For a rare peek into a sumptuous 1839 Greek Revival townhouse and the fertile imaginations of a score of talented local interior designers, put the 2022 Brooklyn Heights Designer Showhouse on your must-see list. Its five floors, from garden to solarium, have been dreamily reimagined in a summer of whirlwind effort, and will be open to the public from Friday, September 23 through October 30.
The house has a complicated history, with many owners and iterations. It was used as a rental dwelling when first built, became a one-family mansion soon after, a multi-family in the 1930s, and reverted again to single-family ownership in more recent times. Jenna Chused of Dumbo-based Chused & Co. seems to have embraced all its periods. Chused was intrepid enough to take on the house’s biggest and most ambitious space, the 66-foot-deep double parlor, draping it with luxurious textiles and making it gleam, from the glossy lacquered walls to the mirror-lined bookcases.
Each piece of overscaled furniture — an artful blend of antique and vintage modern — has its own inherent drama. A painstakingly restored Romantic painting of two centuries ago, hung as a tapestry over an Art Deco console, illustrates the diverse mix. Chused’s intention “to bring the room into a more modern place” allows for a serpentine 1970s sofa in deep burgundy and, in another of the room’s three seating areas, a slouchy leather mid-century sofa from Brazil.
Beyond etched glass pocket doors, a kitchen conceived by Baxt Ingui Architects of lower Manhattan and Meghan Laky and Souhi Kim of the firm’s in-house BIA Interiors, is a confection of pale mauve cabinetry against great expanses of veined white marble. Light fixtures with milky glass globes from Circa illuminate a gigantic center island and a channeled, room-spanning banquette beneath the angled rear wall of the house.
The contributions of local artisans are found throughout, including the decorative leaded glass in the kitchen’s cabinet doors, the work of Sunburst Studio in Sunset Park. Graffiti-inspired lighting from Greenpoint’s Avram Rusu Studio distinguishes a back hall and adjacent powder room on the parlor floor, which Red Hook-based designer Laurie Blumenfeld clad elegantly in textured gray grasscloth.
A grand staircase broken by a wide landing ascends along the parlor’s side wall to the floor above, where an innovative guest room by Michelle Ficker and Peter Dolkas, the young partners of Dumbo-based Studio Dorion, takes the form of a sleeping cabinet enveloped in utilitarian chino fabric. Perforated shutters made from standard pegboard, a Danish modern desk and a 1930s Swedish chandelier kit out the unusual space.
Collyer’s Mansion, the longstanding home goods store on lower Atlantic Avenue, created a soft pink library with an old New York feel. “We were inspired by the idea of a ladies’ library, not dark and moody, but light and bright,” said Mauri Weakley, a partner with Laura Rucker in both the shop and the associated design business. Most of the room’s furnishings, which include a pair of slipper chairs upholstered in exuberant bird fabric from Australia’s Utopia Goods, one of their vendors, and a bubble chandelier by Julie Neill for Circa Lighting, are shoppable through their website, presented as the Showhouse Collection.
Another flight up, Tara McCauley’s black-walled primary bedroom is a “wild surrealist dream,” said the designer, whose office is in lower Manhattan. She took as her muse the iconoclastic fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, centering the room on a bed upholstered in Paris-themed Pierre Frey fabric and topped by a scarlet swag held by two disembodied hands. A pink convex mirror in a eye-shaped frame, an embroidered antique textile from the Paris flea market, a fringed leopard love seat and a shiny nickel-finished sunburst chandelier add up to what looks like, in the designer’s words, “a black and white film with pops of color.”
There’s no shortage of lounges at this year’s Showhouse. Manhattan-based Rupp Studio’s room on the third floor is a seductively moody space with mottled dark walls and furnishings of plum and gold. Sparkle comes from a ceiling-hugging sunburst fixture and, arrayed on shelves, ceramic pots in deep, saturated tones.
A cozy, compact lounge was inspired, said designer Jessica Stambaugh of JS Interiors, late of Brooklyn, now based in Nashville, by historic spaces once used for contemplation and conversation, particularly a 15th century study with inlaid wood walls from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio, Italy, now installed at the Met. Green digitally printed wallpaper with trompe l’oeil texture and a mix of local, global and handmade furnishings fulfill the designer’s aim of making the room a “fun, uplifting jewel box.”
In 2014, the townhouse’s current owners converted the attic to a contemporary solarium, facing open sky to the west. Taking a cue from “the historic use of solariums to grow citrus,” Dumbo-based designer Meagan Camp leaned on organic motifs. Green and white floral fabric predominates on a curtained wall and wide window seat; a massive black metal lantern bridges the indoor-outdoor feel of the space.
The occupants of this wholly imagined home have kids, apparently, because there’s a children bedroom on the top floor, described by designer Jenny Kirschner of Clinton Hill’s JDK Interiors as a “candy-coated dream.” The swirly, varicolored shapes on the hand-painted wall mural extend across the ceiling, exuding happy energy.
Antonio Deloatch of Harlem built his sexy, sophisticated black-and-white bathroom around the popular Brooklyn Toile wallpaper pattern by local maker Flavor Paper. “Every room should have a bit of sparkle,” he said – in this case, a pair of glowing cylindrical sconces from Shakuff, manufactured in Industry City.
The atmospheric rooms on the garden level have a very different, semi-subterranean feel. At the front of the building, two Atlantic Avenue home-decor businesses share a showroom where everything is for sale. Assembly Line offers renovation and design services as well as furniture and lighting, and The Primary Essentials curates tabletop items, flatware, textiles and gifts.
Emerging designer KD Reid conceived an interior sitting room that’s “a slice of Brooklyn,” the Hoboken-based designer said, with horizontally striped walls and rounded, ’70s-inflected furniture from BoConcept. Next door, Circa 22’s space is a dreamy hideaway, with Flavor Paper’s lusciously colored Tree of Life on the walls, a crescent-shaped blue velvet sofa, two free-form coffee tables and a glittering sunburst mirror. “The room had to have a swing,” said Daria Demin of the South Slope-based firm. It’s an elegant one, upholstered in gilded fabric with long black tassels.
The garden itself is the work of Nigel Rollings, focused on an orb-shaped water feature 12 feet in diameter, mounted on the back wall. Rollings, who teaches popular garden design courses at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, also landscaped the meadow-like rooftop, waving with fall-blooming perennials, and a lush terrace off the primary bedroom.
The Showhouse is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursdays until 8 p.m. Admission fees support the important work of the Brooklyn Heights Association, including activism on behalf of the neighborhood regarding BQE repair and an effort to bring more small businesses to Montague Street. Tickets are $40 ($35 for BHA members, $20 for students).
[Photos by Susan De Vries]