The Insider: Beautiful Basement in Prospect Lefferts

Welcome to The Insider, a design and renovation column appearing on Brownstoner every Thursday at 11:30AM. It’s written and produced by Cara Greenberg, who also contributes The Outsider, Brownstoner’s new garden column, Sundays at 8AM.

HERE’S WHAT PROFESSIONAL DESIGN can do: turn a miserable subterranean space under a 1915 Tudor-style row house in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, formerly used for laundry and junk storage, into a serene and lovely 800-square-foot office suite for two psychotherapists, with a waiting room clients have been known to come early just to relax in.

Jennifer Katz and Maria Gonzalo hired Manhattan-based interior designer Caroline Beaupère for the job. “We gutted everything,” Beaupère says. “It was major work.” Windows were unblocked, and a concrete slab floor removed and ceiling beams exposed to gain additional height in a space whose original ceiling height was barely 7 feet. “We gained about a foot by removing the ceiling and building a new slab as low as we could.”

Colors, materials, and furnishings, including earthy wood pieces, a whitewashed oak floor, and linen window shades, were all chosen, Beaupère says, to create a “soothing, Zen environment.”

See more, including ‘befores,’ after the jump.

Photos: Matthew Arnold

Have a look at the ‘before,’ above: a typical basement where no one wanted to spend a moment more than necessary.

A view of the new waiting area/conference room facing toward the rear of the building. One of two offices is behind the wall at left; there’s a bathroom straight ahead down the hall, and another office at the front of the building, where there’s also an entry from the street. A pale wash on the new wide-plank oak floor brightens this central space, which doesn’t have any natural light. “It also works very well with the exposed brick,” Beaupère says. They managed to expose the brick along the length of both party walls, though major restoration was required.


A crystal chandelier from Design Within Reach “adds a feminine touch,” Beaupère says. “I wanted to mix the brick and wood with something delicate and elegant.” The reclaimed-wood conference table and console are from Environment Furniture, the curved armchairs Design Within Reach.


White leather armchairs in the waiting area come from De la Espada; the slab coffee table from Kings Road Home. Gray chairs and coat rack: Design Within Reach. Even the landscape photographs by Matthew Arnold are intended to help clients “escape,” as Beaupère puts it, as soon as they arrive.

Both offices, above, one at the front and one at the back of the building, have windows. Ducts and pipes for central air and heat are boxed around the perimeter of the ceiling. The color scheme is largely neutral, with tranqil touches of pale blue. Furnishings are from eBay (the blue chair, top, and ’50s accent tables) and Design Within Reach.


The bathroom floor is made up of four different sizes of limestone tile. Thin strips of pale-green glass, evoking bamboo, line the walls of the stall shower (the space is sometimes used for guests). Bathroom tile from Urban Archaeology. The travertine sink is from a custom marble supplier.

If you’ve missed any installments of The Insider, go here to find them. And don’t forget to check out The Outsider, Brownstoner’s new garden column, this Sunday after 8AM.


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