Also visit

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. 

Living room with windows and mirror

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.

Open kitchen and dining space

Cream slab kitchen cabinets

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.

Open dining and living rooms

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.

White painted pocket doors

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.

Arched bedroom door with wall of closets

Wall of closets with one door open

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.

Chair with modern art hanging above it

Kids bedroom with art decals on the walls

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.

Comments (2)

  • wendy beck says:

    I have a long, narrow Victorian condo so the idea of extending light appeals to me. I’d love to see the before/after on how the windows were “extended”. (“To help bounce the light around, Bordelon and Slocum extended the windows in the front of the unit ..”) Would also love to see the bedroom closets in their entirety. What a gorgeous space.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


What’s the best paint color for my kitchen cabinets? How do I personalize my rental without renovating? Which interior design trends will stick around beyond 2021? How did marble become so popular in kitchen design (and should I splurge on my dream countertops)? Our interior design journeys are filled with questions which we at SemiStories attempt to answer every week through expert interviews, inspiring home tours, and trend reports. “Do As a Designer Does,” our monthly advice column, takes us behind the scenes of kitchen and bathroom design (and beyond) by spotlighting the best brains in the business. Here, we turn the microphone over to you to ask all your burning interior design, trend, and renovation questions to your favorite experts, from Sarah Sherman Samuel to Bobby Berk. Have a question? Shoot us a message on Instagram, or email us at for a chance to be featured! Have you ever wondered why certain details exist in your home? Maybe you’ve questioned who came up with the idea for forks, or perhaps you’ve contemplated how pantries have evolved over centuries—after all, both can be intriguing in their own right. The truth is, most of what we surround ourselves with at home has an interesting story to tell. In our monthly series “Design History” with (actual) design historian Amy Azzarito, we’ll explore the backstories of your favorite things. Home tours are intriguing for a reason: they give us a rare glimpse into the way other people live and inspire us to improve our own spaces. Maybe it’ll motivate you to paint your laundry room a bright sunshine yellow, persuade you a stacked teal backsplash is the way to go, or convince you the entryway is the perfect place for a gumball machine (hey, why not?). Whatever you take away, we have no doubt you’ll get tons of kitchen and bathroom design ideas to bring home. Are farmhouse islands here to stay? What will be the biggest interior design and hardware trends in 2021? Will the pandemic affect what homes of the future look like? Our weekly trend stories will keep your finger on the pulse of interior design, renovating, and more.