Interiorssneak peeks

sneak peek: alexandra grablewski and todd bonné

by anne

Alexandra Grablewski is a photographer specializing in food, still life and lifestyle photography, and she is fortunate enough to work from her home about 50% of the time. Alexandra wanted to create a place where she’d enjoy working and that could double as a location for cookbook shoots and other projects. Her partner, Todd Bonné, is a painter who owns Surface Archive (a surface rental space for photography), and he has a great eye for layering and textures. When they bought this 1870s home in Red Hook, Brooklyn, it was in such bad shape that it had to be completely gutted, and only one original stair bannister remains (Alexandra documented the entire process on The Little House That Could). They didn’t realize how hard it would be to create an “old” home out of a “new” one, but they tried to use as many recycled and salvaged materials as possible, making sourcing a brutal and still ongoing process. The result is a somewhat minimalist approach, but the couple loves the openness. Thanks, Alexandra and Todd! — Anne

Image above: Our dining room/kitchen with a custom table that seats 10 built by Todd out of extra oak flooring.

Image above: Parlor living room with working fireplace

See more inside Alexandra and Todd’s beautiful home after the jump . . .

Image above: We got this stove from a family in Massachusetts who was renovating an old Victorian. If I ever leave this place, it’s coming with me. It’s built to last and amazing to cook on, plus the shelf serves as the perfect place for cats to nap.

Image above: My one big splurge — the SMEG fridge

Image above: Flea market find, and great for dish soap. Details, details . . .

Image above: Christmas gift from Todd, the first light fixture purchased for the house, and probably my favorite.

Image above: With no built-in closets, we had to bring in cabinets for things like linens.

Image above: I painted two flights of stairs in glossy Hollandlac paint (white), which is hands down the most frustrating paint I have ever worked with, but completely worth it.

Image above: The living room opens up to the dining with a giant cabinet full of my favorite dishware and props.

Image above: The midcentury modern couch that came with 70s plaid cushion covers. The wonders of reupholstery.

Image above: There are five fireplaces (four working) and one wood stove. We had them opened and built out (since they were originally made for burning coal) and had salvaged mantels brought in. I loved the idea of having a fireplace in the bedroom.

Image above: There are double doors that open up to the yard, which makes sleeping without air conditioning quite bearable.

Image above: One of my favorite rooms in the house — the parlor bath with salvaged clawfoot tub. I’ve been meaning to sew a fabric shower curtain one of these days.

Image above: The wainscot in the bath was painted with a pale blue-gray called White Diamond (Benjamin Moore). It’s my only venture into color so far.

Image above: Salvaged pedestal sink from Craigslist and antique brass toothbrush holder from my mom, who is amazing at picking up bits and pieces that somehow always fit.

Image above: My upstairs office, which looks out onto the yard, perfect for raccoon and stray-cat watching.

Image above: The slightly more modern upstairs studio kitchen used for cookbook and editorial shoots.

Image above: I use what would be a living room on the top floor as an open studio space for food and tabletop shoots. The light up there is amazing to work with.

Image above: Franklin, who has lost 3 lbs since moving here from his newfound love affair with stairs.

Image above: Banjo, who defiantly opposes the no-cats-on-table rule.

Image above: The backyard is still a work in progress, although we’ve started a 5′ x 20′ organic vegetable bed. Before planting, I was obsessed with digging and found bottles from the 1800s, toys, china, ice skates, etc. Todd built this outdoor table for us earlier this year.

Image above: We tried to make the front of the house look as much like the 1940s census photo as we could by bringing in old fencing, a gate, and stair rails. And somehow I lucked out with a climbing rose bush that just won’t quit.

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  • What a lovely home! I love how fresh and open it is. I’m curious as to what the dish soap holder actually is? Or was it meant for soap all along?

  • OMG I wants me some SMEG! (also, you did incredibly with that white on the banister… so what’s the verdict now that you’ve done it- white paint + dirt/heavytraffic stairs= worth it?

  • This is beautiful. The floors are especially wonderful. Were they added? What kind of wood are they?

  • Hi!
    Alexandra here…Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments!!!!
    To answer a few things:
    Soap dispenser was always for soap probably from an old public restroom.
    Couch was reupholstered at J&C in Bushwick Brooklyn–they did a great job and very affordable.
    The stair paint has held up really well, but we don’t wear shoes in the house…biggest problem is staying on top of cat hair.
    Floors are white oak brought up from TN by Steve at http://www.historicflooring.com…amazing to deal with, and also affordable.
    Bed spread from West Elm…I think they still have it!!
    Thank you again!!!!!

  • Alexandra, your house is really beautiful. My husband and I just recently purchased a beach house with teeny tiny rooms (no closets) and so I’m dying to know where you might have gotten your hands on your free standing closets/armoires. The tall skinny white one with the painting above it is exactly what I’ve been searching for! Any info would be so so appreciated.

  • Hi Again,…
    The cabinets like the one for linens are actually all from Craigslist…NY, CT, MA, RI…as far as you’re willing to drive! And if you like that kind of style it’s sometimes easier outside of NY….but I have to say, looking for specific sizes to fit certain areas was really hard. And you can count on having to re-paint, put new hinges on, etc, etc.

  • So stunning. As an ex-Brooklynite I find it especially dreamy for Red Hook. Do you leave that big wood table and chairs outside uncovered? Is the top made from 2x4s? And are you worried or looking forward to the weathering…?

  • The outside table has been super-soaked in wood sealer…so we’ll see how it survives uncovered or maybe with a tarp over winter. I don’t mind some aging, just don’t want it to rot! The chairs are on their way out, can’t wait til they break down completely so I feel justified in replacing them.
    For the fireplaces to be switched from coal to wood-burning they had to build the fireplaces out to regulation depth, replace the missing hearths, reline the chimneys, put new flues… and we added mantles. All in all it proabably worked out to about 4-5K each….I don’t rightly remember about how much time it took because we weren’t living here yet…but if I had to guess…2 weeks-ish in all?

  • Alexandra! Jeeze, what an amazing job you guys did! I kept reading the captions beneath the photos as “imagine above” instead of “image above” and it worked just right for me. I saw a thank you note on the SMEG that made me feel ever so good. xo, nicole

  • so appealing, compelling, soothing, is the clean white walls and unadorned floors with the scrubbed vintage everything else. Playfully natural; refreshing. Enviable.

  • Such a delightful, bright and airy place! Love the serene atmosphere but also the quirky details — that soap dispenser is to die for. Before you painted the stairs, did you sand/strip/anything else? What a visual treat! Andrea

  • what a wonderful house and home! i’ve just read your entire blog. how did you survive? really amazing staying power and taste combined. inspiring. well done. thank you for sharing.

  • By far the most inspiring place I have seen in years and Alexandria, you are an amazing photographer! I would love to talk to you about a project if you read this post. I am opening a store in Soho in a month and we need need you!

  • I love homes that have a cozy, lived-in feel with a fair amount of color and eye “stimulation”, but also love homes that have this fresh, calm sensibility. Today I want to remove half of what I own and create this breezy, beautiful space. It really is quite lovely.

  • OH! This house is so so beautiful and I can image mi house like this cause I have two cats with same colors and I love restore furniture. Congratx!

  • 5* – love your bathroom even more than i love mine…. :)
    and how i love your ‘junkyard’ finds – the fleamarkets seem to be wayyyyy better than any i’ve ever come across!!!! Thank you for this beautiful visit

  • I have a question about the antique brass bed. I’ve found a few of these in re-purpose furniture stores but the foundation is extremely high off the ground, about 13″ high. I really like the look of these antique beds but apparently that’s standard and not the normal height of a Hollywood frame. I couldn’t even attach a headboard like this to a Hollywood frame but every time I see them in blogs or books they look normal. I’m wondering if the ones I’m finding are reproductions. Whats the trick?

  • I am completely obsessed with this home. Everything is so beautiful! It has the vintage feel I adore, while staying crisp and clean! When can I move in?

  • I am glad to see others like this. I was wondering if it might be time to put this segment on sabattical since it always seems to be the same white apartment with a few funky retro accessories. Can you find an apartment with color on the walls?

  • I’m a fledgling food and interiors photographer, and it was so nice to see what they have done with the space. It all works harmoniously….everything a home should be, thank you!

  • It’s wonderful! I love how every thing feels so fresh and lovely in whites and all the added aged treasures- like that fantastic soap dispenser.

    You’ve been so nice about answering questions- can you tell me anything about what appears to be a great metal pattern, almost moroccan, on a screen door- on the double doors off the bedroom? Can that be bought or was it found? We would like to customize a screen door for our house and I would like to double up a screen with a sturdier metal pattern like that- to keep our own little table dwellers out of trouble :)

  • I have just spent the entire morning reading, and loving, your blog. I love your home and the love (to say the least) you’ve obviously put into it. I hope the demoed house next door will be worthy of being your neighbor! Can’t wait to keep reading your posts.

  • Hi! Ok! More answers….
    –The stairs were brand new so not much sanding was needed. They were primed, and then sanded lightly between coats of the Hollandic–probably 3 coats total. It’s thick so it settles well on horizontal surfaces and makes a nice even surface. (You also want to thin this paint before using it–and wear a super-duper mask!!)
    –Love your place Kim!!
    –Light fixture was from a flea market–so sorry I don’t have a source for it…
    –The bed frame is (gasp) new. I really wanted an old one but having a custom mattress sized for an antique frame was more than I could take at the moment. It’s from Find Home Furnishing by the Gowanus in Brooklyn. It’s ok… and sturdy at any rate.
    –The gates on the doors–yes you can have them made. We visited Bari Iron down the street from us and looked at patterns of metal and just chose one–and he made them up to fit the doors. I will warn you–they are not kitten proof, and we’ve had a stray jump through the holes–so I had to wire sheets of mesh screen to them (also for the bugs).
    Thank you again for all the amazingly nice comments!!!!

  • Your home has a certain tranquill stillness that portrays your vintage pieces beautifully. Love the look!

  • ADORE this series of home sneak peeks. I look forward to each new one and to finding an overlooked gem in the archives, though they are shockingly becoming fewer and far between…. DS team: Keep them coming, and perhaps a foray into spaces of emerging artists as well! Although homes of the established design world are fabulous to aspire to and be inspired by, there are plenty of buildings of rented spaces specifically for working artists that would provide a plethora of sneak peek opportunities. I’m sure you know the NYC highlights, but FYI- check out Baltimore’s Station North Arts district! Cheers!

  • Love this. I could move right in and just bring suitcases.
    I promise I make an awesome room mate and I cook!
    Can’t speak for the husband though ;-)

  • You’ve come a long way, baby! Congratulations! I am inspired by all of the work you put into your place, and clicked over to your blog after luxuriating in the delicious photos posted here on Design*Sponge. I’d love to read more about your thoughts about investing in and living in Red Hook. I saw your blog post about the stray bullet, but then also the tree planted outside by the city, and it made me wonder about the various shades of experience you’ve had in a “transitional” neighborhood that some people love and others stay away from. To me, your home is all the more beautiful for the context…

  • Beautiful beautiful!!! I love it!! The kitchen table with the yellow chair inspired me a lot!! I now decided to do the samething in my own house!!

    A angel at my table.

  • I love the whites… I know the paint color in the bathroom was white diamond, but it looks like in the rest of the rooms there are some cool and warm whites… Alexandra, can you share the white paint colors that you used (besides the stairs of course)? Thanks!

  • Strangely I don’t know if I think of Red Hook as that transitional–it sort of is what it is. The stray was certainly alarming, and there was a rise in crime earlier this summer, but I think that it was pretty much city-wide. I love it here, and I can’t say I feel unsafe. In fact, I have the nicest neighbors and I feel like there’s a very strong community here. When anything happens everyone is around, concerned, going to civic meetings, etc, etc…

    As for paints, I think you may be very disappointed! The light fixtures in the living rooms were painted in “sugar cookie” flat latex-acrylic (Benjamin Moore) which has a really creamy/warm feel, but other than that I don’t think we had any colors mixed for whites. I think the “difference” comes more from the finish. The moldings and doors are done in Hi Gloss enamel paint (Benjamin Moore), the walls are eggshell, and the ceilings and crown molding are flat (both Behr).

  • I would definitely take that antique stove with me, too!! It’s by far the best part of your home, although everything is truly lovely and so serene…I also especially like the high gloss on the stairs. Inspiring!

  • I see it feels like a vacation….STUNNING dreamy house you have and the personal flair just does it for me…

  • I had the same stove in my kitchen for 25 years.The hot plate and the grill were just extraordinary.The pictures brought back many happy memories. Inci birsel

  • COMPLIMENTI! What a beautiful restoration. We rent luxury villas in Italy and I have seen my share of beautiful homes over the year. Well done! Lori Redmond viavillasofitaly.com

  • I like the fireplace, however enough with the white. This much white is so sterile, germ-aphobic, and lacking in creativity. This kind of house might be fun to look at but it doesn’t breathe life or a living home. Sorry

  • Wow!!! What a perfect apartment… so full of charm, bright, positive energy and special little elements here and there to make it personal and cozy.. Love this!

  • just found this blog today. been here for hours. I’m hooked.

    Would love to know more about the bedspread the cat is sitting on. Very interesting texture. Is it recycled? Is it new? Where can I get one like this? Probably going to experiment with fabric and my sewing machine to see what I can come up with. Love the renovation!

  • Believe it or not…it’s almost all ebay…plus some antique shop/flea market finds. I’m so happy we did it that way, but at the time it was exhausting!

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