WELCOME BACK TO BROWNSTONE VOYEUR, the resumption of a popular casaCARA series in which we go behind the facades of brownstones and other historic Brooklyn housing types to see how folks of today live in the sumptuous spaces of long ago.

“EDITH WHARTON MEETS THIEF OF BAGHDAD”…that’s how Reid Burgess describes the decor of the parlor/garden duplex he and his girlfriend have been working on for almost three years in a classic, detail-laden 1870s Brooklyn brownstone. “People think it’s kind of crazy when we tell them we’re renting,” said Reid, until recently a professional musician who now considers himself a designer/developer. (You can get a look at his first project, a from-the-ground-up ‘little Palladian villa’ in Charleston, S.C., on Reid’s blog.)

Back in Brooklyn, the couple have been busy stripping paint off doors and woodwork, re-painting the place in colors more to their liking, and furnishing with pieces collected from various sources, including eBay, Chinatown, and an auction house in Richmond, Va.

All changes are with permission of the landlord, but still, the couple “had to make virtues out of imperfections,” says Reid. “It’s not a reno where you have complete control of everything. Things I never would have done I’ve learned to think of as interesting.”

For example, they would not have painted the parlor, dining room, and woodwork orange. Some of that they’ve changed, including stripping and staining an arched mahogany door, painting picture rail a dark bronze (it too was orange), and painting other woodwork in Benjamin Moore’s satin-finish Wenge. They also re-painted the back parlor, which they use as a dining room, dark green. But the front parlor remains orange. “We kind of grew to like it,” Reid says.

The front parlor, with its 13′ ceilings, elaborate plasterwork, and over-the-top marble mantelpiece and mirror in High Victorian style, was in very decent shape when Reid and his girlfriend found the place through Craigslist. When they moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn three years ago, Reid says, “It had to be a quintessential parlor. That was the attraction.” The parquet floors, too, with Greek key pattern, were intact and polished.

The white Empire sofa, which Reid says is surprisingly comfortable, was a Craiglist find. Reid paid just a few hundred dollars for it, but he had to drive 17 hours to Pittsburgh and back to pick it up. “That was extreme,” he admits.

The kitchen is in the original hall of the building, off the rear parlor.

Downstairs, the front room is used as a library/guest room, and the back as a bedroom.

The lattice was falling down on the deck off the parlor floor and needed repair.

To dig back into the archives of previous ‘Brownstone Voyeurs,’ click here.