A couple with three children wanted to escape the vertical life of Manhattan, but they were nervous about moving to a narrow town house that would feel more confined than its Tribeca attic. As luck would have it, they saw one of the best Golden Age mansions on the market in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. And with more than 30 feet wide, it was one of the widest the couple had ever seen. -There is something in the width of it and in the size … and the staircase! says the wife, observing the elliptical characteristic that meanders through the four levels of the house, illuminated by a large skylight. “We knew it was a jewel”.
The house had just undergone a two-year renovation that revived the original architectural details of 1898. But these new owners were not looking for a centennial floor plan and the aesthetics of that time; rather, they wanted interiors that spoke to their modern instincts and, as interior designer Steffani Aarons says, their “rock’n’roll style“.
The first step was to tear down the walls – especially on the main living room level, which was divided into five rooms – including one that hid that magnificent stairway from view. Aarons’ colleague (as well as her husband), architect David Howell, working with project director Larissa Jiménez, converted most of the area into a large open space.
The team also smoothed the demanding details in the milling and applied the creamy white Venetian plaster along – a rigid juxtaposition with the newly visible staircase, which is stained in ebony and padded with a black silk corridor. “When a restoration is not based on the original detail, it is open for reinterpretation,” says Howell. “We feel capable and empowered to reenergize the floor so that it is more relevant to the way we live.” The modifications illuminated the house and transformed the original appearance of heavy wood.
Aarons, along with its design team consisting of Emilee Pearson and Samantha Burkett, stepped in to create contemporary interiors where there is no space outside the boundaries of the three owners’ children. In particular, the couple wanted to be able to entertain adults and children alike on the floor of the newly cooled room, rather than in the kitchen / living area on the garden level. “That was the biggest challenge, because we had eliminated all the walls in the room,” Aarons explains.
“As a solution, we have delineated the areas by the way we fix the furniture and the tone.” Now, half of the open space is dressed in mid-century formal glamor for special meetings with a luxurious silver silk and wool rug complemented by gold tones in Damien Hirst’s painting, a dramatic bronze chandelier and a pair of meteorites- and-bronze. Aarons incorporated a pair of bright yellow vintage chairs to ensure the formalness did not cross the line into fussiness.
The other more casual side – where the family spends most of its time – is darker and edgier. The only closed room that Howell and Aarons left intact was the oval-shaped dining room, which has leaded glass windows, an integrated service niche, and an original black marble fireplace. Although the nearby rooms are bright and bright, “we wanted to go dark and cranky here, because they really only experience that room at night”.
The owners entered the house with a well-developed sense of style. Aarons furnished the master suite with its current Promemoria bed, Kelly Wearstler floor lamp and vintage bedside tables, while its Ralph Pucci sofa anchors the great landing outside. “They have good taste,” says Aarons.
“They had good pieces.” What they did not have, however, was a fully developed art collection, which is where the designer played a great role. He accompanied the wife to the galleries of the city to choose memorable pieces for each room, including two pictures of Damien Hirst’s butterflies flanking the lobby fireplace.
From the inside out, the new design electrifies one of the great ladies of Park Slope, reviving it with youthful energy. “The family really lives in each room – the children are dining in the dining room with those velvet chairs,” says Aarons. “It’s exciting to have a project in which contemporary clients choose a traditional elegant home.”