WELCOME TO THE INSIDER, Brownstoner’s weekly exploration of the creative ways Brooklynites renovate and decorate their homes. It’s written and produced by journalist/blogger Cara Greenberg. Find it here Thursdays at 11:30AM.

This post is sponsored by Open Air Modern.

Open Air Modern offers authentic mid-century furniture along with out-of-print design, photography, and art books.

1850s HOUSE, 1950s FURNISHINGS — it’s amazing how well and often that combination seems to work. Evidence: the home of interior designer Julia Mack and her husband John, an architect, which they renovated from the ground up and furnished mostly with mid-20th century design classics.

It was in Italy that Mack first realized how brilliantly modern furnishings can be integrated into antique structures. “There’s a longstanding precedent in Europe, where the homes can be older than our Brooklyn townhouses by several hundred years, but the focus is on keeping the decor fresh from generation to generation,” she says. “You see it in old Italian villas and urban townhouses in Amsterdam and London. They often have extremely contemporary kitchen appliances, bath fixtures, and lighting — all cutting-edge modern, within the envelope of a 400-year-old house. I realized that was an idea I wanted to work with in my own home.”

The Macks bought this Baltic Street house as a  ‘neglected dump’ in 2002 and spent a year upgrading the mechanicals. The 20′x40′ four-story building had been used as floor-through rental apartments; the first order of business was pulling out four nasty kitchens and four baths. Happily, the house’s original moldings, panel doors, wide-plank floors, and turned stair balusters were intact, along with a spectacular carved marble mantel in the front parlor.

When it finally came time for decorating, clean white walls formed the backdrop for their collection of mid-century modern furniture. Some is vintage, handed down by Julia’s parents and grandparents; other items are re-issues, many from Herman Miller and  budget-friendly sources like Bo Concept, Room & Board, and Modernica.

Read on and see more photos, plus a source list, after the jump.

Photos: Brett Beyer

The Insider, Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at interior design and renovation, appears every Thursday at 11:30AM. Written and produced by Cara Greenberg, a design journalist who also blogs at casaCARA: Old Houses for Fun & Profit.

Photo: Elizabeth Lippman

This revamp of a parlor floor in a brick Boerum Hill row house was two-fold. First, Brooklyn-based architect Alicia Balocco opened up an existing 17-foot extension on the 20’x40’ building with a bank of aluminum-framed glass doors; a new atrium-like skylight spanning almost the full width of the building lets even more sun shine in. She also improved the kitchen layout and added a bathroom with distinctive tile walls.

Then, local interior designer Julia Mack (that’s Julia in the photo, above) gave the clients, a couple with two teenage kids, the fresh and modern look they wanted. “The house didn’t have a lot of lavish detail,” Mack says. “It seemed a perfect opportunity to bring in some modern design and not feel you were turning your back on anything that was already there.” As always, Mack made a special effort to work with local suppliers in sourcing furnishings both vintage and new.

Kitchen/bathroom/extension photos: Courtesy Alicia Balocco; Living/dining room photos: Elizabeth Lippman

More photos and info on the jump…


Welcome to The Insider, Brownstoner’s every-Thursday series exploring how we furnish and decorate our homes here in the county of Kings. We cover the work of professionals and DIY-ers in every style, neighborhood, and housing type. The only unshakeable criteria: an abundance of creativity and a Brooklyn address.

Photo: Elizabeth Lippman

Sometimes an interior designer is called upon to work almost from scratch, and that’s what happened here. A single woman with an interest in art but few furnishings called Brooklyn-based designer Julia Mack for help decorating her rented 1BR brownstone floor-through. The one thing the client did have: a long 1960s sofa she’d bought for $75 at a Henry Street stoop sale. A few months later, Julia had pulled it all together, giving the modest apartment “strong basics, which can be supplemented with new art or vintage pieces as time goes on.”

Details and photos on the jump.