Interiors

A Uniquely Renovated Brooklyn Brownstone

by Sabrina Smelko

After living in the upper west side of New York for a decade, Melissa Lee, and her husband Keye developed a yearning for a larger space with a more relaxed vibe that would allow them to grow as a family and offer a space for Melissa to run her event, interior design and styling firm, Bespoke Only. They went about the house-hunting process very casually and didn’t take the hunt too seriously, but when the couple stumbled upon this gorgeous Brownstone in the creative and vibrant neighborhood of Clinton Hill that offered a truly blank canvas, they were quick to call it home for themselves and their three cats, Pishkin, Vader and Monkey.

It wasn’t love at first sight, but the space offered plenty of functional space and oozed with potential. It needed a lot of work and, just when they were becoming overwhelmed with it all, Melissa and Keye were lucky to find Sarah Jacoby from Simpson Jacoby Architecture to help them turn it into the home of their dreams. “There were phone calls from the crew every other day about some unforeseen issues inside of this over 100-year-old house,” Melissa says. “Roof leaks, unexpected load-bearing walls, electrical that was not up to code, the kind of renovation horror stories that we all have seen on TV — you name it and we had it.” Though the six-month-long process was stressful and had them crashing on family members’ couches most nights, the process wasn’t without some unforeseen perks as well — they learned patience and the value of living more simply. The constant moving forced them to shed a lot of their belongings, and they came to realize that a lot of their possessions weren’t necessities. “There are many things that we can actually live without and life still goes on,” Melissa explains, “It’s become a lighter way of life.” Of course, in the end, the result was also worth the wait and one they are forever grateful and thrilled with: a truly unique home, renovated and finished to their taste and lifestyle. –Sabrina

Photography by Ty Cole Photography
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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Melissa and Keye found this set of antique doors from the famed neighborhood salvage yard in Clinton Hill, Eddie's Salvage. "Eddie truly was the nicest gentleman," says Melissa, "He helped us look through piles and piles of giant old doors and measured many of them for us. We were lucky to find a set that was the perfect size that matches our front door opening." Their contractors stripped the paint off the doors, fixed the old lock holes, and had them repainted and they couldn't be happier with how the restoration turned out. The Moroccan cement tiles on the floor were found at Clé tile in California.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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The foyer leads to the stairs to the main floor of the triplex. The side door is an emergency exit for their tenant's duplex unit.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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The wall mirror made of an old sand casting mold was from Totally Bruce in Red Hook.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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Their cat, Monkey, relaxing on her favorite spot in the house. The bar cart is from Roost.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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Originally, there was a wall between the living room and the kitchen (shown furthest). They had it taken down and added a lot of molding to the wall and ceiling to keep the woodwork similar in style and color to the rest of the home's original features.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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The chandelier was sourced on eBay and the cabinets are all from IKEA with custom fronts from Semihandmade. An old partition wall that used to segregate the kitchen and hallway was removed to open up the room flow and several steel beams were installed to reinforce the structure. "We left the beams exposed for its different texture, together with the concrete countertop juxtaposing with the chandelier and calacatta marble backsplash - there's a certain oxymoron that creates a balance between rough and refined, masculine and feminine," says Melissa.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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The shelves are made of reclaimed barn beams and the cabinets are painted in Farrow & Ball's Railings.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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A floating wall bench and farm table create a relaxed communal dining space. "We wanted to infuse a bistro vibe to our dining space that promotes sharing during the meals - for the food we eat as well as the stories everyone brings to the table," explains Melissa. They envision many bottles of wine to be opened here accompanied with lots of great conversations in the future years to come! The dining table, chairs and wall lights are from Restoration Hardware.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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A photographer friend of Melissa and Keye's, MIho Aikawa, took this photo of the Brooklyn Bridge this past winter during a snow storm. "We love the journalistic side of this photograph as well as how the bridge appeared unusually still and silent in the snow," says Melissa.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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The main floor full bathroom features a doorless walk-in shower to make the limited space feel airier. A chalky limewash was applied to the walls to keep some texture and charm to the otherwise modern space.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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Bespoke Only's headquarters, the study. As opposed to the majority of the house, the room has a saturated palette and is filled with scattered objects: "A library that holds curiosities," says Melissa, "that's what we had in mind." The vintage desk and file cabinet were from past Brimfield trips. A wall-to-wall bookcase offers display and organization at the same time, and the built-in window seats have become their favorite reading nook.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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A brass candlestick sconce with black shade from Pottery Barn.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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Where they often spend their weekend afternoons and nights - coffee- and scotch-friendly!
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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A natural lime-wash was applied to the walls in this stairway and hallway, which has a nuanced painterly look. The slightly rough texture and shadowy surface ground the space with depth and prevent it from feeling too new or pristine. They kept the existing oak floor but had it sanded and bleached.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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Melissa and Keye's master bedroom is decorated minimally. "We wanted a muted space that allows us to recharge at the beginning of each day and to decompress at its end," says Melisaa.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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All the wall closet systems are from IKEA and the doors are from Semihandmade. Their contractors also installed moldings to create a custom look to the otherwise simple closets.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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In their master bathroom is a seamless walk-in shower with a wall bench made of calacatta marble. The floor tile was chosen for its hardwood look to tie the room into the rest of the home.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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Melissa and Keye relocated the existing skylight to a higher point of the room and made it larger to bring in more natural light and create a more expansive feel to their sloped ceilings. "We also discovered a hidden old window that was once sealed behind drywall," says Melissa, "Why anyone would seal off only one out of six windows remains a mystery!"
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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Their old IKEA dresser, which survived all of their moves sits below a wall mirror from Brimfield and grapevine wreath from previous holidays. "Of course, it will be re-decorated when the holiday comes this year!" laughs Melissa.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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The upstairs guest bathroom where everything slows down. "When we first saw the skylight in this bathroom, we knew right away a clawfoot tub is what it needed," says Melissa. It was a splurge, but worth it for the little sanctuary it created. The limewash was also applied to these walls to give a stone villa-like appeal.

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