A Brooklyn Brownstone Gets Its Design Flipped Upside-Down with Sweeten

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The curtain to this Sweeten renovation story opens on a 2,400 square-foot, 100-year-old Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone. Owners Bellamy and Zak purchased the three-story Brooklyn home in 2017 with one main goal: reverse the interior layout of the space. The end result was a single-story rental on the garden level and a cozy duplex on top for the couple to enjoy. The objective was to keep as many details from the original design as possible while also giving the home a much-needed facelift.

This was Bellamy and Zak’s first serious renovation project and they knew it would require more expertise than their (albeit impressive) DIY skills could handle. They posted their story on Sweeten and quickly chose a contractor to work with. The couple was able to live in the garden floor apartment while the more substantial structural renovations took place on the upper two floors.  

Let’s start our tour of the newly-renovated space where it all begins: the entry foyer. The couple chose to remove the entry doors but left the structural wall intact. This created an open floor plan and allowed for more livable space to work with. Bellamy loved the original details in the entry doors and creatively used the doors as a headboard in the upstair's guest room (spoiler alert: pictures of this ingenious idea will come later in the article).

When you step inside, you are greeted with a beautiful, long expanse of brick wall that stretches from the living room to the kitchen. The brick wall had previously been separated into two rooms, but the contractor tore down the compartmentalizing walls to create a larger, more open space. The prior owner had used black mortar on the bricks in the front room while choosing regular mortar for the kitchen which created a discontinuous feel and a large eyesore. To fix this problem without breaking the bank, Bellamy and Zak repointed the half that had black mortar and experimented with paint in order to create one cohesive wall.

The main attraction in the couple’s duplex is the kitchen. In order to utilize the visual appeal of the 11-foot ceilings, the ducting above the new stove was left exposed and vents directly through the wall outside. “I love the industrial element it adds to the newly renovated space,” says Bellamy.  The couple also opted to make the kitchen window smaller in order to allow their tiled backsplash to shine.

1141 Pure White

The second kitchen window was replaced with a door, a small landing and stairs to allow for easy backyard access. Open shelving and Caesarstone Pure White quartz (used on the island and countertops) keep the kitchen looking fresh, clean and modern.

Going into the renovation, the couple had one non-negotiable feature they wanted to add: a double oven. “I was concerned I would be giving up valuable pantry space, but the layout worked out perfectly and there was room for everything we wanted, even the custom built-in taps,” says Bellamy.

Bellamy and Zak are avid home-brewers and their contractor happily created an in-wall tap to help them indulge their passion. Because the tap was designed for easy access, the couple can change it out and connect to wine or cold-brew if they ever want a change of pace.   

Our next stop on the tour is the first-floor bathroom. This space didn’t require any major changes, as the structural foundation was sound and built for easy living. As we mentioned earlier, Bellamy and Zak are not ones to shy away from a DIY project. The two showed off their skills by adding whimsical wallpaper and wainscotting. The couple's favorite feature of this chic bathroom is the heated bathroom floor. “Worth every penny in the winter,” says Bellamy.  

Let’s journey upstairs to the top floor of this gorgeous brownstone, which had previously been a separate apartment with its own kitchen. The contractor helped to design a brand-new floor plan that included a master bedroom, master closet, master bathroom, guest bedroom and laundry room.

The old kitchen was replaced with a laundry room and a closet was created for each bedroom. “The master bedroom closet is one of my favorite rooms,” says Bellamy. “It had been a small room that we converted and had the contractor close off one of the entrances. He finished it as an empty room and we used Ikea Pax cabinets to build our dream spot.”

Moving into the master bedroom, we're struck by the indigo behind the headboard. The color is bold, playful and picks up on the blue details of the ornately-decorated rug.

Remember the entry doors we mentioned from the foyer? Bellamy put them to good use as a beautiful headboard in the guest bedroom. The doors add personality to the room and complement the neutral color palette.

When everything was said and done, it took about five months to complete the top two floors. To save money, both Bellamy and Zak played an active roll in the renovation. Namely, they did all of the painting themselves—that includes multiple coats on the ceilings, walls and trim! Bellamy even created a fun tie-dye paint effect over the bed in the single-story garden rental.

“I’m glad we did it, but it was a grueling several months and I’m pretty sure I gave myself carpal tunnel,” says Bellamy. Rest assured, Bellamy, you and Zak can sit back, relax and brew some beer in your beautiful, newly renovated home.  

For more Sweeten renovations: A Kitchen Set Straight | Renovation Made Easy With Sweeten

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