The fashion world, Madison Avenue and reality TV tell us skinny is good. That’s a concept that doesn’t frequently translate too well into design, where luxury is often measured by largeness – particularly of space. But when a thirtysomething art-collecting couple approached The Brooklyn Home Company (TBHC) to design their first home – a Park Slope brownstone – creative director Lyndsay Caleo Karol and her husband and resident artist Fitzhugh Karol turned skinny into a virtue.
“It had a pretty small footprint,” explains Lyndsay. “But one of the things we specialize in is bringing utility and material function into spaces. The 3,500-square- foot residence accommodated four bedrooms and four baths on as many floors. “At our first meeting, one of the first things she said was ‘I like lacquer,’” recalls Lyndsay of the client. “She wanted to play with polished surfaces and metals. We don’t usually do that, so it was a fun exercise.” It also happened to work with the svelte house profile by reflecting and magnifying light in almost every room, making spaces feel airier.
Another of the clients’ desires, however, was even more essential to informing the interior aesthetic and cleverly dealing with the issue of the small footprint. “Art is really important to my husband and I,” expresses the wife. “Our passion for the arts is something we share and can engage with together…We’re constantly sending each other inspiration or new artists we have come across on Instagram or other platforms, and we love to go to galleries and art shows together. For us, it’s more than just picking out décor for our walls; it’s an opportunity for us to bond and grow as a couple.” Today, the centrality of this avocation is seamlessly integrated into the soul of the house through furniture, built-ins and fittings that Lyndsay and Fitzhugh conceived as functional artworks, most of them designed by Fitzhugh for the space.
For instance, the handrail on the stairwell traces a hand-carved and notched diagonal line on its ascent. It’s a sculptural presence in itself, but also serves another purpose: it leads the eye toward artworks, such as a large surrealistic photo by Rochester-based artist Richard Quataert on a landing, and it calls attention to the oak stairs themselves, which, because they are cantilevered off the wall, also manifest as sculpture. In the master bedroom, Fitzhugh built a grandly proportioned tester bed that almost consumes the room. “Throughout, we built something that was largely scaled and could become its own space,” declares Lyndsay. Both the bed and an oversized work by Colombian photographer Adriana Duque visually expand the modest chamber, but the bed posts recall Brancusi columns, too.
“Fitzhugh’s work has a stair-like quality,” observes Lyndsay, meaning it is partial to zigzagging lines. The drawers and fireplace surround of built-in bookshelves in the living room, which flank a surreal piece by Franz Szony, are one example. More abstractly, the dining room table’s base, though actually charred wood, looks like climbable stepped-rock formations on a beach. In other cases, however, he drew inspiration from more decorative elements of Lyndsay’s scheme. A sliding barn door of a powder room addresses the space challenge by not opening out or in. But the gestural gold slashes on it reference Kelly Wearstler’s “Channels” wallpaper for Groundworks inside.
Of course, for clients who like sheen and polish, Wearstler was an obvious choice. Her brass framed “Elliott” chairs surround the dining table (along with Frank Gehry corrugated cardboard host chairs). Her “Linden” lamps bracket the master bed atop Lawson-Fenning side tables. But there is also the luminous glow of a gold-leafed ceiling in the library; a master shower with brass-framed glass doors; brass-framed “Box” chairs by Lawson-Fenning in the living room and the suspended open brass shelves of the kitchen (the island stools are Fitzhugh’s).
Glitzy, however, the home is not. The brass surfaces are brushed for the most part, rather than, well, brassy. There are mirror walls, but they are antiqued. Black (custom kitchen cabinets, the master bath’s Nero Marquina marble) is used to keep the brass elements in check. And natural oak floors throughout, as well as paper and cardboard pendants over the dining table, help sidestep interiors that could have telegraphed a pretentious slickness. This discreet brand of glamour is elevated enough to frame the art without distracting from it. Even more subtle is the functionality of Fitzhugh’s work, which elevates the furnishings while grounding the glamour and art with organic materials.
Photography by Emily Gilbert.
For more like this Park Slope Brownstone be sure to check out this vintage townhouse in Hoboken, New Jersey.
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