The Insider: Flying Colors in Fort Greene

WELCOME  to The Insider, Brownstoner’s weekly interiors column by design writer/blogger Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday at 11:30AM. And be sure to catch The Outsider, our new garden column, Sundays at 8AM.

DK HOLLAND’S PRE-CIVIL WAR HOUSE is a favorite of passersby, often evoking cries of  “I can’t believe this is New York City!” The inside of the former hayloft and tack house — all three stories and 1,800 square feet of it — is no different, with bold color on walls, stairwells, and in the country-style furniture.

As a longtime graphic designer and former principal in Pushpin Studios, the firm founded by Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast, DK’s sure hand with color reflects her interest in children’s book illustration (Chwast helped choose colors for the exterior — tan with blue window frames, in keeping with Landmarks requirements). “There are no bad colors,” DK says. “All colors go together in nature.”

DK did a top-to-bottom renovation between 2002-4, during which she added a kitchen in a new side extension, built the front porch, opened up the second floor as a loft-like bedroom/study, and put in new bathrooms and closets. The reno exposed original brick, ceiling beams, and mid-19th century wainscoting.

Todd Johnson was the architect for the exterior; he helped with the interior as well. Burda Construction was the contractor.

More of DK’s charming house after the jump.

Photos: Cara Greenberg

DK’s property is on a large lot that was once a livery (now housing the restaurant Olea); an outdoor area for horses, on which she built a kitchen extension; and a tack building for saddles and other equipment, which is now her house. She added the front porch as well.

Most of the wall area downstairs and in the upstairs sleeping loft is painted a restful pale yellow, with an intense, earthy terracotta saved for the staircase and balusters, wainscoting, and interior doors.


Many of DK’s furnishings and collectibles were picked up at auctions in Vermont.


The upstairs sleeping loft and study contain pieces from India and Nepal, examples of Outsider art, and items from DK’s childhood.


The marble sink and old door came from Moon River Chattel in Williamsburg.

The new kitchen, in a wood extension ‘grafted on’ to the original brick house, has a peaked roof with a skylight. The farmhouse sink, and vintage 1950s Chambers stove are both from Moon River Chattel. Note the unusual placement of the cast iron radiator, DK’s solution to a lack of floor space.

Missed any installments of The Insider? No worries. Go here to find every one of them to date.

25 Comment

  • This is very upstate country house…. very nice.

  • This is very upstate country house…. very nice.

  • I often wonder about the country house in the city thing… I love the feeling and the look of this place, but it must be so jarring to step outside every day!

  • cara, i’m glad you did this one. saw it on the fort greene house tour and loved it. no pictures of the garden? you must be saving that for the outsider.

    dk had some great stories about the neighborhood, the house and my favorite, her ex-husband.

  • Love the kitchen floor tile and the rust color on the wall and stairs.

    It has taken me 10 years, looking off and on (and settling for something else during the interim) to find the right salmon color for a kitchen. I think I found it with Oriole from B-M

  • Wow, I am completely drooling over the bathrooms, kitchen, porch, and windows! Are those original windows? The owner is so lucky. Love those cabinets, sinks, counter, the Chambers stove — everything.

    Also, this may sound like a strange question, but I’m dying to know the dimensions of that marble bathroom sink. I’ve never seen a marble sink in that size and configuration before. Wondering if something like that would fit in our tiny 4×6 bathroom, which has a 16×19 wall hung cast iron sink (which I think is original, but I’m not sure).

  • Clearly I am missing something? You all like the “unusual placement of the cast iron radiator”? Just feel like there are some odd choices here…

    • i thought the radiator was one of the coolest features in the kitchen aside from the old stove. what’s wrong with it?

      maybe you have to see it in person to appreciate the quirks.

  • I also saw this on the house tour a few years back. It’s actually even prettier in the flesh. The photos don’t quite do it justice. I remember the building before it was renovated — so much nicer now with that cute porch, good wood windows and very attractive fencing concealing the sideyard (only partially visible in the photo of the exterior).

    • GrandArmy, do you know if the windows in the front of the house are original? I presume the ones over the kitchen sink in the rear are the ones the owners got from Moon River.

      Cara, if those front windows are from Moon River, we need the details!!!! How to find and use salvage windows, fit them into the space, thoughts about original single pane, etc., etc.!!!! My house needs 15 windows and I never in a million years thought it would be possible to find the right sizes in the right condition or to re-use old windows.

      • I’ve been corrected on the windows; they’re not from Moon River. I know two good sources for old windows, LOTS of old windows, neither in Brooklyn: Re-Store in Philadelphia and Historic Albany Foundation I’ve asked DK to jump in here and supply answers to questions about paint, floor finish, etc., and hopefully she will soon.

        • The windows are all from airflo on concord -all the interior doors are from moon river. I spent a lot of time picking ou 10t old doors and 10 sets of hardware (good olde things) each one is different -dk

  • Lovely adaptation of the Pushpin aesthetic. Especially in the decoration of the blanket chest at the top of the stairs. Hope that shelf with the radiator is secure–if you’ve ever hefted one of those old cast iron things, you know what I mean…

  • Is that red paint milk paint? It looks like it. Love that bedroom, especially the rug with the iron bed.

    Oh, and I think I’ve met that dog.

  • Nicely done! I love to visit houses like this and I love how she’s done it. And thanks for featuring something that is a departure from the sleek and modern “Brooklyn aesthetic”.

  • Big fan of this series, thanks Cara.
    Those floors look great – is that an oil finish?

  • Big fan of this series, thanks Cara.
    Those floors look great – is that an oil finish?

  • nice to see the inside of this cute house. love the front porch. I always stopped to stare at it a little when I stroll by it.

  • Wow, a house someone lives in, brimming with personality. Especially love the kitchen, the bathroom sink, and all the tchotkes collected over time.

  • Love this house and decor! So welcoming and lots of personality. It’s great when someone does their own thing rather than the cookie cutter styles so often seen!

  • love the wainscotting, the oval rug with the iron bedstead,,,the farmmhouse sink…is this the insider or the upstater?? Lovely home

  • Does anyone know what those little doors under the stairs led to originally? Maybe they are salvage too, since they don’t match exactly.

  • The trick in finding old windows is to uncover enough to fill your space that are identical. Cara mentioned Historic Albany. They often have matched pairs and more–though ya gotta dig. I uncovered a matched set of four porch windows there that fit my mudroom wall perfectly. Once you’ve found the windows that fit, building the frame is no great shakes. Any carpenter can do that and there are plenty of how-to books on the subject. When I’ve done it, I’ve torn out the entire frame and rebuilt it to fit the new old windows, careful to replace any supporting studs.

  • adorable and personal. What’s not to love?