What Happens When You Renovate a 150-Year-Old Brownstone?
Under Elizabeth Roberts’s direction: magic.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:08 AM
Life is a lot different than it was in the 1800s, so obviously, our homes are too. If you’re itching to live in a storied building (an old carriage house, perhaps), there is no better expert to update and upgrade your home than architect Elizabeth Roberts. In a new profile by The New York Times, the townhouse-remodeling master gets her due as an influential designer who can meld old and new together with the utmost precision.
Of course, she has plenty of incredible design ideas to take notes from for our own future projects.
Roberts has become known for her fashionable, modern (with a touch of traditional) style that’s favored by people like Athena Calderone and Ulla Johnson. In her homes, you’ll find plenty of bright, white walls, experimental light fixtures, and large newly installed windows—in addition to well-preserved fireplaces and crown molding.
Even if you might not be moving into a circa-1866 Brooklyn brownstone, you can take inspiration from Roberts’ designs on how to modernize an older home without sacrificing its history. Below, take a cue from one of her masterful designs.
Pair wainscoting with light, neutral walls
Wood wainscoting can make a room feel dark, and elaborate wallpaper or deep colors can intensify that effect. Here, Roberts opts for soft, off-white walls to lighten things up. This also helps the dramatic fireplace stand out without overwhelming the space.
Keep original molding, but swap out the lighting
Elaborate molding can look a bit dated or overly traditional when paired with an old-school chandelier, so Roberts frequently installs distinctly contemporary light fixtures. As long as color palettes are aligned, don’t be afraid to mix styles.
To brighten things up, blow out a back wall
Okay, sure: This signature move of Roberts may be a major renovation, but the result is impossibly stunning. Creating a wall of windows facing an outdoor terrace or yard helps to bring the outside in and allows way more natural light into your home—a major win for smaller houses, in particular.
See more apartment inspiration: A “Bathroom in a Box” Service Officially Exists—Here’s Why You Need It The One Step a Renovation Expert Never Skips (No Matter What) This Home Is Proof That You Can Do a Gut Renovation for Under $25,000