The Parlor Floor Conundrum

THERE’S NO ELEGANT WAY to make a typical brownstone parlor floor-through into a one-bedroom apartment. Either the kitchen’s in the middle, or the bedroom is. But I don’t care. I want the ceiling height, the long windows, the moldings, the mantels — the grandeur, however faded — even if it means having hardly any closets, a minuscule kitchen, or a bed in the middle of the space.

The parlor floor on Dean Street I just left - DUH! - with the new tenant's fabulous furniture

The parlor floor (upper part of a duplex) on Dean Street I recently left - DUH! - with the new tenant's fab furnishings

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve gone from wanting ONLY a parlor floor, to considering third-floor apartments, which have more square footage because they include that ‘extra’ room above the entry hall — to insisting on a parlor floor again. I’ll have to find one in a wide building so it doesn’t feel too cramped.

Nice apartment but not a parlor floor

Nice apartment but not a parlor floor

In thirty years of Brooklyn living, I’ve ALWAYS had a parlor floor (and then some). Middle-class Victorians, I’ve read, hardly used them. They were carpeted and stuffed with furniture and bric-a-brac, and only opened up for visitors, while the family cooked and ate on the garden level, and slept and really lived on the floors above.

Parlor floor in my 1830s row house in Boerum Hill, detail-less but loft-like

Parlor floor in my 1830s row house in Boerum Hill, detail-less and loft-like

Parlor floor on Verandah Place (we opened up the hall and added the columns)

Parlor floor on Verandah Place in Cobble Hill (we opened up the hall and added the columns)

Meanwhile, my whole quest is more or less on hold, as my closing on the cottage in Springs approaches (this Thursday Friday – YAY!)

I never intended to live ‘out there’ full time, as a primary residence, but since I’m without a fixed address in Brooklyn at the moment, I may just do that for a while, and resume my parlor-floor rental search at a later date.

About cara

I blog for fun at, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here:
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6 Responses to The Parlor Floor Conundrum

  1. Adrienne says:

    Good luck on Thursday! Everything works out for the best…….enjoy being out east before the rush of summer. Then return to Brooklyn during the grandeur of autumn!
    BTW, I’m still “in the process”……..perhaps we’ll meet over the summer compare notes!

  2. cara says:

    It takes so darn long to buy a house! Hard for us impatient types. Good luck to you too.

  3. em says:

    Just have to say… I love what you did with the entrance to your Veranda Place house by removing the wall and adding the columns. It opens up the space, but still creates a distinction between the living room and entrance. Great inspiration!

  4. cara says:

    Thanks, Em – those are salvaged porch columns, 60 bucks each at United House Wrecking in Stamford, CT.

  5. Debre says:

    Do it! Spend the summer at your new place! You’ll get all kinds of great ideas and even be able to execute some of them. You’ll love it. Then fall is too beautiful to leave yet. But I’ll advise you to go look at apartments and have one by the end of the year because January gets a little bleak…

  6. cara says:

    Sounds like good advice, Debre. I closed today, which feels great, but I’m also a tad overwhelmed by all there is to do (and exhausted from battling the traffic on the L.I.E., which will definitely keep me from commuting back and forth too often). Moving out there on Sunday – stay tuned for blog posts from the East End!

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