The Insider: All the Details in Bed-Stuy


I REALLY LOVE the house featured today on my latest “Insider” post for Brownstoner. Of course, everything I write up has something to recommend it, but some I respond to more than others — the colorful, more ‘bohemian’ ones, I suppose you could say.

The house itself is an 1893 detail-laden, sandstone-colored house on a pretty block in rapidly gentrifying Bedford-Stuyvesant. The carved woodwork and mantels are over-the-top in grand High Victorian fashion, but the furnishings — mostly inherited antiques, with a smattering of 20th century modern classics — are deployed in such a spare, uncluttered way, the whole thing has a modern feel.

I went way overboard on this one, using two dozen photos. To see them all, click right here, right now.

Old Doors and Windows, Cheap


I’M UPSTATE THIS WEEKEND and made it my business to check out the architectural salvage warehouse operated by the Historic Albany Foundation.

My plan is to replace the screens on my porch with glass to create a year-round sun room, much like my friends Fran and Bob did at their house in Columbia County, N.Y., below.


Bob got the windows at the Historic Albany Foundation — actually they’re mostly French doors — and in just one day, with the help of a carpenter, transformed their screened porch to a glassed-in conservatory.


Arriving late on a rainy Friday, with just half an hour to go before closing, I didn’t have time to root through thousands of square feet of panel doors, multi-paned windows, moldings, sinks and tubs, hardware, mantels, lighting fixtures, etc., but I didn’t see enough of any one kind of window to make the matched set of seven I need.


Still, it’s a great place to know about, and everything is amazingly cheap (old panel doors in good condition for $40, for example).


Albany is not an unpleasant city in which to spend some time. It has a good art museum, a few streets lined with 19th century row houses that rival Brooklyn Heights for beauty, and on Lark, several of the kind of cozy, locally-owned coffee shops that East Hampton ought to have but doesn’t.


Photos by Zoë Greenberg


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.