The Insider: Well-Crafted Rehab in Bed-Stuy

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The Insider, an in-depth look at the creative ways we Brooklynites renovate and decorate our homes, is written and produced by Cara Greenberg, a veteran design journalist. Find it here on Brownstoner every Thursday.

One of the highlights of last weekend’s Bedford-Stuyvesant House Tour was the impressive level of craft in house #8, a bay-windowed 1890s limestone. Christiaan Bunce and his wife Jules Gim bought the building 3-1/2 years ago and recently completed something between a renovation and restoration on all four floors, the lower duplex that is their home and two one-bedroom rental apartments above.

Christiaan is a principal of KGBL, a multi-disciplinary firm whose work ranges from 20,000-square-foot from-the-ground-up Hamptons homes to urban interior renovations and modern furniture design. Christiaan met his business partners, David Khouri and Roberto Guzman, both architects, ten years ago at the ICFF Furniture Fair; they now have a showroom in Chelsea and a workshop near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where Christiaan oversees production of the company’s unique custom furniture.

Dig those stunning zigzag-patterned floors of white oak and walnut in the new kitchen, above; they run the 45-foot length of the parlor floor. Throughout the building, details and trim are uniform and mostly new. “Some might argue I could have restored the parlor floor, but it was almost impossible,” Christiaan says. “The house was really rough, with bad water damage, and lots of detail had been stripped.” Instead, he re-created it, trying to stay true to the house’s spirit with his choice of materials and decorative treatments. He even made silicone molds of existing cornices and other architectural details, and cast them in plaster. “But I would never call myself a restorer,” he adds.

Essentially, Christiaan created a fresh envelope with strong echoes of the original architecture. “It’s important that the architectural foundation and the decorative components be solid and unified,” he says. “Then you can insert modern furniture and it becomes a dynamic relationship.”

Read all about it and see more photos after the jump.

Photos: Alan Tansey

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A three-windowed bay extends through all but the top floor of the 21-foot-wide house.

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The wide mirror in the front parlor was left exactly as it was, just wiped down with oil. The zigzag pattern of the new wood floor is properly called French herringbone.

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A console in the front parlor is representative of KGB‘s output, combining wood and metal in unexpected ways. The piece has a solid aluminum casing, which is painted with kelly green automotive urethane. The front and back panels are walnut burl. “We’re waiting for the right chandelier,” Christiaan says.

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This console, designed by Roberto Guzman, is solid white oak, “fumed” or oxydized without staining; the decorative rings are made of English sycamore. The painting is by John Tallman, a friend of Christiaan’s from art school days at the University of Washington.

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The brand new kitchen at the back of the parlor floor has satin lacquer cabinets with integrated handles and an island of fumed white oak.

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The countertops are pietra cardosa, a stone with marble-like markings; the futuristic light fixtures are by Verner Panton, available through Design Within Reach. (That’s three-year-old Scarlet, daughter of Christiaan and Jules.)

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In the dining area opposite the kitchen, another major detail remains: the old gas fireplace surround. All it needed was a good cleaning. The table and bench are Christiaan’s design and handiwork.

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Christiaan also designed and made the sleek white console, of hand-brushed painted poplar.

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The minimalist metal bookshelf is a KGB piece.

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The floor plan was altered to accommodate a powder room with a tall, very slender walnut door. The door moldings throughout the house are beaded pilasters with medallions and top brackets copied anew to match original ones.

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The bedrooms on the garden level have floors composed of alternating strips of walnut and white oak. The walnut headboard in the master was once a dining table, which Christiaan reconfigured. The circular nightstand, made of felt and Corian, is a KGB item.

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The KGB console is made of blond Japanese sen wood, a tight-grained, golden ash. The V-shaped legs and other hardware are luxuriously gold-plated.

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Classic bathroom choices include a pedestal sink and sconces from Restoration Hardware.

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Above: Floor Plan, Parlor Floor

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Above: Floor Plan, Garden Floor


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A view of the clean-lined kitchen in the top-floor rental apartment shows moldings similar to those downstairs and a gleaming new wood floor.

To catch up with previous installments of The Insider, go here.

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