The Insider: Classic Modern in a Park Slope Limestone

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WELCOME TO THE INSIDER, Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design/renovation project. Produced and written by design journalist Cara Greenberg, you can find it here every Thursday at 11.

WHO WOULDA THUNK IT: classic mid-20th century furnishings, both vintage and reissued, working so beautifully — and looking so natural — in a late 19th century limestone row house? The full-on renovation by Dumbo-based architects Delson or Sherman was an update of a one-family house. Once the reno was under way, Brooklyn-based interior designer Kiki Dennis came in to do the furnishing.

“We inherited a lot of original detail that needed restoring and refreshing, but all our interventions were primarily modern,” said Perla Delson. Chief among these were an all-new kitchen and three new baths, a reconfigured garden floor with a media room and music room, and two outdoor spaces. The backyard was redesigned, with landscaping by Mac Carbonell of Verdant Gardensand a new roof deck added.

The homeowners, a couple with two young kids, “knew what they wanted,” Delson said. “They really enjoy cooking and wanted a modern kitchen, not a kitchen that pretended to look old.”

Mechanically speaking, they kept existing radiators but put radiant heat floors in the new kitchen and baths, as well as central air and a whole-house fan hidden near the top-floor skylight.

A new deck and stair off the dining room, accessed through a modern stained glass door that replaces an existing window, links the parlor floor to the garden, as the above photo shows. Contemporary hand-crafted, limited-production furnishings include a console from BDDW and dining table by City Joinery.

Chairs are from Hudson Furniture. Poul Henningsen’s striking ‘Artichoke’ chandelier, a 1958 design available through Design Within Reach and elsewhere, makes the commitment to modernist decor loud and clear.

See and read more below.

Photos by Jason Schmidt

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Between the dining room and parlor, a George Nelson bubble lamp, vintage Milo Baughman tub chairs, and a Jens Risom ottoman keep the mid-century modern theme going. The mahogany fireplaces have new ceramic tiles reminiscent of the original.

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Designer Kiki Dennis chose Farrow & Ball’s All White for walls throughout the house. “We made a considered decision to allow woodwork to be the focal point,” she said — also evident in the neutral furnishings. In the front parlor, a curvaceous 1950s sofa designed by Vladimir Kagan, upholstered in chenille-like indoor-outdoor fabric, nestles into the bay window.

A Kagan slipper chair and leather-and-wood armchair with ottoman, all in current production, and a Jens Risom coffee table, along with a George Nelson bubble lamp, magically complement the mahogany paneling and woodwork (which is quite plain for the late Victorian era). The rug is from Fort Street Studio.

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The kitchen has bamboo cabinetry and a floor of rift-sawn oak bordered with the same dark soapstone used for the kitchen counter and apron sink. Upper cabinets are stainless steel with glass panels.

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Only the garden level, where the “music room” is located, was gutted and reconfigured.

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The cast glass globes of a bubbly light fixture by Bocci extend from the top floor to the floor below, an intriguing contrast with the stair’s ornate spindles.

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The Mad Men-era lounge chair and ottoman in the master bedroom come from Suite NY. The stools at the foot of the bed are vintage Vladimir Kagan.

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The third floor roof deck is entirely new, with paving stone and furniture to match that of the back garden.

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On the top floor, along with two children’s bedrooms, there’s a well-stocked library. The dyed plywood bookshelves in the library have exposed edges.

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