How These Pro Renovators Avoided Stripping Any Wood During This Brownstone Remodel
In the kitchen, they started fresh with their favorite white paint.
Published Jul 26, 2023 1:25 AM
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Barry Bordelon and Jordan Slocum, the designer couple better known as the Brownstone Boys, usually have a heat gun and metal putty knife at the ready on the first day of a brownstone renovation. But their latest Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, remodel didn’t call for the exhaustive varnish stripping technique they’ve come to perfect over the years. This three-story space, owned by young couple Taylor and Moore, had wood bones in pretty solid condition. “We were even able to save the original floors, which is one of the coolest features,” says Bordelon, who also served as the pair’s real-estate agent at the beginning of the process.
Moore and Taylor struck gold once more when they realized they’d be able to save money by living on the ground floor while the construction took place (a perk given they were expecting their first child, Harry, at the time). So after giving the garden-level kitchen and bathroom a light touch-up, Slocum and Bordelon got to work on the top two floors. Ahead, the designers reveal the new (and sort-of-new) updates.
Some Things New
First up: add a kitchen on the main parlor level where there previously wasn’t one. Slocum and Bordelon started with a product they swear by (Semihandmade’s paintable DIY Shaker cabinets) in their favorite neutral hue (Shaded White by Farrow & Ball). “We’ve used it several times—it’s this creamy shade of white that also has some gray tones,” explains Bordelon. The vent hood is another signature Brownstone Boys move: It’s just a simple drywall box with a 2-inch radius corner bead that’s painted the same color as the walls. They kept the silhouette going in the adjacent dining area in the form of custom open shelves built by Brooklyn Builders Collective.
“The tricky thing about designing a brownstone is that they are long and narrow,” notes Slocum. “You always need additional storage.” So the designers also snuck in hidden cabinets underneath the island that are only 15 inches deep but just big enough for holding rarely used appliances. For something totally fresh, they sourced the pendant lights hanging above from Taylor’s ceramist mother. The rust shades pair perfectly with the Paonazzo stone counters, which sport subtle flecks of brown-gray.
When it came to the primary bathroom, the designers drew on the clients’ past experiences rather than their own. “Moore is originally from California; Taylor is from Australia; and they spent a lot of time in North Carolina together, so there’s coastal things happening in that space,” notes Slocum. While the pinkish terracotta Roman Clay backdrop behind the tub was a bespoke touch, the slatted white vanity is an off-the-shelf piece (it’s from Signature Hardware).
Some Things Borrowed
In true restorer fashion, the designers had to do some outsourcing for elements that were likely a part of the house when it was built in the 1800s but had since been removed at some point. The big missing piece? Fireplace mantels. Just when Bordelon and Slocum had proposed the idea of buying marble surrounds new, they got an Instagram DM from someone in New Jersey who was doing a remodel and had just what they were looking for. “We’ve become kind of known for always wanting marble fireplaces,” says Slocum. “It was just at the right time.”
Some Things Old
While the home’s original staircase was in good enough condition to keep, the designers gave it a glow-up by painting it Tricorn Black by Sherwin-Williams and covering the steps with a one-of-a-kind runner. Taylor collected a bunch of Moroccan rugs, which they eventually had sewn together to make a long stretch of carpet.
A skylight on the top floor was another existing detail worth salvaging—with a few strategic tweaks. Previously it was a 2-by-2-foot interior shaft with windows flanking it on multiple sides (back in the day, it would have provided natural ventilation for the bathroom). Nixing those extra panes made it possible to build a shower stall there instead. “We were able to reclaim that space, and then the skylight that was at the top of the shaft just looked onto the shower,” shares Bordelon. Taking full advantage of the sun-drenched corner, they opted for a moody, two-tone look using Zia Tile’s 4-by-4-inch zellige tiles in Tidepool and Aegean—a perfect marriage.