A Pair of Designers Renovate Their Brooklyn Brownstone With a Bright Monochromatic Palette
Ed Parker and his wife, Barbara Tutino Parker, spent the first 10 years of their New York City life in a rental loft above a factory in Bushwick, Brooklyn. But eventually the couple, who met while students at Carnegie Mellon University, where she was an exchange student from Rome, grew tired of renting and decided it was time to buy a place of their own. With the city’s notoriously high cost of real estate, they knew it wouldn’t be easy. It took them two years to find the right fit, a 1,000-square-foot apartment in Park Slope.
While it wasn’t perfect—its long and narrow railroad-style layout was only 12 feet 6 inches at its widest—the couple sought a place with character, and this place had character to spare. A four-story brick structure built around a hundred years ago, it had distinctively historic bones. "There are lots of apartments in Brooklyn like this," says Ed. "It’s a pattern-book building," he adds, meaning that he suspects its design was taken from a book of architectural plans.
Both employed at architecture firms—he’s a principal at 1100 Architect and she’s an associate project architect at Perkins Eastman—the couple never thought twice about a renovation. They set to work on the plans before they even closed on the unit. "We were excited about making the place our own," says Barbara.
They called in Lennie Construction, a contractor with whom they had previously worked, and had the team take down the walls between a small bedroom and a sitting room next to the master bedroom, a move that opened up the space and allowed them to add back-to-back closets to create much-needed storage.
Demolition took two months, during which the Parkers worked out the remaining design details; after it was completed, the couple had a contractor perform the electrical work but did nearly all of the remaining jobs themselves, such as painting and changing all the existing hardware. The architects’ biggest design decision was to paint everything—floors, walls, ceilings—white. With everything white, "you can see the way light and shadows vary as they move through the apartment," says Ed. They were careful to keep or reuse most of the moldings and cabinetry. "We let the details speak for themselves," says Barbara, explaining the painstaking job of removing the molding from the modern dining room and installing it in the more traditional TV room.
When furnishing the space, they used a lot of pieces they already owned, including a Crate and Barrel sofa they had bought 10 years before—their first purchase as a couple. They designed and built a dining table and a coffee table and spent most of their budget on lighting, adding fixtures from Flos, Artek, and Foscarini.
The couple are at once thrilled with the new home and smitten with its old-fashioned charm. Ed muses, "There’s something about traditional domesticity."