The Insider: Kid Stuff in Boerum Hill


Join us here every Thursday at 11:30AM for The Insider, Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at interior design in the borough of Brooklyn. It’s written and produced by Cara Greenberg, who blogs at casaCARA: Old Houses for Fun & Profit.

THE STORY of this relaxed, unpretentious home is a bit different from many of those featured in The Insider of late. First of all, the homeowners did zero renovation. They bought their 1860s brick row house in near-perfect shape in 2005 and have had to do remarkably little in the owner duplex beyond paint. (They did put new kitchens in two rental apartments upstairs.) Second, they furnished the place themselves — no architects or designers involved.

That initial paint job was crucial, though. The house’s previous inhabitants had been fans of dark color; the front parlor was a deep gold, the back room navy. “We wanted to lighten the space and highlight the plasterwork,” says one of the homeowners, referring to the Italianate arches and stately window moldings typical of the Historic District block. They painted the plasterwork white and the walls of the main living space a pale mint green.

Furnishings — some purchased new, some passed down from family members, and a couple of street finds — are colorful, casual, and above all, kid-friendly. The couple’s sixth-grader and her friends more or less have the run of the place. The front parlor has been set up for gymnastics, with furniture pushed semi-permanently out of the way; mats and a balance beam are stashed under the sofa. “We want an active house,” says her mom. “The kids love that they can tumble around. They’re allowed to do anything in the house, except throw balls.”

Their daughter’s artwork is prominently displayed, along with quirky collectibles and heirlooms. It’s an eclectic, easy-going approach, which the homeowner defines as “things we’ve picked up along the way, that make us smile, that have good memories.”

See and read more after the jump.

Photos: Cara Greenberg

The front parlor-turned-gymnasium has a Della Robbia sofa from Rico on Atlantic Avnue, and an Oriental rug from ABC Carpet. The red glass-door cabinet at left is from Crate and Barrel.

Artwork ranges from school projects to pieces picked up on family travels over the years. The marble mantel is original to the house.


Etched glass in the sliding pocket doors survived 150 years in fine condition. The red sofa is by Molteni, an Italian company; it came from Format in SoHo. The Chinese cabinet at left is from Asia Barong, a store in Great Barrington, Mass.

A French farmhouse table from ABC Carpet is used mainly as a work table and occasionally pressed into service for dinner parties. The mismatched chairs go back decades. The geometric rug is from Kea on Atlantic Avenue. The dog is Rugby, an English lab.


The rear of the parlor floor is the family’s normal dining area. The round glass table came from Conran; the white chairs are Italian plastic. The patchwork sofa cushions were made to extend the life of an old sofa, using fabrics from Zarin on the Lower East Side. The modern chandelier is from Rico.


The Mexican tin and tile mirror, Nepalese cabinet, and kitschy plaster figures are evidence of wide-ranging tastes.


The homeowners are about to undertake the renovation of this galley kitchen at the rear of the parlor floor, which remains just as they found it seven years ago.


The creative 11-year-old occupant of this garden-level bedroom likes to rearrange furniture on a whim. She conceived the shower-curtain solution as a divider to separate the bedroom from a small anteroom used for homework, and enjoys arranging vignettes on her desk and dresser, below.


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