Interiorssneak peeks

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone

by Garrett Fleming

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

On a snowy day just before the Christmas of 2005, Bennison Fabrics’ Gregg Mitchell and his brother shook hands with their realtor on the steps of this brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn. For a while, the Mitchell men and their wives had been playing around with the idea of moving their two families into a building outside the buzz of Manhattan, where they felt the schools and community would help their young children thrive. Admittedly, they were hardly taking the idea seriously. Then this 1880s-era home came on their radar, and they were hooked.

In all its 130 years, only five families (including the Mitchells) have owned the brownstone. And we all know what fewer owners means: minimal opportunities for a home to be stripped of its charm. To this day, original plaster ceiling work, oak floors and built-in cabinetry shine in each room, giving the space the grandiose feeling of a bygone era. Even better, without owners coming and going, the home stands free from trendy, flash-in-the-pan additions and tweaks.

All of the above make the Victorian a home run stylistically. It did take some major elbow grease to make the house logistically work for these modern families, though. Firstly, the brothers had to reconfigure the layout of the single-family home in order to turn it into two independent units. Gregg, his wife, photographer Andrea Chu, and their son, Nico, got the garden and ground level, while Gregg’s brother, his wife and their son nestled into the top three floors. Then, over the course of a year the house got new windows, plumbing, updated kitchens and fresh bathrooms.

Overall, Gregg says the renovation taught him some valuable lessons: “It’s better to do something right the first time,” he says. “In hindsight, [I] came away with an appreciation for quality work and materials. I [also] learned to design not for the moment… but for living with it forever.” Without a doubt, Gregg and his family’s hard work has afforded them the latter. The brownstone is classic, yet modern. In fact, it’s probably one of the most timeless homes we’ve ever featured. Scroll down to check it out, and enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Andrea Chu

Image above: This built-in banquette has become the centerpiece of the family’s dining room thanks to gorgeous upholstery by Bennison Fabrics.  It’s the first of many Bennison works you’ll see featured throughout Gregg and Andrea’s home.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

Andrea, Gregg and Nico love sharing a building with Gregg’s brother, his wife and their son. The couples are so close, they say sometimes it feels like the two boys have two sets of parents. Even better, the children’s grandparents are within walking distance as well.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

A painting by Gregg’s Great Uncle Frank hangs above the living room TV.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

This area of the living room is a family affair as well. The vintage Danish sofa was recovered in some of Gregg’s fabric, and Andrea took the photo hanging above it.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

The kitchen’s cabinet doors were custom built for the space.

Don’t design for what you think will look good in a real estate listing.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

A smattering of antique mirrors and Swedish chairs decorate the entryway.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

The staircase leading to the upper floors gives you a taste of their bedroom’s ornate millwork.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

The most incredible aspect of Gregg and Andrea’s 1880s-era home is the original detailing that remains. In their bedroom, for example, oak floors, custom built-in cabinetry and original plaster steal the show.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

People always ask the couple if the bathtub in their bedroom is functional, to which Gregg and Andrea reply, “Absolutely yes!” Why such a unique choice? Their bathroom is tiny, so they put the tub here to help the room feel larger. Plus, this corner of their bedroom was sitting unused, and they didn’t have to disturb any of the building’s original millwork to install it. It was a win-win for both spaces.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

Nico’s bedroom is at the back of the house alongside the dining room. If all goes as planned, soon Gregg and Andrea will totally renovate the two spaces to better fit their needs.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

When it does come time to renovate, Gregg and Andrea will keep in mind some simple lessons they learned from their latest round of tweaks: 1. Don’t design for what you think will look good in a real estate listing. 2. Go for quality. 3. Do as much as you can in one go. 4. Learn which details are the ones to sweat and the ones that don’t matter.

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

“What I love most about our home is how relaxing and comfortable and happy it is.” – Gregg Mitchell

Two Families, One Century-Old Brooklyn Brownstone, Design*Sponge

Most of the block’s brownstones were built at the same time, so the construction crew created upstairs passageways between them all. This kept the team from having to come down to street level, go next door then head back up more flights of stairs in the next house to do work on it.


Dining Room
Wall upholstery – Bennison Fabrics
Chairs – Tolex

Living Room
Portrait of girl – Andrea Chu
Upholstery, throw pillows – Bennison Fabrics
Photograph of car – Ken Richardson

Cabinetry – BDDW
Range – Viking

Wall color – Benjamin Moore “Decorator’s White”
Wainscoting color – Benjamin Moore “Paper White”
Chair upholstery – Bennison Fabrics

Gregg & Andrea’s Bedroom
Bed – BDDW
Bedding – Bennison Fabrics

Nico’s Bedroom
Bed spread, pillow – Marimekko
Mobile – The French Circus
Apple art – Peter Arkle

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  • By some strange coincidence I am at my family’s summer house this week where my Mom keeps her old copies of Martha Stewart Living. The September 2011 edition was on the coffee table and features the top three floors of this house. It was very interesting to compare the two styles. Clearly a beautiful and well cared for home. Thanks!

    • YES, that was exactly what I thought. I was wondering, is this Pilar Guzman’s house, the floor we never saw in her feature? Since her husband is Chris Mitchell it has to be so. That was one of my favourite home tours and so nice to see the other floors.

    • I remember that issue too and I love both spaces!!! Seems like a really nice way to live if you’re close with your family.

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