A Building Fire Couldn’t Stop This Couple From Renovating Their Apartment
Ten years later, they’re still happy with the choices they made.
Published Nov 27, 2020 12:00 AM
Three weeks after Jerome and Lucie Lagarrigue finished renovating their Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, apartment in 2010, a fire broke out on the roof of their building, undoing all the hard work they had just put into their new home. “There was so much water in the apartment that we had to redo everything,” remembers the wellness and lifestyle coach, whose son, Jules, was 9 months old at the time.
Determined to finish their place once and for all—and start their new life as a family of three—the Lagarrigues dove into a second round of more in-depth renovations, ripping up the damaged floors and opening up the kitchen to give Lucie room to whip up cacio e pepe or a bowl of ramen while still keeping an eye on Jules. Homebodies at heart, the French-born couple was craving an open space where they could spend time together as a family. And it paid off: Ten years later, sheltering at home, they still enjoy their space just the same—a testament to making the right choices from the get-go.
Making Room for Books
A few of the couple’s art books were lost in the flames, but the majority of their impressive collection remained intact, which meant adding much-needed storage was at the top of the priority list. Using every inch of the 11-feet ceilings, they imagined a bookcase that ran along the length of the entire wall behind a circular staircase that leads to their newly minted roof deck. This way, they could reach all the way to the top without a ladder.
Revealing the Building’s History
When the couple discovered a patch of original brick on a nearby wall, they had to see the whole thing. Under the layer of Sheetrock, blackened bricks with holes where beams had once divided the high ceilings revealed signs of another past fire in the century-old building. Some people would have seen the uneven surface and swiftly covered it back up, but they loved its moody, history-rich look and decided to keep it as is. It now serves as the family’s dining room backdrop.
Creating a Wall of Mementos
Above a desk that serves as Lucie’s main workspace (and, this year, a homeschooling station for Jules), the couple has been pinning family photos and inspiration. “We started adding photographs of people and things that we love—Jerome and his dad on the Manhattan Bridge, a portrait of James Baldwin, our favorite writer, my son’s artwork—and it grew organically,” explains Lucie. Over the years, it’s become an ever-evolving collage of personal memories to reference when needing a boost of inspiration. “We have a lot of artists on both sides of our family, and visual images are very much part of who we are.”
Keeping Work Out of the Bedroom
This extends to the rest of the house, where a collection of work by Jerome, a painter, hangs alongside canvases by Lucie’s dad and Russian artist Alex Kanevsky. “Jerome and he are good friends and they exchanged paintings one day,” she says. But unlike the rest of the apartment, the main bedroom is devoid of any artwork. “It’s the one place that’s quieter and more serene,” she adds. A no-fail design recipe for a fresh perspective come morning.
Go-to local vintage shop: I like the Brooklyn flea market in Fort Greene and the antiques shops on Atlantic Avenue (City Foundry is great).
Favorite source for plants: Red Hook Chelsea Garden Center.
The most affordable thing in my home: A set of six vintage plates I bought at a brocante two summers ago (each plate was 2 euros). They [each depict] a different painting, representing a man and a woman courting each other in a bucolic setting, in a very Fragonard style.
The object in my home that gets the most use: My mini Dyson V7 hand vacuum cleaner. I’m a bit of a neat freak.
My biggest splurge: The leather sofa in our dining room from Natuzzi. We bought it more than 15 years ago at the shop in SoHo. At the time I worked in the neighborhood and I would go every day to look at it. Eventually, I became friends with the manager, and he kindly offered me the option to buy the exhibition sample at the end of the season at a discounted price…so we saved, waited very patiently, and eventually bought it. We lived in a six-floor walk-up at the time, so the delivery was quite something!
This textile in my home is so me: I have this African wax (with a bird print) in my dining room that I love so much! It brings me joy! I grew up with a lot of African waxes and vintage Indian Kanta fabrics, too. My mom was a textile designer, so we always had lots of beautiful fabrics around.
Who to Know
I loved working with: Umang Shah, our architect from Contextus Architecture & Design, who really was most helpful in redesigning our place.
The nicest contractor I’ve ever met: Fred Troadec from Atelier Troadec.
Genius landscaper: Brooklyn Landscape.
Other highly recommended craftspeople I worked with: Atelier Sylvain Frey. He did all the amazing woodwork in our kitchen—cabinets, island base, and also the custom desk.
The one thing I wish I knew before renovating: If I could go back in time, I’d soundproof our floor, because the soundproofing in our building is not so great (as in most old buildings).
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