My House: Cookbook Author Jessie Sheehan’s Convivial Brooklyn Townhouse

My House: Cookbook Author Jessie Sheehan’s Convivial Brooklyn Townhouse

By jessie sheehan
The baker and food writer invites us into her Red Hook home, where the kitchen is the main attraction.

I’ve lived in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with my husband, two teenage boys, and our rescue pit bull for about nine years. My husband, an urban farmer, was always obsessed with the neighborhood, and when he discovered a building for sale—one that literally consisted of nothing more than four brick walls, remnants of a stair case, and floor joists—he was instantly smitten. I was a little apprehensive. I’m a cookbook author, food writer, and baker—and I don't have quite the "vision" or passion that he has for real estate and home design (and, I mean, you could literally see the sky when you walked through the graffitied front door). But in hindsight (i.e. a gut renovation later), I am grateful that we took the plunge.

Catfish in the mudroom...Red Hook is a neighborhood by the water, so throughout the house we have flourishes, as it were, that pay tribute to the home’s location.

The 1860s building was built by the Atlantic Dock Co. to house its workers, and we have decorated it with kind of an old-meets-new vibe. The floors are made of salvaged wood—some of it original to the house—the walls are unpainted with a rough, plaster finish; and the radiators are exposed. 

The upstairs hallway leads to the guest bedroom.

We live on three floors of the house, and our bed- and bathrooms are on the second. The house is "upside down," meaning the living and dining rooms and the kitchen are on the top floor. The light and views of the water are the best there.

My boys’ bathroom is one of my faves, as I love the color of the blue cabinets. And no, it rarely looks this pristine.

The "loft-like" top floor of the house is where we do all of our living, eating, hanging, and entertaining. It’s also where I do all of my baking and writing. When I am developing recipes or preparing dinner, and the boys are upstairs, it feels like family time together (despite the fact no one is talking—I mean, they’re teenagers, after all). They are usually parked on the couch, phones in hand, while I bustle around the kitchen trying to put something on the table that everyone will like—not an easy task.

Red Hook’s proximity to the water is reflected in the living room’s "sea vibe." 

The kitchen, I joke, is where all the magic happens, as sweets and treats do kind of have magical powers. Now, I won't lie, my kids don't like all the magic that I create. In fact, they flat out reject certain things, requesting store-bought cookies or ice cream rather than homemade. 

My kitchen—where all the magic happens—is galley style, which makes maneuvering easy-peasy. Through the doorway at the end of the galley is my pantry (where the wall oven and microwave live) and my tiny, sweet (pun intended) office, complete with Farrow and Ball’s Calamine-colored trim (pink is my favorite color).

Hard at work in my kitchen, slicing up lemon snacking cake and smiling at my pooch.

But you know what they do love? My donuts. So there’s always that...

Donuts for the win.

And they’ll usually eat a slice of cake, even when it's not chocolate, so that’s something...and when said cake is from my latest cookbook, well, then all the better. 

Silver Cake with Pink Frosting from my cookbook, The Vintage Baker.

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We eat at a long, wooden table across from the kitchen—and if people are eating and I’m still fiddling around (frying up donuts or frosting a cake, if they're lucky), I still feel part of the meal. 

The dining room table in our loft-like top floor.

Because I work from home and spend so much time alone, it always feels like a treat when everyone is home and we’re all upstairs together. Sometimes I miss the peace and quiet, sure, but rarely...

Sprinkling sparkling sugar on my sticky toffee pudding cakes.

The Vintage Baker: From Butterscotch Pecan Curls to Sour Cream Jumbles
This keepsake cookbook features fetching retro patterns and illustrations, luscious photography, an embossed foil cover, and—surprise! —a tiny, vintage-style, booklet inside.
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