BROWNSTONE VOYEUR: Small Space, Big Ideas in Cobble Hill

Brownstone Voyeur is a joint project of casaCARA and Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn. Look for it every Thursday on both sites.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

img_0028-1

THE FIRST THING Amy Samelson did when she bought this Pacific Street co-op seven years ago was “strip everything as bare as possible.”

Amy, an interior designer whose work includes both commercial and residential projects, immediately did away with “every annoying piece of door hardware, bad lighting fixture, and switch plate.” She also pulled off cheap parquet flooring in the living room and ugly ceramic tiles in the kitchen and bath.

‘Annoying’ was probably the least of it. All the different materials had the effect of visually chopping up the diminutive 500 square feet on the third floor of a brownstone where Amy lived and worked until recently (she has since relocated in the neighborhood).

ss_100006507

“It was small space broken down further,” she recalls. “I made every effort to create one unified space, without a lot of finicky detailing.” To that end, she painted all the walls off-white, including the handsomely textured brick wall in the living room. She did the same to existing baseboards and moldings so they would, as she puts it, “visually fall away.”

To further make the apartment all of a piece, Amy installed sea grass carpeting, a natural water-repellent material, throughout the apartment, even in the kitchen area and bath.

ss_100006506

The effect is pared down and serene, neither particularly minimal nor coldly modern, with warmth and variation from differently textured surfaces, like the white-painted brick wall, sisal carpet, and stainless steel table used as a desk.

Furnishings are few but iconic, including an Alvar Aalto chair, George Nelson side table and sculptural African wood stool.

In the living room, a simple box spring and mattress with a canvas slipcover from IKEA doubled as a sofa and guest bed. Even mundane objects like CDs and media components have “color and size relationships and form,” Amy says, and are candidates for open display.

img_000405

Orderly open shelves reflect Amy’s belief that objects like books and file boxes “can be an artful expression, if arranged beautifully. It’s an upfront organization effort,” she says, “but once you’ve done it, it functions day by day.

A stainless steel table from a restaurant supply store served as both desk and dining table. Standing lamps create intimacy. “You don’t want light from the ceiling coming down on people’s heads.”

ss_100006513

In the bedroom, below, translucent door panels, with hardware of brushed stainless steel, enhance the illusion of spaciousness. The bedroom closet wall was painted dark khaki; linen drapes in lieu of closet doors add texture and save space.

img_0005-1

ss_100006492ss_100006489ss_100006485

On the rear deck, below, Amy upholstered a wide platform with tailored cushions and affixed a pivoting market umbrella. Pots of ornamental grasses can winter outdoors.ss_100006480

Large photos courtesy Amy Samelson

Small photos by John Bessler for Better Homes & Gardens magazine


About cara

I blog for fun at https://casacara.wordpress.com, 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/
This entry was posted in BROOKLYN, BROWNSTONE DECORATING, BROWNSTONE VOYEUR, INTERIOR DESIGN and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to BROWNSTONE VOYEUR: Small Space, Big Ideas in Cobble Hill

  1. Anonymous says:

    how beautiful. do you know where the bookshelves are from?

  2. cara says:

    The bookshelves came from: B & Z Steel Equipment Co, 78 Greene St, NYC, (212) 966-5855‎

  3. Accuracy in Blogging says:

    It seems the shelves are basic metal utility shelves. They fit really well. I wonder if Amy had the chase built in the front corner by the window to make sure the shelving unit fit flush. Clever.

    Very nice, relaxing, easy-breathing space. Kind of an American Turn-of-the-Twenty-First-Century take on Gropius without the sheep’s skin on the bed or the hanging mobile in a corner…or too much tubular steel chairs.

    It’s amazing this is only 500 square feet. I’m trying to figure out how it is this small. Each floor in our house is well over 700 square feet and doesn’t seem this spacious. One question, how did she get storage into the space aside from the bedroom closet?

    I assume the kitchen faces the street and is next to the livingroom…would have loved a photo or two.

    Speaking of which the photos are expertly staged…great production value. Were they used for a magazine spread or just to sell the apartment (you mention Amy has since moved)?

    Maybe Amy could write back and comment on any maintenance tips with the sea grass wall-to-wall (especially in the bathroom and kitchen). I am afraid of the possible upkeep issues/cleaning a number of the available natural fiber floor coverings might entail–but love the look–maybe sea grass is easy. Do tell.

    I hope Amy is happy in her home and is making it as nice as her old apartment.

    Oh, one question: is the door to the deck double-glazed and was there some sort of window covering to keep the light out? I don’t see any hanging hardware.

    All-in-all, very lovely apartment!

    Thanks Cara!

  4. cara says:

    I was the field editor and stylist on the shoot, Accuracy, and am quite pleased with how it turned out. I’ve alerted Amy Samelson to your comment; hopefully she will address your questions about the ‘chase’ (never heard that term), the square footage, the sea grass carpeting, and the door to the deck. I can tell you that, except for the kitchen (which had an IKEA ‘Varde’ island, that I remember) and the bedroom closet, all storage in the apartment – that is, the living room – was open storage, on those metal shelves, all artfully and carefully arranged. The large photos are from Amy; the smaller ones from the Better Homes & Gardens magazine website. They were taken by a photographer named John Bessler (I’ve added a photo credit to the post) and used last year in a piece about storage ideas.

  5. Debre says:

    The blanket! Ooooo, the blanket! Do you know if Amy carried it back from Argentina or if (Shelter) Island-bound mortals have access to them?

  6. cara says:

    hi Debre! For you and others, here we go on some sources:
    Striped blanket – Calypso Home, 212/925-6200
    Steel shelving – B&Z Shelving, 212/966-5855
    Sea-grass floor covering – Misha Carpet, 212/688-5912
    Stainless steel desk – Leader Restaurant Equipment & Supply, 212/677-1982

  7. amy Samelson says:

    In the Bedroom – the Closet runs the entire length of the room, 8 ft. and is full ht., plus there is open shelving along the bathroom side – plenty of storage space.
    Seagrass is heartier than most people think. If you catch a spill right away – it is fine in general living areas.
    I would not recommend it for the Bathroom though – I used this there because I love it – not because it is practical.
    The back door is double glazed. There was no window treatment – as the deck was completely private, and dark at night – For me – it was all about extending the view to the outside – and I didn’t want to hide this in any way.

    Thanks!
    Amy

  8. allison says:

    What is covering the floor on the deck, and where can it be purchased?

  9. amy Samelson says:

    Allison – this item was originally purchased at Home Infatuation.com – I don’t know if this
    if in stock there anymore – it’s been quite awhile…
    Amy

Got something to say? Please say it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s