Before & After: Prospect Lefferts Kitchen


JANE ROSENBAUM, a Boerum Hill-based interior designer, sent me these before-and-after shots of a kitchen she masterminded in a Prospect Lefferts Gardens limestone. She described the ‘before,’ below, as “icky ’70s.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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The ‘after’ is clean and timeless, the kind of kitchen that will look fresh for many years, with an attractive arch-shaped pass-through into the coffered dining room and a slew of storage. I’ll let Jane, whose business is called Jane Interiors NYC, tell you what she did and how she did it:

“My overriding desire for this kitchen was that it look fresh and young, like my clients, as well as like it belonged in the house.

There is a direct view of the kitchen from the front door, so one goal was to expand the view to the backyard. I just love when you come in a front door and can see out to the back. I also wanted to let more light into the kitchen and the dining room. Raising the height of the door and window, below, and making the door wider and the window taller accomplished this. In the pre-renovation kitchen, the refrigerator was blocking the window. Moving the refrigerator to the opposite end of the kitchen made all this possible.


My clients wanted a kitchen that would allow the cook to visit with guests, without their having to be in the kitchen. Cutting the arch into the dining room, below, which mirrors the shape of the arch at the other end of the kitchen, also made both rooms brighter.


They also wanted white kitchen cabinets and a look that was harmonious with the period of the house. At the time this house was built [around the turn of the 20th century], kitchens had separate freestanding pieces, like Hoosier cabinets, china cabinets, and wall-hung sinks. I wanted this kitchen to look more like  furniture than appliances and cabinets. I used as little hardware as possible, designed custom wood cabinets in a tall, narrow shape, and used integrated appliances and stove hood. I also used a half-inch as opposed to the standard 3/4-inch countertop. I believe this is very important to keeping the room streamlined and makes it work with the dimensions of the detail on the front of the cabinets.


I chose an Italian cooktop, above, oven, and dishwasher because they were more delicate in appearance and did not have the bulky handles of American appliances. I also wanted the view from the dining room to be of beautiful, period-like case goods as opposed to kitchen cabinets. My clients are tall, so the countertops are a few inches higher than standard.

The front parlor, which opens to the entry hall, dining room, and living room with fireplace, has a light blue and brown color scheme, and the original tile in the bathroom is white with a blue border. I used these colors for inspiration in the kitchen and dining room. The large-scale subway tile and glass tile detail are white and blue. The cabinets and woodwork are white with gray/blue undertones, noticeable only in paint made with natural pigments. The walls in both rooms are two shades of pale blue, and the dining room ceiling coffers and insides of the built-in china cabinets are yellow.

The kitchen floor tile is gray-brown. Large plank-shaped tiles, rather than square ones, make the flooring look dressier and less kitchen-like. The plank shape also allowed me to run the tile horizontally, as opposed to vertically, to give the illusion of more width in the kitchen.


I used every square inch of the limited space by taking the cabinets to ceiling height, moving the sink to the other side of the room in a row of cabinets, and building cabinets over the arch, above. Drawers that pull out from the kick plate beneath the cabinets hold baking sheets and a step stool.”

To see more pictures of Jane’s work, go here, or call her at 347/495-7580 for a consult.

Nice to Meet You, Prospect Heights


I’M RE-ACQUAINTING MYSELF WITH BROOKLYN after an absence of a year-and-a-half, and discovering my new neighborhood, Prospect Heights. It’s hardly major culture shock, since I lived in Brooklyn most of my adult life, but still, there’s a learning curve. A person has to figure out where the nearest laundromat is, which delis carry soy yogurt, exactly what time you have to re-park your car after double-parking on alternate-side days in order to nab a spot, and so on.

Sure, I rented this apartment largely for its proximity to the Brooklyn Museum, the botanic garden, and the public library, but right now, the quotidian stuff is taking precedence.


Typical Prospect Heights limestone

This morning I joined the pre-Thanksgiving madness at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, though all I bought was a bunch of eucalyptus (I’m going upstate for the holiday and not doing major cooking). Then I went to a 12:30 class at Shambhala, a storefront yoga studio three rather long blocks away, where I was the oldest by far (I tend to be conscious of these things). This neighborhood is young, something I never felt in Springs, where gray-haired people like me go to retire.


I had lunch at my go-to café, Milk Bar (where I also raised the median age considerably), and popped into Met Food for staples. Everything I need is right around the corner, either on Vanderbilt or Flatbush Avenues – banks, drug stores, about seven dry cleaners, hardware, shoe repair – convenient as hell, yet neatly tucked out of sight of my handsome landmark block.

Then I went to Pintchik, the venerable paint store, for yet another paint sample. I’m homing in on a color for my bedroom. With the yellow living room, below, a great success (according to everyone who’s seen it), I feel I need something equally strong for the bedroom.


I started in the coral family, moved to pink, and now I’m thinking red/orange. Clearly it will be on the warm side of the color wheel, but nothing so far feels right. The Pintchik guys will get to know me well.


Of course, as I made my rounds, I checked out the row-house architecture on surrounding blocks and was fascinated by how the styles differ from older neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Boerum Hill, which are filled with Federal and Greek Revival brickfronts and classic brownstones. Here in Prospect Heights it’s more varied, stylistically, and closer to turn-of-the-20th-century, with lots of limestone.


Looking at the decorative detail on a short stretch of Prospect Place between Vanderbilt and Underhill, I saw several carved faces in the lintels above doorways, something I never noticed much before. It must have been a late 19th century thing; the one below even looks like a mad Teddy Roosevelt.


I’m back in Brooklyn, but in some ways it’s a whole new world.

Parlor Tricks: Bohemian Brooklyn

1-exteriorI’ve seen a lot of intriguing places in my work as a freelance field editor.  Some are just too quirky (read: creative, artistic) for the mainstream magazines, like this no-holds-barred riot of paint and wallpaper in a limestone townhouse in the heart of Park Slope.

It was masterminded by decorator Linda Spector of Zelda Victoria, the longstanding, beloved fabric and wallcoverings shop on Fifth Avenue and Third Street, now closed.

Have a look.  Elle Decor, you had your chance.21-front-rm

Note: Oval ceiling with original plaster detail; mantelpiece hand-painted by local artists. 23-front-rm-w-hi-boy


Handpainted ‘harlequin’ walls in the middle room on the parlor floor.


The piece de resistance: a custom ceiling collage made of 10 different wallpaper patterns, mostly from Bradbury.