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Interiorssneak peeks

A 150-year-old Apartment in Brooklyn Heights

by Garrett Fleming

When I first started my apartment hunt, I immediately knew what would make me fall for a place — a vintage feel, white kitchen, and original details. After finding out that nearly all 12 of my potential properties had been rented before I even got to step foot inside, I took a walk around my favorite Chicago neighborhood to clear my head. On that very stroll, like a gift from a stork, my current one-bedroom on Fremont Street fell into my lap. There is was: a “For Rent” sign tied to a wrought-iron gate. What sold me on the place was not only the serendipitous story of finding it, but how the owners had maintained the charm of their building. 100-year-old moldings, built-in cabinetry and that all-white kitchen seemed to have been waiting, preserved, for me all along.

What frequently catches my eye is when homeowners not only preserve, but amplify, the original parts of a space. Charlie and Megan beautifully did just that after buying this 150-year-old apartment in Brooklyn Heights, NY. Originally, they were intrigued by the increase in square footage they would be getting, but upon closer inspection, the parlor floors, high ceilings, original fireplaces and moldings were what made the place irresistible. Charlie works in real estate and too often finds that new construction doesn’t even make an attempt at protecting the original elements of the “rich history of Brooklyn design and construction.” That being said, maintaining those elements in their home was of the utmost importance. Six weeks of cosmetic changes, including a new doorway, closet rebuilds and rewiring was all it took to bring the century-old place into the present day. Once you take a peek inside, I’m sure you’ll agree that they’ve done a great job crafting a fantastic backdrop for their covetable vintage collection. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Aaron Joseph

Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
1/23
A piece of a Philadelphia theater's backdrop drapes the wall behind the television. In its entirety, the backdrop – from Holler & Squall – is 20 feet by 10 feet, and slivers of it live all over the couple's apartment. The vintage swivel chairs are a must for the pair. They lend themselves so well to bopping between conversations amongst friends. The television console is from West Elm.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
2/23
Charlie's mother sold posters for a living in the 70s. Her remaining collection is filled with bold, unique patterns and colors. Megan and Charlie couldn't resist using her Hundertwasser poster to decorate their apartment's bar – also an heirloom from Grandmother.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
3/23
Residential designer and developer Charlie Wachtel and his wife, Megan, who handles real estate mediation and litigation. The large sign was picked up from a man who used to sell salvaged artifacts on Houston Street in Manhattan. When Charlie took it home on the subway, every cop thought he had stolen it right off the wall.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
4/23
Charlie has always wanted to live in a clock tower so he loves how this giant Rumrunner Home clock gets him as close to the real deal as possible.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
5/23
Pocket shutters proved to be the best option for the living room's enormous windows. Finding a rug that was both large and inexpensive was challenging, but Heirloom ended up having just the right option for the space. Lighting by Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
6/23
Charlie and Megan's Restoration Hardware Chesterfield is so plush it's hard to resist falling asleep in its folds. The Salvador Dalí lithographs hung in Charlie's grandparents' living room when he was a kid.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
7/23
"The pew was originally from a synagogue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, but was more recently used as seating for a burlesque show in DUMBO. The seat still has glitter caught in the grain of the wood from the dancers..." The dining chairs were picked up when a nearby restaurant shuttered. A little reupholstery made them feel brand new. The wall sconces are by Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co., and the dining table was bought at Dorset Finds Store.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
8/23
Charlie and Megan love how the Andrew Martin wallpaper constantly tricks their guests into thinking it's real shelving. That's exactly what trompe l'oeil wallpaper was created for – tricking the viewer into thinking a flat object is three dimensional. This nook gets more attention than any other piece in the home.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
9/23
The living room's office is furnished by West Elm.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
10/23
The two recently learned that the best deals at the Brimfield Antique Show happen just before closing on the final day. This vintage photo is proof.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
11/23
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
12/23
The couple enjoy how light and uncomplicated their bedroom's design is. Benjamin Moore "Snowfall" covers the walls, and the ceiling light is from Restoration Hardware.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
13/23
Their bedding is from West Elm, the lamp is from Pottery Barn and the antique bedside tables were restored by Megan.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
14/23
Charlie and Megan got engaged in Paris right before Christmas. Charlie's gift to her that year was this Eiffel Tower ring stand to hold her wedding band. While visiting friends in Amsterdam last year, the couple picked up this Eddy Varekamp print.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
15/23
The Wachtels love shoes so much that they had to create ingenious storage solutions for their many pairs. This industrial, medical cabinet from Brooklyn Flea even has a light that pops on when the door is opened.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
16/23
Originally, the home had a door connecting the kitchen and front room. The couple tore down the doorway and carved out this stunning archway to let more light in and to help the rooms flow into one another. This room is still a work in progress, and the couple is always on the hunt for seating solutions that properly fill the slightly awkward space. Tips appreciated! Rug by Anthony Franck Rugs and vintage wall sconces by New York Vintage Lighting.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
17/23
Many of the sitting room's accessories were handed down from Charlie's grandparents. Growing up, his family always joked about how their grandparents wouldn't let them leave without taking some trinket from their never-shrinking attic.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
18/23
The Gustav Stickley desk was found at an antique store in Massachusetts and is decorated with a sketch that Charlie found in a home he was renovating. It's dated 1909. "We can't decipher who the artist is. Until I'm proven wrong, I'll assume it's an early work of a very important artist," he says. The framed auction notice from the 1800s concerns Brooklyn land parcels. Charlie fell in love with it, but when he went to snag it, it had already been sold! It turns out Megan had secretly bought it for him as a birthday gift the day before.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
19/23
The windowless kitchen is never lacking light due to the large skylight above it. The wall is painted in Benjamin Moore "White Dove" flat with high gloss on the molding, and the lighting is by Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
20/23
Finding a wallpaper with "the right amount of whimsy and cheer" was very challenging. This Schumacher "Birds and Butterflies" print was the obvious choice once the two stumbled upon it.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
21/23
The Benjamin Moore "Black Horizon" chalkboard backsplash serves as a guestbook for the family.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
22/23
Charlie loves how the charcoal grout gives their bathroom a "great washroom feel, but the marble floor and countertop give it a little more richness." Megan's favorite part of the room is the feeling she has while getting ready inside. She says it's nothing short of primping in a luxury hotel's bathroom. More Benjamin Moore "White Dove" is used here, and the medicine cabinet is from Restoration Hardware. Kohler designed the frameless shower door, and the wall sconces are from Rejuvenation.
Desirable Original Details in Brooklyn Heights, Design*Sponge
23/23
The home's floorplan.

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Comments

  • Where is the industrial end table next to the Chesterfield sofa from? My guess is it’s vintage, but thought I’d check. It’s wonderful and I can see it in different rooms of my house.

    • Hey Regine – so glad you like it! We found it at a shop in Brooklyn called Journey (http://www.journeydumbo.com/). They have all sorts of beautiful things, although they’re straying more contemporary than vintage industrial at this point. Hope that helps though!

  • oh my GOD i am obsessed with this! what a beautiful, beautiful home. such a great use of the space, and so many artful, quirky details. i love it.

  • Yes!
    I chuckled real hard at the subway sign story! I bought an Uptown 6 sign from the same gentleman on Houston, and had a very similar experience with people staring and asking as I carted it home.

  • Beautiful space. I am compelled to be a grammar stickler here… I suggest ‘utmost’ is the word you are looking for, not ‘upmost’ . My intention is to help, not criticize as you’ve put together a lovely post otherwise. Grammar is of the utmost importance!

      • And thanks for your graciousness! It feels great to have a suggestion put into place. I practically feel famous.

  • That front room is a conundrum. It’s the entry, an office and a library by the looks of things with an awkward layout but nevertheless a lovely and important space. My only suggestion would be a couple of smallish vintage (leather) club chairs either side of the fireplace. That way it is a cosy sitting/reading area but also being an entry is like an inviting lobby in a hotel. Lovely home.

  • Well, with a space like that, anything could look good in there. Love the high ceilings, do not like the chalkboard backsplash.

  • Absolutely lovely! It’s definitely a great mix of old and new – I especially love that light yellow chair in front of the vintage fireplace.

  • love it! where are the bedside table lamps from? i love the base(s) they don’t take up a lot of room on the table(s)

  • That small industrial cabinet next to your sofa looks great, it was one of my favorites in the store, thanks for crediting Journey,
    Cheers Pam