A Tiny Townhouse in Brooklyn for Two History Lovers

A Tiny Townhouse in Brooklyn for Two History Lovers

William Strawser
Feb 15, 2017

Name: John and Wesley Yates-Parietti
Location: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Size: 630 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years

Before John and Wesley moved into this 1890s Brooklyn townhouse, they say they were each living in separate "windowless dumps." It took lots of unpacking and plenty of painting, but this small shared space is filled with historic artifacts, collected treasures and the couple's heart and soul. (No windowless dumps in sight.) Self-proclaimed homebodies, they love their home so much, they had their engagement photos taken here. "This apartment is our first shared home, and we designed the space together as we planned our wedding — it's a marriage of our tastes."

We first got to know the couple in their house call, where they described what they love about the apartment: "We were drawn to this apartment's pressed-tin ceilings, intact moldings, and intense sunlight. The landlords live upstairs and take great care of the building — it's been in their family for generations."

The couple has added to the home's abundant architectural charm by painting the walls with light colors (to reflect light) and dark colors (to create cozy nooks). But mostly, by filling it up with delightful collections. There's something to look at in every corner, and though the small space is packed with a lot of "stuff," it's artfully arranged. They describe their style as "a designer's history museum," and their home fits the bill; it's cozy, welcoming and full of stories — just like a great museum!

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: A designer's history museum

Inspiration: We're avid collectors, travelers, and history buffs. The majority of our decor comes from the places we've been, places we've lived before, and family heirlooms. Whether it's an 1880s map of the first neighborhood we lived in NY or a vase given to one of our great-grandmothers on her wedding day, each item in our home has personal significance to us. Our home is our personal museum.

Favorite Element: The original pressed-tin ceilings in the kitchen and living room, especially when a bright sunny day highlights their detailed texture.

Biggest Challenge: One of the many things that originally attracted us to this apartment were the large windows on both ends of the apartment with French doors and large openings in between. This leaves the entire apartment feeling open and bright while also defining each individual space. However, as frequent hosts, we struggled with the idea of having our bed visible from every angle of the apartment — so we decided to tuck it in the tiny half bedroom off of the main axis, in what had previously been a large closet.

What Friends Say: Our friends always comment that the apartment is a real expression of us as a couple; the usual cliché "It's so you!" Through this space, you can see the both of us coming together, contrasting and complementing each other.

Biggest Embarrassment: While we love having people over, we don't have a proper dining table which makes it difficult to host a dinner party. We've crowded as many as six people around our two-person bar counter, but it's cozier than the L train in the morning. Someday we will acquire a proper table — but for cocktail parties, this current set-up works.

Proudest DIY: Our proudest DIY is our coffee table. We found this lovely faux-Victorian table but almost passed it up because the top was covered in water marks and deep scratches. We refinished the top with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Barcelona Orange and several coats of wax, giving the piece a second life and an updated aesthetic.

Biggest Indulgence: Since we managed to be pretty frugal throughout the project, our biggest indulgence was in terms of space — the most precious resource in any NYC apartment. We chose to give up our only significant closet space in order to create the nook bedroom and allow for an office room in the front. This allowed for the long open flow that we love, but at the steep cost of having very little space to store winter clothes, suitcases, the air conditioner, and all those other bulky items of life.

Best Advice: Do not be afraid of inexpensive, art store frames and always have a few extras on hand. While some art demands an archival-quality custom frame, the rest will look just fine in an off-the-shelf product. Buying standard size frames and having custom mats cut is an affordable way to cover your walls with your favorite pieces. And remember, an inexpensive frame is always better than no frame at all. Unframed art is for dorms.

Also: always be hunting. Brownstone Brooklyn stoop sales are a source of amazingly underpriced vintage furniture (Pro tip: Cobble Hill on Sunday mornings in the spring). Leave time and suitcase space for antiquing whenever you travel anywhere rural/small-town: the finds are cheaper, and the selection is less picked-over. Like most things in life, unique always beats expensive.

Dream Sources: Porter James, Adaptations, Cabin Modern, Holler & Squall, Yesterday's News, ADVERTS Vintage & Modern, The Strand Rare Book Room

Explore this style:

More resources:

Benjamin Moore — Champion Cobalt, 2061-20 (living room)
Benjamin Moore — Cliffside Gray, PM-5 (kitchen, studio)
Benjamin Moore — James River Gray, AC-23 (bedroom)
Benjamin Moore — Decorator's White, CC-20 (trim, wardrobe)
Benjamin Moore — Westcott Navy, 1624 (locker, dresser)
Annie Sloan — Barcelona Orange (coffee table)

Sofa — Peggy Sofa - 79.5", Heathered Gray - West Elm
Bookcases — Helix 96" Acadia Bookcases - CB2
Light fixture — You Make it Chandelier
Chair — Vintage (stoop sale)
Thonet chair — Vintage (stoop sale)
Coffee table | Vintage (stoop sale, painted)
Circular side table — Vintage (stoop sale)
Record player table — Vintage (found on a subway car!)
Suitcases — Vintage (props from a college play)
Museum display case — Estate sale

Foggy AuroraD. Jordan Parietti (Wes's mom)
Map of Astoria, Queens, c. 1880 — Framing by ArtSource Intl.
Map of Seattle, c. 1900 — Vintage
Map of Washington state, c. 1900 — Brooklyn Flea
Tax record photo of Greenpoint building, c. 1930 — NYC Dept. of Records
Classical architectural illustration, c. 1850 — Vintage
Art Nouveau architectural illustration, c. 1890 — eBay
Artifacts, maps, prints, books, and flag — 1939 New York World's Fair
Tintype portrait — Penumbra Foundation,
Custom turquoise-inlaid frame — Make A Frame
Typography samples, c. 1880 — eBay
Souvenirs on bookshelf — From India, Egypt, Morocco, China, Puerto Rico, Belize, Argentina, Japan, Italy, Canada, Turkey, Mexico, Spain, and maybe a few more.

Arm lights — Restoration Hardware
Counter height table — Urban Lifestyle Furniture in Queens
Bar cabinet — Vintage (purchased at jewelry store going out of business in Greenpoint)
Thonet rocker — Vintage (stoop sale for $10!)
Locker — Street find (we repaired it, added shelves, and repainted)
Bench — Vintage (stoop sale, repainted by us)
Toaster — Smeg
Chalkboard — Salvaged broken mirror + chalk paint
Parrot paintings — From a movie props warehouse
Matchbooks and soda labels — Purchased at Antiques at Pike Place in Seattle
Car photo — Taken by Wesley in Paris

John's Desk — Vintage, purchased from ADVERTS Vintage & Modern
Wes's Desk — IKEA GUSTAV writing desk (no longer available)
Bookcases — Container Store
Large Swiss railway clock — MoMA Store
Wardrobe — Vintage from Yesterday's News (painted w/ Benjamin Moore Decorator's White)
Dresser — IKEA TARVADresser (painted w/ Benjamin Moore Wescott Navy and added vintage hardware from Wes's childhood home)

Light fixtures — Custom designed by Wesley, with parts from Grand Brass
Charlie Harper birds banner (above bed) — Fish's Eddy (it's supposed to be a table runner!)

Thanks, John and Wesley!

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