sneak peek: alexandra grablewski and todd bonné

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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.

  1. jess says:

    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 :)

  2. Krissa Jacobson says:

    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.

  3. Alexandra says:

    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!!!!

  4. Nancy D says:

    I would love to live in this house and would have loved to have been part of the gutting and restoration of it. A well done job.

  5. Lisa Conforto says:

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

  6. Karina says:

    Absolutely gorgeous!

  7. anna says:

    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!

  8. Jesselyn says:

    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 ;-)

  9. Florainnice says:

    Delightful.

  10. Rita says:

    Your home is perfect, congratulations!

  11. Kitty says:

    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…

  12. fai says:

    love this house! sop peaceful and simple.

    x

  13. Mari says:

    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.

  14. Emiliana says:

    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!

  15. Alexandra says:

    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).

  16. Ashley says:

    YUM! everything about it!

  17. LOVE everything about this house!

  18. Hillary says:

    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!

  19. Spoon Carrey says:

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

  20. Cory says:

    my favorite EVER.
    And I’ve never commented here before.
    That’s how much I love it.

  21. Denny says:

    Very nice and light!

  22. Inci Birsel says:

    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

  23. Lori says:

    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

  24. Butter says:

    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

  25. Shelby says:

    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!

  26. 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!

  27. Alexandra says:

    Believe it or not, the bedspread is from West Elm…and I think they still have it!

  28. This is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!

  29. Shannon says:

    Where did you source your lighting? It looks marvelous. I love it all.

  30. Alexandra says:

    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!

  31. Christine says:

    Gorgeous space! I would love to live there.

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