The rain poured down as movers arrived to empty my home in Brooklyn. Boxes filled with books, furniture, and a lifetime of possessions were loaded onto the truck. A month earlier, my husband and I had hired a contractor, Guillermo Grasso, to renovate our apartment. However, he had one condition: the apartment needed to be completely empty, including us, within four weeks. We frantically packed our belongings and temporarily moved to rural Connecticut.
Our apartment, a two-bedroom duplex in an 1870s brownstone, was a place we had called home for the past two decades. It had all the period features we loved, such as decorative moldings, tin ceilings, and wide-plank wood floors. Despite its flaws, like rattling windows and hissing radiators, we couldn’t bear to leave.
As a design editor, I knew the importance of hiring a professional for our renovation project. Jennifer Hanlin, an interior designer, came highly recommended. She measured the apartment and discussed our priorities with us. We needed spaces that could serve multiple functions and provide a peaceful retreat from the bustling city streets.
Due to budget constraints and a desire for sustainability, we opted for a kitchen facelift instead of a complete demolition. We updated the cabinetry with new Shaker-style doors, widened the drawers, and replaced the countertops with milky-white Vermont Danby marble. In the dining area, Hanlin designed custom armoires inspired by antique secretary desks. These armoires now frame a salvaged mantel, serving as a bar and a home office.
For the color scheme, we consulted with Farrow & Ball’s virtual color consultation service. The kitchen cabinets were painted in Oval Room Blue, while Slipper Satin, a vanilla shade, was used throughout the rest of the apartment. Stony Ground, a warm neutral, was chosen for the living room. The walls and trim were painted in the same color, creating a cohesive and modern look. We filled the living room with meaningful objects and artwork, making it a truly personal space.
On the lower level, we added pressed-tin tile to the ceilings of our daughters’ separate bedrooms to match the antique ones in other rooms. Hanlin suggested a floor plan rotation for the primary bedroom, allowing us to repurpose existing furniture and create a brighter space.
When the renovation was finally complete, we celebrated by inviting friends and family over to experience our transformed home. The space came to life as people gathered in the kitchen and living room, enjoying cocktails and conversations. It felt like a house rewarming, and we were grateful to be back in our beloved home.
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