This Brooklyn Brownstone Goes Over the Top With Oak Wood in the Best Way

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green chairs next to wood sofa surround
Custom Roman Shades and Pillowcases, Tania Kovalenko Ltd. (fabrics by Schumacher and Maharam); Custom Upholstery, Stitchroom; Sofa Fabric, Métaphores; Window Seat Fabric, Pindler; Vintage Armchairs, Dobbin Street Vintage Co-op; Fireplace Mantel, Bas Stone; Wall Paint, White Dove by Benjamin Moore; Outlet Plates, Buster + Punch; Paintings by Margaret G. Still.

When your life’s work hinges on something as small as a stitch in a garment, odds are you’re going to care about the details in everything else you do. For a Swiss embroidery designer living in Brooklyn, having a keen eye for the little things came in handy when she and her British husband, the owner of a New York–based brand consultancy, decided to renovate a 1910 brownstone in Cobble Hill. Their ultimate goal was to swathe the home in oak wood, but a too-dark stain or an incorrect cut surely would not go unnoticed. “Details are really important to me because I like the little things. I feel like the little things bring the big picture together,” says the homeowner. 

Luckily, they had designer Claire Hung going to bat for them at the local veneer shop. She was adamant about there being no visible cathedrals in the wood. “I personally find them to be very distracting,” notes Hung. Instead, she convinced the millworker to cut down the center of any cathedral markings in the grain and then mix up the panels, resulting in a streamlined look. “I worked with another contractor fairly closely to arrive at the color,” she adds. The conversation went something like: “Warm, but not too warm.” 

desert artwork in dining nook
Dining Table, Ethnicraft; Pendant Lamp, Noguchi Shop; Custom Banquette Upholstery, Stitchroom with Fabric by Fabricut; Art by Marc Gabor via Tappan Collective.
office shelving
Desk, Shelving, and File Drawers, Ethnicraft; Light Fixture, Galilee Lighting.
floor bed

Going all in on oak was a natural choice for the owner, who felt like the material spoke both to her northern European heritage and the many trips she and her husband have taken to Japan. “Swiss chalets have a lot of carving, the wood is very busy, and in Japan, it’s very simple. We just felt we would love to live in a space like that,” she says. 

wood kitchen
Counter Stools, Muuto; Appliances, Miele; Countertops and Backsplash, Concrete Collaborative; Faucet, Watermark.
wood kitchen cabinets

With a clear vision of the millwork in mind and their contractor, David Nahm of Orion Development, on board to see it through, they got to work. In the main living area and stairwell, they added aesthetically pleasing slatted panels that accentuate the height of the brownstone’s ceilings. But the space isn’t just about good looks. The wood boxes underneath the first few steps pull out, revealing hidden storage. (Psst: There’s even more storage underneath the nearby window bench for kids’ stuff.) “That’s the biggest lifesaver—you don’t see the toys,” says the owner; the couple has a 5-year-old son, 2-year-old daughter, and another child on the way. 

white sectional
Coffee Table, Armada; Area Rug, Nordic Knots.
white sofa

The extra-low sofa, which at first appears to be sunken into the floor, was a collaboration between the millworker, who constructed the wood frame, and Stitchroom, which handled the upholstery. “It has my favorite fabric on it,” notes Hung. The cushions are wrapped in a chunky linen fabric from French brand Métaphores, and the designer notes it’s silky smooth. Although it’s coated in a stain-resistant treatment, the owners have a habit of covering the couch up with beige throws when permanent markers and dark-colored juices are out. To really put everyone at ease, Hung used Benjamin Moore’s Scuff-X finish on the walls.

wood stairs
Custom Millwork, Orion Development.

Of course, wood isn’t the only major material at play. At some point, stone had to come into the picture. Marble would have felt too showy and grand for the vibe they were going for, so travertine became a front-runner. “It has this more quiet feel to it,” says Hung. Where the hidden cabinets meet the stairs, the designer topped part of the treads with stone, tying it in with the nearby fireplace mantel. “It really matches the stain on the oak as well,” she adds.

bedroom with wood slatted wall
Area Rug, Nordic Knots; Bed Frame, EQ3; Pendant Lights, RH Modern
medicine cabinet opening and closing
small bathroom with wood paneling

It took over two years to complete the renovation, so naturally the family has no plans to move anytime soon, but their designer kept resale in mind (just in case) when rearranging the primary bathroom layout. “You’re going to want a bathtub in there,” Hung told them, “and it should be by the window, where it’s going to be the most enjoyable.” They managed to squeeze everything in and, for more openness, built the threshold that leads to the bedroom out of glass. “With this full wall mirror bringing forward even more light, it makes the space feel grand and big,” says Hung.

brownstone exterior

The Goods

Navona Travertine, Bas Stone

Vizcaino Desert Diptych by Marc Gabor, Tappan Collective ($2,750)

Nerd Counter Stool, Muuto ($635)

Cello Frame Bed, EQ3 ($1,120)

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.