The Insider: Warmth and Color in Brooklyn Heights

WELCOME to The Insider, Brownstoner’s weekly look at the multitudinous ways Brooklyn residents decorate and renovate their homes. Written and produced by Cara Greenberg, you’ll find it here every Thursday at 11:30AM.




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THE CLIENTS’ WISH LIST was not unusual: they wanted a home for themselves and their three young children that was “warm and comfortable, with a lot of play spaces,” says Kiki Dennis, the Brooklyn-based designer hired to pull together furnishings, paint colors, and final details upon completion of a top-to-bottom renovation.

A 19th century townhouse whose five floors had been broken up into apartments, it was re-designed by architect James Ramsay as a homeowners’ 5-bedroom, 4.5 bath quadruplex totaling about 5,500 square feet, plus a garden rental. The project was well under way when the current owners bought the building in mid-reno. There were few original details remaining except for stair balusters and some mantels. “Other architectural moves were more contemporary, almost minimalist,” Dennis says. Her clients were concerned that the house “not be too stark, but have elements of color and warmth.”

Dennis loved the steel-framed windows at the back of the parlor floor and the use of reclaimed teak in various areas. “We took cues from those materials, used a lot of neutrals, and added fun pops of color to bring the house to life,” she says. She also worked with the clients to buy art, an important factor in adding color to the space.

If this home looks familiar, it was one of several on the recent Brooklyn Heights House Tour.

Photos: Brett Beyer

A small parlor/sitting room is the first room you enter at the front of the house. “Serene, but not matchy-matchy” is how Dennis describes the decor. “The room is quite small with a high ceiling. We had to be careful with the scale of the furniture and come up with an arrangement that worked.”


The Vladimir Kagan barrel chair and ottoman are from Ralph Pucci, the coffee table from Desiron, and the rug from Classic Rug Collection, Inc. A custom teak closet doors spec’d by the architect is visible in the background. In photo, top, armless chair is from Donghia, mirror from Desiron. Art over fireplace: Allison Stewart. Benjamin Moore‘s Coastal Fog is the wall color throughout the parlor floor.


A great room at the rear of the parlor floor is presided over by a dramatic wall of steel-framed windows overlooking the garden. Floors are stained a custom mix of ebony and dark walnut. Dining table from Mecox Gardens; chairs from Crate and Barrel.


A loveseat in a velvet-like jewel-tone teal from Kravet and cozy sheepskin-covered chairs from Country Swedish sit on a Madeline Weinrib rug. Art by Lorenz Estermann.


A second floor play/family/TV room has custom ottomans designed by Kiki Dennis to be firm enough for drinks and trays but that can also be used as occasional seating. They’re covered in Larsen fabric. Chair, Flexform; mirror, Room & Board.


The room centers on a large sectional sofa from B&B Italia. “We selected cloud photography [by Jean Odermatt] to open up that wall,” Dennis says. Bookshelf from Desiron, rug from Vanderhurd. Ben Moore Tapestry Beige on the walls.


A playroom on the second floor has a hopscotch rug from FLOR and green sleeper sofa from Design Within Reach. Benjamin Moore Stolen Moments is the wall color.


The double-height master bedroom incorporates the original attic space. The teak visible at left is a balcony that serves as a home office. Bed, Henredon; side tables, Dela Espada; lamps, Circa Lighting; silk rug, Carini Lang. Wall color: Ben Moore Standish White.


Above, the home office that overlooks the master bedroom. Walnut desk, shelves, and file cabinets by Atlas East. Desk chair, Vitra; Lamp, Micro Tolomeo. Wall Color: Ben Moore Standish White.


Two children’s rooms are on the 3rd floor, along with the master bedroom. This boy’s bedroom has furniture from Room & Board and a Madeline Weinrib rug. The wall color is Ben Moore‘s Sweet Bluet.


The oldest daughter’s room, with raspberry accents, is on the top floor of the house. Custom beds from Creative Upholstery Group, bedding from Area, Inc. Bedside table, Room & Board; Bookshelf, Land of Nod; Chair, Maine Cottage; Rug, Paterson, Flynn & Martin; Wall color: Ben Moore‘s Misty Blue.



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10 Comment

  • fantastic post. this is a very classy design, some modern meeting classic architecture. Mostly well done, definitely a tasteful artistic touch, as opposed to cold and impersonal.

    On a nitpicking note, If I were the client id request some more use of vertical space where there are high ceilings, the intended effect here draws too much of my conscious attention to the bare high walls. Also whereas i like the use of classic framed fireplaces (mixed very tastefully i might add), there is a modern unframed fireplace which is too inconsistent with the flow of the rest of the house (which i love BTW but i don’t mike to mix fireplaces – i’m an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person).

    However, 95% of the work being well done i guess everyone has their little interpretation to overall great choices here.

    Thanks for the great post Kara.

  • callalily

    Very nice. Curious to hear more about the details of buying a place mid-renovation.

  • minard

    This was on the Brooklyn Heights House and Garden Tour this year. It is stupendous. Amazing. The master bath is lit from above like a renaissance chapel. The woodwork of the historic central stair is simply beautiful and the way they retained the old moldings and casings and added the new is masterful. The kitchen is very well done, don’t know why they didn’t show it. The steel window wall on the rear is gorgeous.

  • Subtle and tasteful, without a note to jar. And that to me is its downfall. Where is the note out-of-place.? The signature of its owner? In a sense it reminds me of those Hollywood bedrooms from 30′s films, over-art directed without a fingerprint on a doorjamb.

  • minard

    the only thing I wonder is why the couple has no family pieces or heirlooms to mix in with the modern stuff. Did they just throw away everything they owned when they moved in? I guess so, just seems kind of radical.

  • Do you know who manufactured the steel frame windows?

  • pierre de taille

    Fantastic renovation all around and that back window wall is very nice.
    Cara is there any reason for not including the Kitchen and bathroom pictures ? Architecturally the kitchen and baths would be the most interesting rooms.

  • cara greenberg

    The kitchen and bathrooms were done by James Ramsay, the original architect on the project; these photos were provided by Kiki Dennis, the interior designer.

  • Beautiful house; but why is there no color in the bedroom? That huge wall behind the bed is screaming for some interesting art work. I, too, wish I could see the kitchen and the bathroom.

  • Am I the only one who feels there is a lack of warmth and the rooms almost look staged? It doesn’t feel as if real people live here.