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A pretty little 1880s brownstone with an abundance of intact detail was the object of a scenario like many playing out all over Brooklyn these days. “The young couple buying the house — still with its traditional layout, including an old, walled-off kitchen at the back of the garden floor — wanted to bring it into the 21st century and open it up for contemporary living,” said Kimberly Neuhaus of Neuhaus Design Architecture P.C.

And so the couple hired the Brooklyn-based architect to do just that. “Little” was the operative word here.

At just 17 feet wide and slightly more than twice as deep, “it was a challenge to take this tiny three-story house and make it feel bigger,” Neuhaus said. She took several bold steps to make that happen:

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An untouched five-story brownstone that had been owned by the same family for a century provided a blank canvas for CWB Architects, one of Brooklyn’s busiest specialists in high-end townhouse renovation. The 1870s structure was in dire shape when the new homeowners undertook a two-year project to convert the house, which had been chopped up into apartments, to a single-family dwelling for themselves and their two young sons.

“Nearly half the floor structure was cracked,” said Brendan Coburn of CWB. “The only things we kept were the front wall and two side walls.” The back wall and all the interior framing are new.

It was an opportunity to rethink the house from, as it were, the ground up. The 20-foot-wide building “is gigantic for a family of four,” Coburn said, “and that made figuring out how to arrange the program a bit tricky.”

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WELCOME TO THE INSIDER, Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design or renovation project, written and produced by journalist/blogger Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday at 11 am.

AFTER THE NEW OWNERS of this exceptional brownstone had shelled out the price of admission, “budget-friendly” became their decorating watchword. Tamara Eatonan up-and-coming interior designer, was on the case to help the couple, who recently relocated from L.A., create a fresh, lighthearted home for their young family within the envelope of a seriously detailed late 19th century row house near Prospect Park.

The house was in estate condition, with a load of original detail including mother-of-pearl inlay in woodwork around doors and fireplaces on the parlor floor. “There was not a ton we had to do,” Eaton said.

Because furnishings from the couple’s California residence were to be repurposed in this totally different setting, Eaton saw her challenge as “making their very modern things work in a traditional brownstone. We painted most walls white to freshen things up and make the woodwork feel less heavy, and because she is a fashion stylist, added a bit of gloss and glamour with fun wallpaper and light fixtures.”

A 25-year-old kitchen on the garden level was left untouched due to budget constraints. Eaton oversaw the revamping of four bathrooms with basic white fixtures, plus quirky wallpaper or bright paint just for fun.

See more after the jump.

Photos by Jeffrey Kilmer