my mom who died three years ago, or pieces picked up or given to me over the years. A mish-mash of stuff.

Accessories: Just stuff I've collected over the years (my favorite stuff has been found on the streets).

Lighting: From all over the Internet.

Rugs and Carpets: Just stuff I've had and an IKEA rug in the girls' room.

Tiles and Stone: Reclaimed marble countertop from Olde Good Things, kitchen backsplash from Ann Sacks.

Artwork: Inherited from my mom or things I've picked-up over the last 20 years.

Paint: A lot of Benjamin Moore low-VOC paints.

Flooring: Palm wood in the kitchen for durability. It's also a sustainable product. Walnut on the garden level. Existing sub-flooring in the living room.

Outdoor: Solar panels from Solar Energy Systems, rain collection barrels from Rainwater HOG.

(Thanks, Rebecca!)

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(Images: By Liz Vidyarthi)

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