Rhyme & Reason

[nggallery id=78 template=”sliderview” display_content=”0”] Neoclassical lines, Japanese antiques and midcentury furnishings blend beautifully, bringing a restored Brooklyn townhome to new heights.

With their purchase of a Brooklyn Heights townhome that had undergone major changes over the centuries, these new homeowners faced multiple layers of challenges. They wanted to restore the 4,500-square-foot home to its original glory, and then fill it with furnishings, colors, textiles and art that blended their individual cultures – Japanese and American – into one seamless experience. Diligent research brought them to interior designer Kathryn Scott and architect Kevin Dakan, whom transformed the home inside and out and enabled the couple to realize their dreams.

“Fortunately, the original Neoclassical details and room layout remained untouched,” Dakan says of the circa 1830s home that had been divided into four apartments over time. “We were able to restore and highlight the original elegance of the townhouse, and we used the Neoclassical visual language to inform the feel of the new spaces we created.”

That restored elegance then served as a canvas for Scott, whom first encountered the couple when they toured her own home, just walking distance from the clients’ townhome, as part of the Brooklyn Heights Spring House Tour.

“When they saw our home designed with the East West cultures mixed easily together – my husband being Chinese and I myself American – they asked me to help them integrate their own East West mixture of furnishings and collectibles,” Scott explains, noting compatibility in their views on objects and design. “They really appreciated the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, or patina acquired over the life of any object, which is also one of my favorite design philosophies. Age is revered as a representation of wisdom.”

SETTING THE STAGE | The historic townhome underwent a complete makeover and today stands as a separate floorthrough apartment on the garden level with the owner’s four bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom triplex above.

“The main challenges came from inserting a lot of modern program into the confined narrow space,” Dakan recalls, noting all modern additions had taken place in the rear of the house, which had originally been a two-story sleeping porch.

A kitchen with an eating banquette was added on the parlor level and a master bedroom/ dressing room and bath on the second level were among the new spaces.

The architects also used archival photographs to recreate the original decorative brownstone stoop and door surround, iron railing, and front door with sidelights, a restorative undertaking for which they received an Award for Architectural Excellence from the Brooklyn Heights Association.

“I love the air of restrained elegance and thoughtful rigor of Neoclassical design, and I was happy to work within this framework to bring the house back to life,” Dakan states.

DECORATIVE DETAILS | Inside, the home is a layering of time, culture and thought.

“The homeowners did have a good-sized collection of Japanese antiques and midcentury furnishings they hoped to integrate,” Scott says. “Interestingly, most of the Japanese pieces were collected by the American husband. Mixing the two cultures was not a difficult thing to do and brings a unique character to the home that couldn’t have been created without the homeowner’s strong point of view.”

Some of the items, like the dining room pendant from Artemide, already belonged to the homeowners, while others, like the pier mirror, were original to the house. Scott adds that the “contrast gives new life to both since you would not normally expect to see them together.”

The layers of objects, colors and materials that fill the home are completely reflective of the homeowners themselves. “This makes the home feel very authentic, which is important,” Scott comments. “That authenticity makes you feel very comfortable being there.”

A passion for authenticity on the part of the homeowners, architect and designer is what drove this townhome to award-winning heights.

“The house is a comfortable backdrop for life,” Scott explains of the thoughtful goods that enrich the home. “The most difficult interior to create is one where the clients don’t have real interests of their own and rely on the designer to completely accessorize the home. It’s very valuable for the final result when the owners are able to invest themselves in the design.”

Photography courtesy of Ellen Mcdermott.
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