Art, Media, Ads Fetishize the Brooklyn Brownstone This Year

It’s the money shot of the home design world: The pale gray marble mantel with the arch-topped firebox clad in a black iron summer cover. It’s a classic brownstone Brooklyn look, typical of the Italianate brownstones of the 1860s and 1870s that dominate highly desirable Brooklyn brownstone neighborhoods such as the Heights, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill.

The arched marble fireplace first started appearing with regularity as a fetish object — a sign that its owner had made it and had the whole brownstone as well as the lifestyle to go with it — in Domino magazine some years ago.

This year, The New York Times reports, the Brooklyn brownstone “is on track to become the aspirational space of the year,” thanks to its appearance in catalogs, ads, and TV shows such as “Girls.” The Times writes:

The Brooklyn brownstone has been fetishized in so many catalogs, ads and television shows, including Design Within Reach, Target and Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” to name a fraction, that location scouts like Andrea Raisfeld of Bedford, N.Y., say it has become the bulk of their business. After rattling off the addresses of seven of her “cash cows,” as she described her most-requested Brooklyn brownstones, Ms. Raisfeld, who has 100 Brooklyn properties in her portfolio, recalled how in the 1990s it was Westport, Conn. — Martha Stewart country — that beckoned.

Do you agree with the Times? What do you think of the interiors they show? Click through to the story to see some really stunning photographs of these covetable spaces, including a magnificently proportioned Clinton Hill Italianate whose frothy yet bold white marble mantel and ornate ceilings make a jaw dropping contrast with inlaid parquet floors and a modern kitchen.

It’s That Brownstone. Again. [NY Times]

12 Comment

  • “Ms. Raisfeld, who has 100 Brooklyn properties in her portfolio, recalled how in the 1990s it was Westport, Conn.”

    That reminds me of a story [please indulge me, I’m old].
    In the early ’80s, when I first became a member of the Lefferts Manor Assoc. board, we had a tradition of firmly discouraging “for sale” signs on houses [no doubt a remnant of the 1960s battle against “blockbusting”]. One board member, who was selling his house, permitted a realtor to put up such a sign. When other board members complained he said that he was moving to Greenwich, CT and “for sale” signs were accepted there, whereupon one of the older LMA stalwarts said “that is Greenwich, THIS is Lefferts Manor”. This was said without any sense of irony, despite the imbalance between the two places in what was then their generally accepted level of desirability.

  • I always figured that house in the Target commercial was in either Fort Greene or Clinton Hill. It’s quite beautiful, too, even though I’m not a fan of all white walls. Love the kitchen, and I don’t often say that, either.

    Gushing aside, while interesting, its just a trend. Before brownstones, it was lofts. After brownstones, they’ll find some other ideal home de jour. Perhaps converted churches or schools, Victorian houses in Flatbush, country farmhouses or classic pre-war apartments. What’s hot and in always changes. It may take a couple of years, so I advise those with the desirable properties to cash in while you can, and bank those bucks.

    On the very positive side, I do like that those things that old house lovers and preservationists have always treasured are now “hot.” I had a neighbor who told me with great pride that he had smashed his marble fireplaces with a sledgehammer to get rid of those old things, and we all know countless properties where those details are removed, ceilings are dropped, and bland sheetrock boxes are passed off as luxury. It’s nice to see 150 year old craftsmanship being prized again. The marble mantels, high ceilings, built-ins, and fine parquet flooring have always been a part of living in these houses for many of us, and were things we aspired to have long before they were “hot.” Hopefully, they will endure long after the brownstone fad passes by.

  • Here’s a photo shoot in a Park Slope brownstone in 1970 from the Time/Life photography book series.
    from the book:
    “Old townhouses there were drawing an influx of New Yorkers who liked the high ceilings, bay windows and cavernous rooms”.