Five designers leave their mark on the historic New York City Brownstone.

The Brownstone to New York City is what the weatherboard is to Australia and the Georgian terrace to London. Born in the mid-19th century, the Brownstone has evolved from an affordable housing solution for the middle class to a distinct piece of the city’s architectural heritage. Built in the Victorian era, the sandstone buildings are characterised by their iconic stoop, symmetrical facades and slender windows.

We explore how five designers have harnessed the history of five unique Brownstones while considering their future through form, function and timeless design pieces.

Slope Townhouse by nune and Frances Mildred

This 1890s Brownstone in Brooklyn’s Park Slope didn’t reflect its prized location when interior designers nune and architects Frances Mildred first laid eyes on it. Although the entire home needed to be gutted, this was no deterrent to restore it as close as possible to its original layout and period features.

The staircase was reinforced and maintains all of the original treads, balusters and handrails and is painted in a classic black and white. The exterior of the house also takes on this classic contrast. Inside, nune and Frances Mildred reused materials taken from parts of the house and placed them in other areas of the home, mingling a classic sensibility with a contemporary personality that capture the home’s new sense of sophistication.

Brooklyn Brownstone by Jae Joo Designs

Jae Joo Designs and BAOO have sensitively revived the historic bones of this Brownstone in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Fort Greene through grand finishes and a sensitive, modern dialogue. True to the Brownstone style, a narrow hallway at the entrance leads you into the kitchen, where shaker-profiled cabinetry juxtaposes streamlined metallic cabinetry. “I added classic Brownstone trims and moulding details throughout to balance the newer, modern elements,” Jae Joo explains. “This way, even with all the new additions, you still get the Brownstone charm when you walk through the home.”

Adopting a muted colour palette with an underlying sense of grandeur, the Brooklyn Brownstone now combines sculptural elements with the traditional details that set New York’s iconic building style apart.

Clinton Hill Townhouse by Ronen Lev

Another Brownstone in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene was brought to life, this time by the team at Ronen Lev. The parlour floor – the second floor in historic New York Brownstones and townhouses accessed through the building’s front steps – is always the most luxurious. These grand rooms are often filled with period detailing such as high ceilings, stone fireplaces, large street-facing windows and ornate ceiling work. An intimate sitting area is formed at the front of this room, while the back plays home to an eclectic dining space featuring vintage dining furniture and a custom shelving unit.

Layers of blush and terracotta in the primary bedroom evoke warmth, providing the client with their own sanctuary away from the rest of the home.

Chelsea Townhouse by Hunt Architecture

Brownstones are most commonly found in Park Slope, Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights, and Cobble Hill, but they can also be found in parts of Manhattan. This once-dilapidated Brownstone in Manhattan’s Chelsea was the brainchild of a full-scale restoration. “Nothing in the home was in a salvageable state,” Hunt Architecture partner Nick Hunt said.

The picturesque, tree-lined streetscape informs the kitchen and recreates the charm of Manhattan through ornate brass fixtures and heritage-style appliances. Swaths of Calacatta Turquoise marble clad the rangehood, benchtops, shelves, niches and designated home bar. Together with the intricate crown architraves and walnut timber floors, the kitchen channels a sense of old-world glamour with present-day functionality.

Chaplin Townhouse by Elizabeth Roberts Architects

Elizabeth Roberts Architects were entrusted to strip back the previous renovation and restore the historical details of this Carroll Gardens Brownstone. As part of the revival, several layers of lino were removed, along with false ceilings to lift the height of rooms.

Elizabeth Roberts Architects recreated select details of the original Brownstone building to create a family home that speaks of provenance with a nod to modern-day living.


Chaplin Townhouse by Elizabeth Roberts Architects | Photography courtesy of Elizabeth Roberts Architects

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Chaplin Townhouse by Elizabeth Roberts Architects | Photography courtesy of Elizabeth Roberts Architects

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