BROWNSTONE VOYEUR: ‘Updated French Farmhouse’ Kitchen in Boerum Hill

img_8418img_8355BROWNSTONE VOYEUR is a joint project of casaCARA and Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, taking you behind the facades of local homes to see how people really live in New York’s hippest borough.


IF YOU MISSED last spring’s Boerum Hill House and Garden Tour, here’s your chance to peek inside the tour’s best proof that a historic home can be lived in by a young family in a fresh and modern way.

When Aimee Landwehr and Keats Aiken, who now have a 7-month-old son, Cooper, bought the 1870 house in 2006, its plaster moldings, ceiling medallions, etched glass doors, and other elaborate Rococo Revival details were remarkably intact (the house had been a single-family all along).

But the kitchen was a dated disaster. Mary Aiken, a professional kitchen designer who also happens to be the homeowner’s mother, conceived an up-to-the-minute super-kitchen with a French farmhouse feel.

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It’s a superbly executed combination of old-house charm and top-of-the-line amenities. Among the standout features:

  • Exposed ceiling beams with tiny halogen track lights
  • Custom cabinets of sycamore veneer, dyed gray
  • A hearth rebuilt to contain a Wolf stove
  • Carrera marble countertops and hand-crafted farmhouse sink
  • A newly laid floor of salvaged vintage wood
  • Space-saving under-counter wine cooler

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At the back of the garden floor, where most brownstone kitchens were originally located, the informal kitchen and adjoining dining room feel entirely natural and well-integrated, despite the elegance of the detail on the floors above (which we’ll save for another post).

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About cara

I blog for fun here at casaCARA, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here: https://casacara.wordpress.com/recent-articles/
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17 Responses to BROWNSTONE VOYEUR: ‘Updated French Farmhouse’ Kitchen in Boerum Hill

  1. em says:

    Wow! I love this kitchen! It’s modern enough to avoid being kitchy, blue bonnet wearing goose country, but classic enough to fit in with the era of the house and to still look fresh in 5 years, instead of horribly dated- a trap I suspect many hyper modern kitchens are headed for. I know that there is heated debate as to whether marble makes a good kitchen countertop choice, due to staining, etching, etc., but I think it is gorgeous (not to mention period appropriate) and the patina it will develop will only add to the character of the kitchen. The layout looks perfect- I would love to cook in this kitchen! How fabulous to have a mom in the biz! I hope we get to see more of this family’s beautiful home.

  2. cara says:

    Exactly – you put it well, em! I love that it’s timeless, not too sleek. I can see it lasting many decades.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful! How did you get that huge refrigerator and stove back there?

  4. Em said everything I was thinking. Do you happen to know if the sink basin is also fabricated from Marble or it done in another material?

    I really appreciate the easy feel this home has. It’s very warm and welcoming. While it looks like it’s been brilliantly maintained it doesn’t have that “renovated to death” look that makes a home feel sterile.

    Just beautiful!

  5. Melissa says:

    Wow! What a beautiful kitchen. Cooking must be soo much fun in there.

  6. carrie says:

    My husband & I are purchasing a 1850’s brownstone in Newark, NJ. All the historic details (molding, ceiling medallions, pocket doors, etc) are still there but it needs quite a bit of work. I found your blog while looking for inspiration photos and am SO glad I did.

    I’ve never lived in a home like and it’s wonderful to see what people are doing with homes similar to ours. Thank you for doing these posts and thank you to the owners for letting the internet peek in. I love it!

  7. cara says:

    So glad you found my blog! Congratulations & best of luck to you on your renovation. Send pictures anytime – I’ll be curious to see how your renovation progresses!

  8. cara says:

    The sink basin was custom fabricated from the same Carrera marble as the countertop. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

  9. Mary Aiken says:

    Cara,
    It’s really wonderful to be able to share this “labor of love” with a wider audience. The total renovation took over three years to complete- and there are still some small projects awaiting completion! I worked with Keats & Aimee from the outset to arrive at all of the design solutions. It was really helpful that they were able to live in the house before all the decisions were made as our concept of how the house would be used evolved over time (and also with the addition of a baby)! Keats & Aimee learned a tremendous amount during this process and have a lovely family home to show for all their efforts.
    Mary Aiken, LEED AP
    aikendesign
    206.650.6342
    maryaiken@comcast.net

  10. cara says:

    This from the homeowner, Aimee Landwehr:
    We actually had to haul the stove and fridge through our neighbor’s house – bc they have a back deck so we could go up their stoop, straight through their house, down the back stairs, into our yard and in the back doors.. They were too big to go under our stoop and through a narrow hallway or down the narrow stairs from the parlour level. We actually had to remove part of the door under the stoop to get in the massively heavy piece of marble for the island and then have an ironworker repair it.

  11. Accuracy In Blogging says:

    Hi, Very nice kitchen. How often does the marble have to be sealed? I did a number on ours with lemon juice or something. It was sealed originally but has been a long, long time. Can I shine out the rough area left by the lemon juice?

    I have to say I take issue with the”French farmhouse” reference. To my eye, the kitchen (and house, etc.) are uniquely “American”. I would rather we call the kitchen “Mod American Brownstone as Mod American Farmhouse”. Would be more accurate.

    You can argue with that, but let me tell you, a French farmhouse kitchen would most likely have:
    1) an old stove, probably not huge, in white enameled metal with a flipdown cover, with a tank of bottled gas next to it linked by a hose
    2) a MUCH smaller fridge
    3) a tiled floor, either the old hexagon style or 60s-looking vitreous 4″x4″s, possibly larger, in washed out blue or yellow with speckles…or, if you’re lucky, old encaustic tiles with a sober pattern from Great-grandmother’s era; matched tiles would be used as the mop base and the wall paint would be glopped down over the top edge
    4) quite a bit of aged, worn-out Formica-type surfacing (on various surfaces such as a table top); and furniture might be either French oak and rush seats, or Formica with metal tubing for legs…the laminate might be the rooms brightest splashes of color in solid blue, red, yellow, white, etc.
    5) an old, off-the-shelf faucet and old porcelaine sink/drainboard, mass-produced towel holder, and shelving unit…some other old hardware still in place that isn’t used for anything any longer…a drying rack for clothes (possibly a rectangle on pulleys so it is hoisted up to the ceiling…lever door handles that catch your sleeves when you walk by or are in a rush running from room to room
    6) single-glazed, inswing French windows and a door that would not have lites farther down than hip level; some pebble glass or somesuch installed somewhere for no clear reason in today’s kind of interior; a colourless, albeit stained, clear plastic vent set into a circle cut in the middle of one of the window’s panes…it might be spinning very slowly
    7) a little pebble glass/wire glass marquis/awning over the doorway outside; dark green-painted (or “Brittany blue” if you’re in Brittany) metal shutters outside the windows folded back against the exterior window surrounds; or, if fancy, rolling shutters either old, in wood, or from the last 25 years, in vinyl/PVC
    8) lots of very hi-gloss paint (peinture a la glycol) on wall, casings, ceiling surfaces…in a very, very pale yellow, pale pink or palest hospital green, pref’bly peeled off here and there in layers down near the floor where the dog got at it so wear and tear has taken its toll, plus a couple of good gouges straight through into the plaster near doorways or other choice spots; paint can be worn down in places revealing different coloured layers
    9) some greasy buildup and real baked on crud somewhere that everyone simply ignores and ceases to notice (in this category, there may be the ghost image of a removed piece of furniture discernable from silhouetting wall stains)
    10) a drawer full of wine bottle corks, a pallet of bottled water, and maybe one of beer, cheap vinegar that comes in the same plastic bottle as the no-name brand water, a damp rag (serpiere) on the floor by the door, a push broom
    11) permanent humidity and probably ghastly lighting at night
    12) a higher ceiling, bigger room and some vague unused areas that serve no purpose most of the time accept to gather junk.

    Also, you might have a mudroom adjacent with real mud on the floor. Not fun for city folk when visiting cousins down on the farm during winter.

    If the if you wanted some higher level touches, you might have a zinc countertop on something some old oak armoire or buffet. There might also be some nice (but junkie in the era) tiles on the walls and a little attempt at stained glass…some wall decoration of some sort, some dreadful crockery…

    Boy! Writing that, I actually now want to try recreating a “French farmhouse” kitchen in Brooklyn! Somehow, I’d bet it would cost a fortune even though the final product would look “cheap”. Damn. Now you’ve got me thinkin’…

  12. Libby says:

    WOW! This is really beautiful! Definitely something to aspire to…thank you for sharing!

  13. cara says:

    Accuracy wrote: I have to say I take issue with the”French farmhouse” reference. To my eye, the kitchen (and house, etc.) are uniquely “American”. I would rather we call the kitchen “Mod American Brownstone as Mod American Farmhouse”. Would be more accurate.

    Wow, Accuracy, seems you’ve spent a lot of time in French farmhouse kitchens. Like you, I don’t see anything overtly French about this one. ‘Updated farmhouse kitchen’ would have been adequate as far as I’m concerned. But when I asked the homeowner to describe the look they were going for, “updated FRENCH farmhouse kitchen” were the words she used. Thanks for enlightening us at such length and amusing detail about REAL French farmhouse kitchens. Sounds like a fantastic, funky hodgepodge!

  14. Accuracy In Blogging says:

    Oh, yes…I know French farm kitchens p-r-e-t-t-y well…and in a number of regions.

    I should have been clearer regarding the possible “mudroom” floor. It wouldn’t just have “real mud on the floor”, the floor might actually BE mud…i.e. beaten earth, which, thanks to the wet climate in some regions, is often a mess. You’ll find this these days only in the most rudimentary, non-renovated houses.

    A while back (ahem!!!), when I lived in Normandy/Brittany, there were people still living in those country roadside stone “longhouses” that were very rudimentary. You could almost picture yourself in 1835 as Lady Bountiful making your daily village rounds with your daughter visiting the poor and handing out food, advice, a little money.

    The run-up in real estate that has happened in Europe in sync more-or-less with the US the last bunch of years, has had its side effects. Many rather derelict structures have been redone over the years in France.

    Also, of note, agriculture has changed in France as well so there are fewer small, family-run farms as compared to 25-30 years ago. There are fewer “working” farmhouses these days. Depending on the region, in many cases non-agricultural people have moved into old farmhouses and done renovations of varying complexity…sometimes not much….but I’m sure the mud floors of yesteryear are on their way out.

    If anyone has more info on interior beaten earth floors in France, please post info. I’m talking about real interior rooms, not outbuilding-type barns/service buildings or lean-to structures which still may have dirt floors.

    Thanks!

  15. anon says:

    I like the open ceiling joists but they are also a fire hazard, especially in a kitchen, I am opting for a tin ceiling in my kitchen, also acts as a fire stop.

  16. cara says:

    Mike
    simplyhousing@gmail.com asked:

    Hi, do you know what brand/color that gray paint is? Great feature!

    It’s Benjamin Moore Aura in “Tempest.”

  17. Quiet frankly, this kitchen looks nothing like an old house kitchen, it is beautiful.

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