The Insider: Designer Uses Vivid Color to Infuse Fort Greene Brownstone With Youthful Spirit

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Ornate plaster moldings painted yellow-green are something you don’t see every day, but interior designer David Kaplan went all out with color in decorating this circa-1900 Fort Greene brownstone for a young family. “I’ll do neutral or monochromatic schemes for more timid clients, but I really had a good time here,” the Manhattan-based designer said.

The female half of the couple grew up in the house and loved it; she wanted her three children to have the same experience. She inherited the 19-by-45-foot brownstone from her mom, who had been living there alone for some time. In some respects, including the elaborate plasterwork, the house was in nearly mint condition. But the decor was beyond tired. “It needed an uplift,” Kaplan said.

Renovation of the owners’ triplex (there’s a rental unit on the garden level) was more or less limited to the kitchen at the rear of the parlor floor. Bathrooms, in decent functional shape, were not part of the project.

Intense color is the theme here. “It’s a large home and we wanted to give each area its own identity,” the designer said. “There are blues, greens, browns, yellow, dark red…but it feels very cohesive, because colors are repeated and carried through as accents” from room to room. Benjamin Moore paint colors were used throughout.

“We decided to keep the walls neutral on the parlor floor, but pop the moldings because they’re so important,” Kaplan said. “I think the saturated color actually enhances the architectural integrity of the house.”

The general contractor was Janusz Kimszal of Frost Contractors Corp.

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

The floors throughout the house were stripped and refinished in a rich, dark tone, as were the stairs and railings.

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

The dining room, at the front of the parlor floor, has a table from Design Within Reach and custom chairs from Brooklyn-based Wüd Furniture Design, who we profiled back in August. The pendant lamp by Catellani & Smith came from Studio Anise.

The moldings are painted a 50/50 mix of Benjamin Moore’s Apples & Pears and Sour Apple.

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

Green onyx mosaic tiles on a new fireplace surround replace another fireplace mantel that was not original to the house.

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

Some of the homeowners’ existing furnishings were reupholstered for the living area in the middle of the parlor floor. The armless settee came from Mitchell Gold. Most of the rugs in the house were sourced from ABC Carpet & Home.

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

Only the kitchen at the rear of the parlor floor saw extensive renovation. Kaplan changed the layout of the appliances and added a backsplash of white glass mosaic tiles from Artistic Tile, as well as a peninsula made of quartz engineered stone that extends into the room for casual dining.

He kept the original upper cabinetry in place and designed two freestanding storage cupboards for the opposite side of the room (one can be seen in photo at top). They were built by Brooklyn cabinetmaker Anton Condino and painted robin’s egg blue.

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

The yellow master bedroom (Benjamin Moore’s Yellow Roses, to be precise) also contains a book-lined study, with a midcentury desk found in a shop on Atlantic Avenue, Eames chairs and an Eero Saarinen pedestal table.

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

There’s a den/TV room on the second floor, warmed by a red armchair, rug and ottoman and walls painted Benjamin Moore’s Citrus Blossom.

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

Children’s bedrooms on the top floor each have their own bold color scheme. The nursery walls are painted Benjamin Moore’s Paradise Hills Green.

Fort Greene Brooklyn -- Brownstone Interior Design by David Kaplan

A combo of Benjamin Moore’s Middlebury Brown and Skylark Wing make the eldest son’s room distinctive. Kaplan freshened up an antique mahogany bed with white paint, to the delight of the child.

[Photos by Anastassios Mentis]

The Insider is Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design/renovation project, by design journalist Cara Greenberg. The stories are original to Brownstoner; the photos may have been published before. Got a project to propose for The Insider? Please contact Cara at caramia447 at gmail dot com.

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