Bohemian Splendor in Cobble Hill

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ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT BLOGGING is making new friends. Lula and I met only a few months ago, when she stumbled upon my blog and contacted me. We soon discovered we are neighbors in two places. She has an adorable cottage a few blocks from mine in Springs (East Hampton), N.Y., as well as a parlor floor she’s owned for 16 years in a classic 1850s Italianate brownstone in Brooklyn, top and below, virtually around the corner from where I lived for two decades (though we had never run into each other).

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She lives in a state of Bohemian splendor, presently suspended in mid-renovation. Having peeled off old wallpaper, the walls have a Venetian plaster look but await further plaster and paint. The ceiling has been stabilized in parts where it was falling down. There are nearly intact plaster cornice moldings all the way around, with what Lula calls her ‘Shakespearen troupe’ of faces. A new kitchen is in the cards, and there’s a potential terrace at the back which is just tar paper, no railings, at the moment.

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Most of the elaborate plaster cornice is in great shape, above. Other parts, below, not so much.

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Lula is grappling with the questions endemic to living on the parlor floor of a brownstone.

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  • Where to put the kitchen so it’s functional but unobtrusive? Right now it’s in the middle and will probably remain there for plumbing reasons, but in what configuration?
  • How to create a bedroom with privacy? She’s got a small one in the former hall space at the back, and uses the back parlor as a sort of den/guest room, above — but could it be better used as a master bedroom or dining room (currently in the kitchen area)?
  • And what about those magnificent original wood doors and moldings? Were they painted back in the day (she thinks so) and should they be painted again, or refinished and stained? Should perhaps the doors be left wood and just the moldings painted?

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All that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the place has great cozy charm. With all that original detail, antiques acquired piecemeal over the years, an overstuffed sofa, plants on the window sills, and faded Oriental rugs, it feels much like being back in the Victorian era, for real.

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After my first-ever visit to Lula’s apartment, we went and checked out the new Fork & Pencil warehouse on Bergen Street, above, a few-months-old, crammed-full, well-vetted consignment store — a spin-off of the smaller storefront on Court Street — whose proceeds go to non-profit conservation, arts, and other organizations. It’s more Lula’s kind of place than mine, filled with traditional antiques, but more to the point, I don’t need anything at the moment. Browsing there is purely a theoretical exercise for me. I admire, appreciate, and move on. Don’t need anything, thanks!

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We had a civilized late lunch nearby at Broken English, the sort of self-conscious industrial chic space one used to expect only in Manhattan. I’m glad it’s come to Brooklyn, because my rigatoni with marinara and basil was scrumptious, and the salad, bread, and olive oil were tops. You can tell the quality of a restaurant by its bread and salad, I once read, and I think that’s on the mark. Broken English is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ignore the snarky online reviews from amateur critics and give it a try. It’s a welcome addition to the nabe, in my book.

Doing Well by Doing Good on Court Street

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Fork and Pencil, a new antiques/consignment shop at the corner of Court and Warren Streets in Cobble Hill, had a very successful opening weekend, with many items bearing “SOLD” stickers by Sunday.

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The store, which took over space previously occupied by Brooklyn Artisans Gallery, has an unusual mission. After costs, proceeds go to worthy causes including the Open Space Institute, New York state’s largest land conservation organization, and Rooftop Films, an independent film-production cooperative, as well as our neighborhood PTAs, Greenmarkets, and local arts organizations.

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It all sounds very pie-in-the-sky, but proprietor Alex Grabcheski, who has a day job in the financial services industry, and his wife, Tally Blumberg, seem committed to their utopian concept.

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They have a background in the antiques business (they had a store in Chatham, N.Y. for a while), and someone has a very fine eyeThe merchandise is top quality and attractively displayed. Prices range from $150 for a wire chandelier of recent vintage to $850 for a 19th century landscape oil painting, $1,375 for a huge Staffordshire bowl with a Chinese pattern (which sold quickly), and $2,800 for an 1880s Italian settee covered in Brussels tapestry.

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p1030400There’s also a colorful section at the back with new children’s toys.

The store is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 to 7.  To inquire about consigning, call 718 488 8855.p10304071