Brownstone Boys: When an Old Chimney Makes Furniture Placement a Nightmare

Our master bedroom. Photo by David Sauerhoff

Editor’s note: Welcome to the 56th 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’ve spent the last year designing and restoring our brownstone. Most of the work is complete and we are going through inspections. That means we can finally kick the contractors out, but the work of making it our own has only just begun. We’ve been working on finishing the spaces and have enough projects left to keep us busy for another year.

Over the past few weeks we have been focusing on our master bedroom. Our original plan for the room required we solve a problem that will be familiar to anyone who has lived in this type of building.


The shelving system makes us feel as if we have a walk-in closet

Our place has old fireplaces that were bricked up long ago. We would have loved to restore them but it just wasn’t in the budget. It also wasn’t in the budget to remove the bump-outs that the old chimneys created. Not to mention that the mechanicals in the basement are using one of the old flues for ventilation to the roof, very common in these buildings, but also not in our scope to alter. The problem that this caused, as you might know, is that the bump-out can create headaches for furniture placement.

In our master bedroom the best wall to have the bed on also had an old fireplace bump-out that ended up not being centered in the room, and was not as wide as our bed. If we would have put the bed centered on that wall there would have been a weird space behind it on one side. No other wall made sense for the bed. We decided if we couldn’t easily remove the bump-out maybe it would be easier to extend it. So we designed a 48-inch-wide wall to extend the 8-inch-deep bump-out. We centered it in the room, which made it the backdrop for our bed. It extends about 2 feet on each side of the bed, which leaves room for nightstands.

This room had original plaster molding that we wanted to keep, so we had the molding re-created and run around the new section of wall. It helped integrate it into the room.


We took our IKEA wood table and transformed it into wood shelves

So that it feels like it belongs there. We also painted the entire bump-out a contrasting color, a dark blue. (Many people ask the name of the color. It’s Goodnight Moon from Clare).

One of the finishing pieces was something we planned from the beginning and it’s what really prompted this post since we just completed it. We came across a photo a year ago from a designer friend of ours, Liz Lipkin, showing some custom shelves in a niche next to a bed. The new section of wall we built created about a 28-inch-wide niche similar to the one in Liz’s design and we thought custom shelves would be a great way to use that space and create a feature.

Custom floating shelves can be expensive and after a year-long renovation we were keen to save a few bucks. While looking though our basement with a fellow renovator friend, Pierre, we came across an old IKEA table top. The wood was unfinished but was pretty nice. There was enough to make the shelves we needed and we thought with a bit of stain it could work. So we measured, stained, and with the craftsmanship skills of Pierre our built-in shelves project is complete!

brownstone boys

The simple DIY custom wood shelf project is complete

We finished the area off with a brass mirror, sconces and nightstands. We feel we turned a puzzle of furniture placement into one of the main features of the room. The bump-out, painted a dark blue, creates a backdrop for our bed and is a great contrast with the light grey bedding and warm leather headboard. The entire wall has a ton of character and although we took the less expensive route we wouldn’t want it any other way.

If we don’t get in touch before next week, we hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

[Photos via Brownstone Boys unless noted otherwise]

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