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 Sarah Jacoby Architect 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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
A brass candlestick sconce with black shade from Pottery Barn.
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
Where they often spend their weekend afternoons and nights - coffee- and scotch-friendly!
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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
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
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
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
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
A Uniquely Renovated 1886 Brownstone Nestled in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
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
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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  • The chandelier from eBay is gorgeous. Also all the black is really stunning. The kitchen with the darker blue cabinets and the reclaimed wood looks great. Love the chalky dark feel of the bathroom and their bedroom ceiling. Great place.

    • Keywords for finding that chandelier please?!? Is that photo taken in regular lighting or long exposure? Been looking for something that casts light like this for years. ❤️

  • This is the most beautiful home interior I’ve ever seen on D*S. The details are both simple and exquisite. Their contractors did an amazing job on the old doors and IKEA cabinets.

  • We just put in the same tiles in the vestibule of our Victorian home!!! The tiles are a traditional Moroccan tile pattern. We got ours from Overstock.com which has a nice selection of cement tiles at a discount.

      • Honey, so sorry I just saw your question today! Overstock calls it Argana but it goes by different names depending on the vendor.

  • This space is breathtaking. I love the muted palette and how well the study contrasts the rest of the house. Incredible find!


  • Oh my! I think this is is my most favourite home ever! Everything in it is just right, great palette, a bit of contrast and drama and perfectly styled. Just stunning.

  • What is the secret to the floating shelves in the kitchen?! They are gorgeous.

  • Beautiful place. I particularly love the transom windows. A lot of older homes have this beautiful feature where the window is not only above the exterior door, but also the interior doors. This definitely brings in a lot more light through the front door.

    I love mirrors above sofas and beds!. The large size of the one in the living room adds a real ‘wow’ factor to the living room. It looks larger than 3 feet. Does anyone know?

  • Oh where do I start? I love this brownstone! The interior design and décor are stunning. From the graceful curving handrail of the stairway to the serene guest bathroom…. And Melissa’s office should also be featured in a magazine! Love the blue walls against the rustic wood!
    If ever I were to live in a Brooklyn brownstone, this one would be it. Thanks for inviting us in! : )
    – Jean (NJ)

  • Becky – the shelves were installed with custom L brackets that buried inside of the wall.

    Joanne – the mirror is a little over 4 ft dia.

    And thank you all for your kind words. :)

    • Hi Melissa,

      I love your home, its stunning! Reminds me of our bohemian farmhouse in chicago (100y old too!) I LOVE your entry way light, do you recall the source? Thank you!!

  • This is such a gorgeous home (loved the limestone wash) and so beautifully photographed (It seems some other featured homes lately have been blown out and/or a bit Instagrammy. I really appreciate the professional feel and quality of these photos!) If you ever need an assistant, that office space puts my current corporate cube to shame… will work for design advice! hehe ;)

    Thanks for sharing and thanks to Design*Sponge for the platform!

  • This place is magnificent! I can see this place would give anyone a perfect sense of calm. Brilliantly done.

  • So perfect! Is it possible to know where you purchased the beautiful lamp on your desk.

  • This home is stunning…literally, breath taking. Would love to know where those bed linens are from. Thank you for sharing your space!

  • This place is beautiful. I love the bleached floors and the tile that matches that look in the master bathroom. Where is the tile from?

  • Beautiful home! Could you tell me the color of the blue paint in the study used? It is gorgeous. Thanks!

  • Beautiful place! Also, would love to know the paint color in the study. Thanks!

  • Your home is absolutely stunning! Thank you for sharing! I would love to know more about the limewash paint treatment! Is that something straight out of a can, or is it more of a technique/process by the painter? Thanks!

  • hi!
    it’s a lovely, lovely home!
    can you tell me what color the half wall is painted in the kitchen?
    thank you!

  • Hi Melissa,

    I’ve been scouring the Cle website, looking for your gorgeous entry way tile, but I can’t seem to find that pattern. Do you know what it’s called? Your home is stunning!

  • Hi Melissa! What a lovely job you’ve done. May I ask who did your floors (the sanding and bleaching)? Looking for a Brooklyn recommendation and yours look spectacular.

    Thank you! And congrats on getting to live in such a dream space.


      • Hi Melissa, I’ve been admiring your space for a few months now. It’s lovely. I’m about to redo my apartment as well. Would you mind sharing the name of your contractor? Thank You so much!

  • Love tons of the design features. Beautiful. Redoing my entryway… Could you tell me where you got the chandelier from?

  • Absolutely beautiful home. I have been looking at the pictures over and over! Can you share the white paint color used throughout most of the main areas of the home? Thank you!!

  • What a stunning home!

    Are those new windows? Do you know what style / brand they are? We’ve been searching for similar ones.


  • It’s very nice, and I’m glad the “calm” makes the homeowner happy.

    But it’s just too colorless for me. I couldn’t be happy in something with all the pizazz of a concrete parking garage.

    What I like: the blue kitchen cabinets, the blue walls in the office/den (see a theme developing?) and the cement tiles in the entry. Oh, and the front doors.

  • Your home is stunning? I’ve been looking for a similar entry way light fixture. Where did you purchase this one?

  • This home is beyond gorgeous. Do you mind providing the countertop details?

  • Where did you get the pendant light near the door. Hanging light that has all the reflection on the walls.

  • First, this home is absolutely a work of art. Beautiful job to all involved and congratulations!

    I would LOVE to know the color of the blue/green on the kitchen cabinets (Newburg Green??), where the cabinets are from, as well as the tile used on the backsplash. Thanks so much Melissa!

  • I too am dying to know where that globe cut glass pendant is from.
    Is it vintage? I see someone referring to a chandelier from eBay…is that the one? Can you point us to something similar. Would make me so happy to come home to those reflections.
    Please advise.

  • This must be one of the absolutely most gorgeous transformations I’ve EVER seen. I could fly over with all my 459 suitcases and just live there, it’s so perfect. Love literally EVERYTHING from the kitchen, bathrooms, all the other rooms, the entry, the deco, the style. This is unreal!
    And I also see that you were kind enough to reply to your readers’ question, which is lovely too. I especially also love how the photos include your sweet self in the background doing ‘stuff’, the cat…. it just speaks to me like one friend to another.
    Thank you for this upload; even though I’m a total latecomer, I sometimes think I’m better off late because I can then when I have a moment to myself, also read all the comments! I am subscribed to DS and love every post but often only read them with a great delay.
    All the best to you, Kiki in France

  • I was wondering what range hood you used and if you have a better photo of it. I’m debating between a hood that might be more like yours and a more commercial-looking GE Cafe one.

  • Yes, I would also love to know what the range hood is – we are doing open shelving in our kitchen reno and I’m having trouble integrating the range. Does yours vent to the ceiling? Thanks for any details!

  • What kind of tile is shown in the backsplash of the kitchen (photo 7)? Thank you!!

  • Your home is one of the most beautifully styled spaces ever. Thank you for sharing so many of your design resources. I love the glass pendant light hanging in your foyer, would you mind sharing where you obtained it. Thanks so much!

  • Oh goodness I just found where you so gracefully shared that information about the light. Thanks…I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful and comfortable place to live. You did such an amazing job!

  • Hi Melissa! Lovely, going to inspire our LA home no doubt!

    Were other walls in the home, specifically the Railing color on the wall of the kitchen area, lime washed as well? They seem to have some texture.


  • HI !

    could you please tell me where the hallway wall lights are from please ?! congratulations on a beautiful space :-)

  • What a gorgeous house. We are also in Clinton Hill and looking to do a renovation. Would you mind sharing your architect and contractor’s information? Do you happen to know if they’re familiar with the 203k process?

  • Hi ….
    I love the study. Could you tell me the paint color used? Thank you!

  • Hi – can you tell me what paint/color the blue kitchen cabinets are? thanks!

  • Hi Melissa,

    This home is gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing this project. I am wondering about the tiles of the kitchen backsplash…I think a few others were as well but I don’t see an answer for that one. Would you mind sharing that info?

    Best, Selina

  • The kitchen cabinet handles – where are these beauties from? I read through the comments and the article and didn’t see these sources. Many thanks!

  • Selina – they are carrera marble tiles sourced in a local tile showroom in New York. I think you can find these online as well.

  • I love the entry fixture. I have been looking for something unique. It’s perfect. Where did you find it?

  • Hi! I am also wondering about the gorgeous pendant in the entryway. Where did you find it!? Thanks.

  • Absolutely beautiful home! Can I ask if you ordered direct from Rothschild & Bickers and if you needed to rewire in the US? Many thanks!

  • Beautiful home! Do you mind sharing the paint color and finish of your office? Thanks!

  • I’m in love with that kitchen! Do you mind sharing the material and color of the countertop? Thanks!

  • A wonderful home! I am also wondering where you found the perfect entrance pendant? Thanks!

  • Melissa, your house is gorgeous! All the details are so spot on. Can you share the source of the curtain rods in the master bedroom?

  • Your house is beautiful. In need of a contractor for our brownstone renovation. would you be able to share your contractor info. thank you.

  • Hi Melissa,

    We just bought an apartment in Clinton Hill that we are currently in the process of renovating and we love what you did with your house.
    Could you possibly let us know who provided / fabricated your concrete counter tops?

  • Hello,

    Could you please tell me what paint color you used in the study?



  • Hi! I am based in Europe and live in an similar townhouse. Would love to have the lighting you put in the hallway. Where did you buy it? Thanks a bunch!

  • I’m curious about the reclaimed wood floating shelves in the kitchen; where were they purchased? Beautiful!

  • Hi – I love the light in your entry way (the textured glass globe one). Do you recall here it’s from?

  • Hi. Love your kitchen bench. Is it the length of table ie length of the wall? Look forward to your reply!

  • Three things:
    1) I think the pendant light was from here –> Rothschild & Bickers.
    2) It is disappointing because I think I recall there was a longer string of comments that had sourcing information but it appears DS has cut it off.
    3) This home is our inspiration home. Everything about it, we want in our home… except in San Francisco. Well done Melissa+team. Thank you! :)