Interiorssneak peeks

A Medical Resident’s Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone

by Garrett Fleming

Second-year NYU resident and Philadelphia-born Annie Honart has traveled all over the world studying to become a doctor. A brief stint at Oxford here, a few inspiring, medical-exchange programs in West Africa there — her passport has earned many stamps. At the end of all of these trips, however enlightening, she always comes back to where she feels safest and the most at-ease, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Annie settled into this neighborhood two years ago after realizing it would allow her to bike to work while also maximizing what precious, little time she has for fun. With friends living nearby, Boerum Hill was the perfect option.

Immediately upon walking inside the apartment for the first time, she knew it was the perfect option for her. The 117-year-old home’s exposed brick, hardwood floors and old-world charm paired so fantastically with the updated kitchen, Annie couldn’t resist. With a heavy workload, Annie knew she wouldn’t have the time to decorate the space with the care it deserved. So before the ink on the rental contract was even dry, she enlisted the help of friend and interior designer, Alex Kalita. Annie knew Alex’s shared aversion to clutter and love of clean, modern style would make them the perfect match for the project at hand. Plus, she trusted Alex’s taste implicitly — an invaluable trait when you don’t have time to review every one of your designer’s decisions.

When it came time to kick-off the project, Alex had her work cut out for her. Armed with a $7,000 budget, a tiny living area and almost no storage, the designer was tasked with filling the entire home with new furnishings. “Stylistically, I like modern, I like minimalist, I like clean,” Annie shares. “I wanted my home to reflect my aesthetic, but I was equally committed to feeling a sense of history (and saving money) by selectively incorporating family heirlooms.” Alex kept all of this in mind as she went about crafting a refuge for the medical resident. All-in-all, Alex has done a fabulous job putting together a space that’s perfect for Annie; a comfy home where she can plop down and unwind after a 24-hour shift. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Biz Jones

A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
Annie challenged interior designer Alex with decorating her entire brownstone for $7,000. To stay within the budget, the designer filled the space with a mix of high-and-low-priced finds. The bed was a splurge from Room & Board, but the cost was offset by IKEA NYPONROS bedding. This durable and affordable rug from Dash & Albert also did its part in keeping the bottom line reasonable.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
Interior designer Alex (left) with her friend and client, Annie (right).
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
The bedside is often dressed with fresh flowers.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
Annie's bedside table is a family heirloom. The top lifts up and holds her linen collection, and the fun lamp is from Sir Terence Conran’s JCPenney collection.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
A the foot of Annie's bed sits this cozy armchair. Annie says, "Although I’m firmly anti-clutter, I’ve never considered books to be 'stuff' in a negative sense. I told Alex that I wanted lots of bookshelves so I could see and be among my books. The library and wool-covered reading chair help to make the cavernous bedroom feel cozier." Before Alex came along, this chair was covered in a fussy and bold fabric. Alex had it reupholstered in Dorr Mills Store's fabric. When the piece was finished, there was even some leftover yardage. The extra bits turned into a throw blanket for Annie's bed – another cost-saving trick.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
Annie's pottery collection lives to the left of her reading chair.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
"To skirt restrictions on drilling into the masonry party walls, we used washi tape to display photographs and paper goods, including two vintage anatomy charts Alex found in the neighborhood," Annie explains.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
Annie's a big fan of mid-century-style furniture. This Bantam Studio Sofa from Design Within Reach is perfect for her and any overnight guests with its one arm and streamlined design. Without a doubt, it was the most expensive purchase for her home, but Alex knew that Annie wouldn't regret investing in a quality sofa. She was absolutely right. Throw by Macausland Woolen Mills.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
The wooden bench, serving as a coffee table, is a family heirloom.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
Alex found this vintage farm table for Annie at consignment shop Fork + Pencil. "It’s petite enough to sidle up against the radiator adjacent to the kitchen, where it supplements the countertop space for food prep and functions as my desk when I need to [work from home]," Annie explains. The chair is a family heirloom.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
On nights when friends come over, Annie moves the farm table just a bit to the right, transforming it into a dining table for snacking and laughing. The living room's coffee table is then used as bench seating.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
"My favorite thing about my home is the interplay between childhood pieces and modern objects." --Annie Honart
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
Although the main building was constructed in 1899, the apartment's kitchen and bathroom appear modern and clean, thanks to a careful renovation by Annie's landlords. The team was sure to not interfere with the building's original charm.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
"I indulge in quality toiletries. We short-haired girls have to be particular about our products. [My designer] Alex was pleased to discover that my lotions and potions came in bottles worth displaying – an asset when storage space is limited," Annie says. "There’s a skylight in the bathroom positioned right above the toilet. When you open the bathroom door, you’re practically blinded by the natural light. It’s bizarre that the bathroom is the brightest room in the apartment, but it does make the bathroom a happy place to shower and brush your teeth in the depths of winter." Her shower curtain is from West Elm.
A Medical Resident's Modern & Budget-Friendly Brownstone, Design*Sponge
An aerial view of the 117-year-old home in Brooklyn.

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  • Well done and simply stylish; I like the living-room couch lots. Nice that you can bike to work. The furnishing is chic and simple. Lovely!

  • Congratulations to both of you – Annie for having such lovely taste and Alex for having the vision and expertise to actualize it! This is a simple, quiet and well designed space.

  • What a lovely space you have designed, Alex. In keeping with your good taste and impeccable eye, you selected pieces that compliment other pieces. You’ve kept the space minimal yet warmed it up with some good looking wood pieces, vintage kitchen table and striking upholstery and bed covers. Congratulations and well done!

  • Hi! Lovely place. I wanted to pin some of the photos but the description is too long… (+2k against 500 car., wich is the max for Pinterest). Could you edit the description of the photos so we can pin? Thanks!

    • Lou

      Just click on the actual picture- that should work. Or just delete the caption and add your own :)

      I pin all of our posts all day, so I’m 100% sure Pinterest will let you pin them with their captions (or again, you can remove them).


      • Thanks, Grace! I pinned on the actual picture and could make it. I don’t know why but I was clicking in Share it and couldn’t remove the text.
        Thanks for the patience!


  • This is really lovely, but as family treasures were included, I can not imagine where $7,000 went. I look for consignment and thrift stores and fine my goodies for much less.

    • I was wondering this as well. How is $7000 to spend on an interior decorator ‘budget friendly’ or a student budget?

  • love everything!

    Was the brick wall changed in any way? I have one and am not sure what to do with it. Was the “grouting” added?

    • Hi Lynne – Thanks so much. The exposed brick wall is original to the space. We didn’t touch it, although it’s possible Annie’s landlords may have treated it while renovating the building a few years ago. It does have a sealant (in a matte finish) on it. My guess is that it was applied during the renovation. Hope this helps!

  • Thanks all for the kind words on the project!

    Jane and C – Yes, I agree that although any discussion of budget is inherently subjective, $7,000 is not an insignificant sum. In Annie’s case, the objective was not necessarily to furnish as inexpensively as possible, but rather to stretch the set amount she had designated in order to incorporate a few high-end pieces, like the DWR sofa and Room & Board bed. So, in that respect, perhaps “budget conscious” would be a better characterization than “budget friendly.”

    After spending the last decade bouncing between student housing arrangements, one of our guiding principles for the design process was that her home should symbolize the beginning of her career, and thus, of a more stable, traditional adult life; of putting down roots. Investing in quality pieces that she could keep with her for many decades to come was an important piece of that.

    For additional photographs, more of the story and a source list / budget breakdown, check out our blog post on the project: http://bit.ly/1W3mHhV

    • Hi Laura, I made the floral pillow from a ream of fabric I inherited from my grandmother, but you can find similar vintage motifs on Etsy and eBay!