BROWNSTONE VOYEUR: Relaxing an Ornate Townhouse in Cobble Hill

48-kitch-to-middle-rmBROWNSTONE VOYEUR is a joint project of casaCARA and Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.

THE GRAND SCALE and intricate plasterwork of June and Stephen Negrycz’s Congress Street brownstone are impressive, maybe even a little intimidating. But the warmth of the furnishings takes the formality of the architecture down a notch.

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The chocolate brown walls of the front parlor, above and below, echo the color of the buildings across the street. Orange-and-white striped ticking slipcovers enliven carved wood turn-of-the-century office chairs. The rugs are flat-weave copies of expensive Sumacs. Turns out the oversized chandelier, from a local antiques shop, was a bit of a bargain too, as was pretty much everything in the house.

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In the butterscotch-colored mid-section of the triple parlor, below, a curlicued brass chandelier hangs low over a gleaming mahogany tea table and four cozy chairs. There’s a wall of books, artwork in gilded frames, and rich-colored Oriental carpets on the parquet floor.

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Steve, an artist and decorative painter, and June, an interior designer, bought the 1850s house in 1977 in basically intact condition. “It was a time capsule,” as Steve put it. “The keys were in the locks. Victorian wallpaper was peeling off the walls.” They live on the two lower floors, each about 1,500 square feet, and rent out the upper three.

First they had to rewire and re-plumb the entire house and replace two dozen windows. For the first few years, they lived with contemporary furniture from their previous apartment. Gradually, antiques took over.

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A chandelier hung lower than normal creates intimacy despite high ceilings. Four chairs around a square table are used for lounging, reading, and casual meals.

The couple acquired most of their mid-19th century mahogany furniture, including the scroll-back sofa, claw-foot tables, and chests flanked by carved wood columns, for a few hundred dollars here and there when the style, known as American Empire, was out of fashion (the pieces have approximately tripled in value).

More recently, they’ve freshened up wall colors, bought new rugs, and re-covered upholstered pieces, including the four library armchairs and the master bedroom headboard and settee, in French wool bought for $5 a yard on the Lower East Side.

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Their savings on the eleven-foot white oak bookcase that turns the middle parlor into a library could pay for several European sojourns. Made in China and marketed by a Belgian company, they saw it on a trip to France in the French equivalent of Pottery Barn and ordered it. Lamps, wiring, and ladder included, the unit came to $5,500, including shipping. A custom-made version could be four times that.

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June and Steve bought the Sheridan-style dining table at the Triple Pier Antiques Show for $1,000, the dining chairs for $40 apiece in a Philadelphia antiques shop. Glass ranging from Baccarat crystal to $10 flea market finds is grouped for impact.

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To screen off the kitchen from the formal dining room, which overlooks the garden, June made a voluminous curtain out of tangerine-colored burlap. (They plan to renovate the 1970s kitchen.)

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June designed and made the fanciful headboard out of plywood, fiberfill, and inexpensive fabric.

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A vintage hat box collection adds color to the serene blue bedroom.

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/
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9 Responses to BROWNSTONE VOYEUR: Relaxing an Ornate Townhouse in Cobble Hill

  1. em says:

    I love the library! And now, of course, am dying to know the name of “the French equivalent of Pottery Barn”!

  2. Astor C. says:

    What’s amazing about this house is it really gives you a picture of how the other half lived….what it must have been like to live in one of those big brownstones by the park without it being overly fussy….

    Very inviting… I think they did an incredible job – reminds me of John Soames’ house in London, but this is one you can actually live in!

  3. June says:

    Flamant is the store I purchased the bookcase at- They now have representation in the US, they didn’t when I got mine.

  4. R says:

    Wonderful! This is a great mix of elegant and comfortable/welcoming. I am considering a very similar color scheme for a townhouse I’m renovating (gold/yellows/browns for public rooms and blues/grays for bedrooms) and it’s inspiring to see such nice results on another period-brooklyn home. I like your taste in antiques and fabrics. Would love to hear where in NYC you’ve found affordable fabrics. I know they’re out there but haven’t started my search quite yet so leads would be helpful. Thanks

  5. davinbedstuy says:

    Impeccable taste in furniture. Beautiful drop-leaf and game table as center tables, great DR set (I got my Philly set along Pine Street, Duncan Phyfe chairs) and, lastly, great wall colors. You must be quite happy with this house. I suspect you’re the type of people that understand that you are temporary caretakers for a fine place like this and it will be passed on for many more generations.

  6. Sarah says:

    Hi June,

    Your headboard is beautiful! Would you mind sharing some instructions on how to go about creating one? I am thinking of making a headboard for my queen size bed.

    Thanks!

  7. June says:

    Hi Sarah- I started by drawing a template on a paper drop cloth. I then took the template to an upholster along with the fabric I selected and the dimensions (width & height),the upholster fabricated it for me. It’s constructed of plywood on 2×4’s and covered with padding and then the finished fabric. Did you think I actually constructed it? I wish I could have! I’m sure if you do some research you’d find out how to do it or just find a good upholster. Good Luck! June

  8. Anonymous says:

    R- I suggest looking at the NY Times for ads that advertise sales,especially fabrics that are represented in the D&D (good quality fabrics). I’ve seen some go for as little as $2.50 a yard ,also check fabric stores in the garment district as well as the lower east side. All good places to start looking. June

  9. Anonymous says:

    Flamant is not French, it is Belgian (Flamant means Flemish)

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