Brownstone Boys: Capturing Our Inner Designer

Luckily, we can design from our stoop!

Editor’s note: Welcome to the 23rd installment of Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary about renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at

We went into our renovation with a strong idea of what we wanted to do…and on a pretty tight budget. So we decided to act as our own designers. We do have some designer friends who are helping out with advice along the way (and the power of Instagram!) but ultimately for better or worse it’s all us. We hope that we end up with something we can really be proud of because it will be a product of our own design. So while we juggle demo and construction decisions we are also steering things toward our desired end result and picking out finishes. As many novice designers do we’re using inspiration pictures and platforms like Pinterest. You might be able to relate!

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An inspirational kitchen designed by Branca & Co. Photo by Nicole Franzen via Branca & Co.

Most of the overall design was done before demo started, although there are so many details to think about that we are only now getting to a point where the majority of the decisions are behind us. Much of our place doesn’t need us to get in the way of what is already there. We just need to bring back to life the 130 year old decorative design. We’re restoring the plaster moldings and stripping the many layers of paint from the woodwork. Although this isn’t requiring us to purchase anything new, it is expensive work to have done. Our overall reno budget, including many of the finishes, is right around $250,000. Most of that is going to construction, so it really means we have a very tight budget for finishes.

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Checking out refrigerators at a local appliance retailer

For the kitchen and bathrooms we are basing our design on some inspiration photos we feel are very similar to our own vision. We found these through social platforms, finding designers that we like and following their projects, visiting other finished projects in the area, and popping into showrooms throughout the city. We are using these as a guide and finding budget friendly products to achieve the look.

Through our blog and social accounts we‘ve been lucky to have some opportunities to meet some great people and attend some inspiring events, such as the Architectural Digest Design Show that was held at Pier 40 in Manhattan in March. There were more than 400 brands snd vendors displaying everything from custom furniture to appliances, ceramics, art and lighting. It was really amazing to see so much inspirational design in one place.

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Measuring the kitchen area for our custom cabinets

Last week we had the privilege of getting a tour of a lighting design studio in Long Island City. They make beautiful light fixtures using salvaged wood and LED lights. We’ve also had the opportunity to tour dozens of other brownstones in Brooklyn.

The fact that the end result will be our own vision realized makes the process more fun, and we intend to produce something that we will proud of.

[Photos by Brownstone Boys unless noted otherwise]

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