When Barry Bordelon and Jordan Slocum, affectionately known as The Brownstone Boys, started their first renovation project as a pair, they never imagined their narrative would be picked up by a popular publication like Brownstoner. But when it did, it sent them on a brand new trajectory—one that would give them the opportunity to help other Brooklynites breathe new life into old, dated spaces.
Soon, they met a couple with a Carroll Gardens apartment that had fabulous bones, but needed a whole lot of TLC. What stood was a space with truly impressive historic features—like plaster molding, marble fireplaces, and grand pocket doors—with 70s-style features that stole the show… and not in a good way.
They had a vision: Brighten everything up to let the historic features really shine, but add modern touches wherever possible to give the classic look a contemporary feel.
Bringing Paris to New York
The homeowners lived in Paris and wanted to see elements of the city’s vibe in their new space. This is something best illustrated in the living room, where large, ornate fireplaces and mirrors are paired with mid-century modern elements—the wooden coffee table and the crisp, angular couches—so prevalent in Brooklyn.
Marrying the Old and the New
“We love to restore beautiful historic features, but it’s really nice to put a super modern kitchen or bathroom in as a juxtaposition to that,” says Bordelon. They did just that in this home’s kitchen, which features Semihandmade’s DIY Slab fronts painted in a sophisticated off-white called Shaded White by Farrow and Ball.
Letting the Light In
One of the biggest design challenges in this space was one that’s common when designing a railroad-style unit like a brownstone: the middle of the apartment received little to no natural light. In this particular space, this meant the kitchen was dark and dreary. To help bounce the light around, Bordelon and Slocum extended the windows in the front of the unit and lightened up walls, woodwork, and floors.
Restoring Cool Features to Their Former Glory
One of the main features in the house—and one of Slocum’s favorite parts of the space—is the pocket doors that separate the main rooms of the house. The windows in them were filled with what The Brownstone Boys called “really terrible plexiglass,” so they removed the veneer work, then repainted them and installed new glass.
Adding Modern Functionality
The primary bedroom didn’t have a closet, but adding one presented a unique design complication: If they built a drywall closet, it would interfere with the stunning plaster molding from the original design. To work around this, Slocum and Bordelon added a unit spanning an entire wall. Using BOXI by Semihandmade, a new line of pre-assembled cabinets, they were able to install a 15-by-10-foot closet complete with hanging space, drawers, and shoe storage without sacrificing the unique historical details of the room.
Topping It Off With a Touch of Whimsy
One of the homeowner’s is an art curator, so The Brownstone Boys worked closely with her to source all kinds of fun art, light fixtures, and colorful furniture for the space. Some favorites include a green console the homeowner’s already owned and worked into the new space, wall decals in their child’s room, and an abstract painting next to the historic fireplace in the living room.