The Insider: Newlyweds’ Nest in Carroll Gardens

Welcome to The Insider, Brownstoner’s every-Thursday series exploring the creative ways we Brooklynites furnish and decorate our homes. The Insider is written and produced by Cara Greenberg, a design journalist who blogs at casaCARA: Old Houses for Fun and Profit.


Lauren Stern is a young interior designer who doesn’t like her personal space “uber-planned and perfectly matched,” though she’ll gladly go that route for clients who do. Her buzzwords for the apartment she shares with her husband of one year, Ori Schwartz, are “cozy, comfortable, warm” – a mix of things picked up on their travels, acquired from friends and relatives, or purchased from sources ranging from dusty warehouses to high-end to-the-trade-only vendors.

The 1,000-square-foot apartment, in a c.1900 brick row house deep in Carroll Gardens, is uncluttered and unpretentious, with furnishings and art arrayed against walls painted Benjamin Moore’s China White.

Details and photos on the jump.


Lauren and Ori  just closed on a 4-story house in Boerum Hill that “hasn’t been touched since 1965,” and are embarking on a major renovation.


For the past four years, they’ve lived in this spacious rental on the third floor of a wide Summit Street row house. The door opens into a large room at the back of the building, used primarily for dining. The Belgian linen curtains are from West Elm; they bought the red poster in a used-CD shop in Berlin.


The Stornas dining table is from IKEA. The chairs cost $90 each at From the Source, a Greenpoint discount warehouse Lauren enjoys poking around. She had cushions made from a cotton block print by designer Muriel Brandolini.


A chandelier made of Egyptian glass globes suspended from an iron hoop, came from Liza Sherman Antiques in the West Village. The grid of pictures on the wall are katagami, antique Japanese kimono stencils, framed by KC Art Supplies in Cobble Hill.



The green vintage wood chest was a housewarming gift from Lauren’s aunt and uncle in Montana.

IMG_1485The cottage-y little table is from Pottery Barn Kids.


Lauren and Ori use the windowless central area common to so many brownstone floor-throughs as a den/TV room. One of Lauren’s trade contacts made the sofa; it’s covered with linen from C&C Milano. The metal table came from Environment 337 on Smith Street, now closed. They brought the beige wool rug back from a trip to Argentina.


The multi-paned room divider, common to renovations of a certain era, lets a bit of light into the apartment’s central core.


Lauren designed the carved wood headboard; it’s upholstered with hand-printed fabric from Raoul Textiles of California. The comforter is soft organic cotton from Layla, a Hoyt Street boutique.


IMG_1523The two curvaceous Astrid chairs in the bedroom are from Anthropologie; they’re available in several fabrics. The chest in between: good old IKEA.


The tufted ottoman was ordered from the Ballard Designs catalogue; the large art above is a textile design by French artist Paule Marrot, from Natural Curiosities.


IMG_1525The round mirror over the mantel, from Crate and Barrel, echoes the shape of the fireplace opening.

Photos: Cara Greenberg

To check out previous installments of The Insider, click here.

19 Comment

  • Thought I was at by mistake.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with having a Brooklyn-specific version of that site in here. I like it when they do NYC brownstones and apartments.

  • Nice, I’m really enjoying these, whether they are my taste, or not. I also enjoy seeing what can be done in brownstones and other Brooklyn specific spaces. One always gets an idea or two or three.

  • > walls painted Benjamin Moore’s China White.

    That’s a rather edgy name for a paint color.

  • Agree w/MM. These are both interesting and useful. The ‘apartment therapy’ comment has been made before. A billion blogs/sites have similar features. Before apt.therapy, there were other sites showcasing houses and apartments’ decor ideas.

  • Adding a floor plan to this feature would not only make it more useful and help showcase unique challenges, but also help this feature stand out from the myriad of apartment decor blogs.

  • I enjoy this feature too. I also understand where the “Apartment Therapy” comment is coming from. I’m interested in seeing a diverse range of decor. There seems to be a lot of the same in blog coverage of interior design: a particular type of clean, eclectic look, with cutesy details and lots of arranged “vignettes.” At least there are no chevrons, extremely over-scale items, clever faux taxidermy, or the ubiquitous “keep calm and carry on” posters.

  • The best part of the whole design is the mirror over the fireplace. I mean that in a good way, not to reduce the rest. But that strong shape works really well and allows a lot of bits and pieces to not look overly fussy.

  • The best part of the whole design is the mirror over the fireplace. I mean that in a good way, not to reduce the rest. But that strong shape works really well and allows a lot of bits and pieces to not look overly fussy.

  • There’s an interesting theme of curved shapes from the couch to the headboard to the mirror to the ridiculously pricey anthropology chairs..
    Also a good mix of the expensive and Ikea.

  • I think the blog coverage just reflects certain aesthetic choices that are popular right now–like those hip new “avocado” appliances in the ’70s that were suddenly everywhere.

    This week’s insider shows “the look” with white walls, something we haven’t seen before. The color spaces blew me away because I’ve never been that adventurous.

    • well, that’s the problem. if we’re all just showing each other pictures of our avocado appliances and Anthropology chairs, it’s not new, creative, or inspiring, we’re just memorizing the formula. personally, I’m interested in seeing places that people have lived in for a long time, because you get past the latest design trends and owl figurine collections and you might get a glimpse of something that speaks to you in an unexpected way.

  • It would be nice to see a followup on what they do with their new home. It can be a challenge sometimes to take furnishings that were selected for one home and make them fit in another. Really like this series.

  • Having made apt therapy comment up there, gotta say there was no feeling about the blog (either one) intended…I really just thought that I’d pulled up that one instead, cause I read it.

    And I like this feature here, because I find that NYC spaces are more relevant, both in architectural differences, and non-suburban or country vibe.

    Yes, they aren’t entirely my style, but I attribute that to my age (older than the demographic of many featured in blogs); and my strong idea of what I like, rather than wanting what most people like. (I think most people don’t have time or inclination to figure out what they like, they just want to choose a generic now look that many people like. And that’s fine.) I don’t fault the blogs for that, I just look for the little ideas I get from them for things that I like.)

  • And sorry if the comment has been made before. This is a new feature, and I must confess I don’t read every brownstoner entry, much less every comment.

  • And sorry if the comment has been made before. This is a new feature, and I must confess I don’t read every brownstoner entry, much less every comment.

  • So true about furniture not fitting once you move. And I don’t just mean size. I bought a fairly generic couch for one brownstone living room that looked terrible in the next (due to differences in whether original detail was kept or not.) It was cheap, so I bought another one. I picked my next place because I knew my furniture would look great in it. What fit, that is.

    My theory is to buy nice major stuff that will fit anywhere I move to (I can’t see having a bedroom that won’t fit a queen sized bed and night tables), and going cheaper on the stuff that may not fit well in the next place (bookcases and dressers). Still, I’ve accepted that moving involves some furniture changes, so I try to plan for that. I also buy items that will work for different purposes in different rooms. And when I buy stuff for different rooms in my current place, I make sure it will go with stuff in other rooms in case they are thrown together in one room in my next place.

  • The Insider is now a Thursday date for me. It’s so very hard to do these kind of “inside people’s homes” features well. And so far, every one of these “Insiders” has been outstanding. Loving Brownstones, it’s delicious fun to be invited through the front door. Keep up the good work!

  • I have no problem being likened to Apartment Therapy, Brokelin. I enjoy the AT house tours. I find the interiors on AT quite diverse in style and substance. Of course they have the whole country to choose from. The main difference between The Insider and AT, as I see it, is that Insider locations all have a Brooklyn address. Which tends to make them NOT, as bhs puts it, ‘more of the same’ — almost by definition. We Brooklynites are too individualistic for that! I should add that not everything is going to be my personal taste either, but I agree with MM that there’s always *something* you can glean from each one. As for floor plans, Andrew, that’s not often possible but I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks, all, for weighing in. Keep the feedback coming!