Gathering, Planning

We had an appointment yesterday to take measurements at the brownstone. (Quick side note - someone commented that I shouldn't be calling the house a brownstone because it's technically a brick face, not stone. I always thought of 'brownstone' as a more general term, but I'm probably wrong there. Should I be calling it a townhouse? Rowhouse?)


We were there for about two hours, poking behind and under the bachelor's grubby furniture and measuring every last nook and cranny. I left feeling both more excited and more stressed about our decision to move to this house. You know how when you see a space for the first time, it's like there's a fuzzy lens on your eyes? How it's all rainbows and stars from your excitement about the potential? I totally fell victim to the fuzzy lens trap last time. And plus, we were sort of rushed with the first walk-through, so there wasn't an opportunity to really inspect the house.

This walk-through yesterday was different though. I had my designer's hat on and there was no allowing for giddiness or stars/rainbows. This time I got to really look at the place and the reality has set in of just how much cosmetic work it needs. The house was last renoed in the 70s and I'll just leave it at that so your imagination can run wild. It's just as bad as you are thinking. THEY TORE OUT THE MOULDINGS YOU GUYS. We have a serious project on our hands.

I think I'd like to refinish the orangey wood floors and the kitchen needs to be gutted. I would love for those both to happen as soon as possible, hopefully before we move in. The bathrooms all need help. Every single room and walkway, every last piece of trim and every door (including the front door) needs to be sanded, patched and painted.



But, I guess after walking through for the second time, I'm still feeling pretty great about the whole thing. The bottom line is we are really lucky to have found an affordable townhouse (with a backyard!) in an awesome Brooklyn Heights location, that's in totally livable condition. It's just not pretty yet. But we are also incredibly lucky to have a landlord who is thrilled to help us renovate and doesn't care what we do. Her quote was, "I don't need to hear about it unless you're planning to move walls, cause we'll need a permit for that." It's a dream come true for me, actually. I love doing this kind of work and am anxious to get my hands dirty again after two years of only light-weight DIY projects. We'd love to buy an older house of our own someday, so this will be good practice for the reno we hope to take on in a couple of years.


So while the reality of the thing is sinking in for me a little today, as I sit here with pages and pages of notes from the walk through, I'm still excited. I have some big decisions to make about how I will  manage my day, or at least my working hours, after the move. I'm wrapping up all my big projects, and it's looking like client work can take a bit of a back seat to personal projects and blogging, and I couldn't be happier about that. It feels like good timing.

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've always used brownstone as a general term. Lots of people do, especially in NYC. Can't wait to see what you do with the place.

Heather {ModernMealsforTwo} said...

I'm so excited for you and can't wait to see how you transform your new home.

Linsey said...

Hooray! Can't wait to lend you a cup of sugar, neighbor!

Freya Lily said...

I love the look of this place on the outside. It's on my dream list to live somewhere with a stoop. I don't know why, but I've always wanted to sit on a stoop in the summer heat with a friend and watch the city move around me while sipping on some cocktails.

Weird, right?

Fromfreyawithlove.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

You guys are renting? Is your landlord subsidizing any of the work you'll be doing?

Tara said...

Have you checked out http://www.brooklynlimestone.com/ She & her hubby redid their brownstone (?) I have no idea what the appropriate nomenclature is.

Good luck! I love historic renovation/preservation. :)

Jenny at LGN said...

Linsey - can't WAIT to borrow that sugar! :)

Freya - I love the stoop too! Can't wait to sit out there and let my kids ride their scooters around the hood. The steps are a little steep though, so we'll need to get used to that. Hopefully before the winter/ice comes!

Anon#2 - We are renting. The landlord is paying for a lot of the reno work, which is really great. We sort of decided that they would pitch in whatever they would pay if they were doing it themselves and if I want something nicer (like different appliances for example), we'll pay the extra. It works out for us because of the income I make from blogging about the work I'm doing. It probably seems silly to take on a project like this one as a renter, but it's a good fit for us.

xx

Em said...

We just bought and completely remodeled an 1867 Victorian house here in New Jersey. It's quite a lot of work (who knew there were so many antique brass pocket door latches out there?!?) but so amazing to see it approaching the finish line! Good Luck!

Janna McCalley said...

Ahhh I remember doing that when we walked through our house the 1st time. our family/friends said RUN but we somehow could see the potential. It's been 5 years of HARD work but it's worth it in the end. Good luck with yours!
You can see some of the progress here if you like:
http://www.swooninteriors.blogspot.com/search/label/Home%20Renovations

Lauren Tien said...

I've never been to New York, but whenever you show photos of these adorable neighborhoods on you blog, I just love it. I am really excited to see you "big" messy projects! And in response to " THEY TORE OUT THE MOULDINGS YOU GUYS," I empathize and can only ask "but why !?"

Diane James Home said...

In Paris, they would call your new home a "hotel particulier" - a private hotel - not a bad name! Can't wait to see your reno!

Mel & Liza said...

Amazing Jenny, looks like so much fun. I can't wait to see what you all do!

pve design said...

How about calling it "tlc" townhouse love child"
I cannot wait to see it after you wipe it down with clorox wipes and give it your charm.
Happy to help with anything or if you need to park your girls...we have a fun back yard and a big trampoline.
I am serious.
pve

Amanda said...

I'm so excited to watch as you update it! I can't wait to see more of it!

Heather said...

I'm so excited for you!

Lower Boxelder School said...

Jenny,
I am so happy for you and your family! I can't wait to see what wonderful little touches you will give this new place of yours! I will be anxiously reading and commiserating as you go through the renovation process---my husband and I recently bought an old schoolhouse built in 1919 that we are working on. I can relate to the woes of having original details such as mouldings, etc. torn out! Good luck and have fun!

Amelia said...

Again welcome to the neighborhood! As a brooklynite myself, I would call that a townhouse. I am so so excited to see your progress!!!

Em said...

The only surefire name for it is a "terraced house". But you can read this and decide which nomer you think applies best: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraced_house

marybeth said...

Can't wait to read all about it!

Celia said...

That is awesome. If you want a house to do... you are more than welcome to do mine! We purchases a 75 yr old home and have been re-doing EVERYTHING. Gutting everything, stripping molding... just everything. So wish I had your design "mind"!!!!

Erin said...

I am so excited for you but selfishly more excited to read about it and see pix. Ha! You're one of my fav bloggers and ur ideas are always fab. I'm sure you'll turn this into a gem in no time.

rare birds said...

It's definitely a townhouse...however it's also in the brownstone tradition...your pediments above the door and windows as well as your steps and balustrade are brownstone. I owned a brownstone in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Wash. DC and though it was roman bricks the features similar to yours were brownstone and it was listed in the historic register as a brownstone. I believe you can safely call your new home a brownstone or a townhouse...but it is an understatement to refer to it based up the red bricks alone :) I'm very excited for your move and look forward to blow by blow reports :)

I googled "images of brownstones" and many similar to yours came up...so google agrees also!

robyn
Rare Birds Blog

Tokyo Jinja said...

Jenny- It's actually a brick Greek Revival house, post Federal and right before the Victorian brownstone period, so roughly 1850-ish. Many of the houses in the Heights, Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill are just like it. My favorite period as the details were classical (keep that in mind when replacing mouldings), but they are higher and bigger than the earlier houses, yet not so large and deep (and sometimes gloomy) as the later brownstones. Can't wait to see what you do with it !

Kate Galston said...

Congratulations! What a wonderful project in a perfect neighborhood. I can't wait to follow along each step of the way from Los Angeles.

Albertina said...

So excited for you! and for us since we get to live through the whole thing with you through your blog. :)

Livyb said...

I can't imagine a better person to take on this project! You are tireless, it would seem. Just don't forget to take lots of "before" pics because I bet the afters are going to be stunning!

Morgan said...

So, SO excited to see what you do! And can't wait to learn all of your reno tips & tricks! We have near gutted our home and have started fresh as well.

Adrienne said...

I am so excited to see this transformation! My husband and I used to live in Park Slope. While my he attended Pratt he took a class called "Townhouses of the North Atlantic Rim." It was fascinating to hear about all the cool architecture from Boston to D.C. Anyway, as several others have stated, you do have a brick townhouse with some small brownstone features. Your neighbors' house to the right is a true brownstone. In Brooklyn Heights you will also see many greystone townhouses. But yes, many refer to townhouses as brownstones even if it's not technically correct.

Anna Williams said...

I feel your pain! I have a traditional style Queenslander (typical north Australian architecture) and someone in the 80s ripped out all the original lighting, and replaced it with strip fluorescents, and tore out all the 12cm high skirting and left it empty. The wind comes up through the gaps between the floors and walls! We are slowly rectifying these disasters but it does take time. It's very satisfying when you're finished though and I can't wait to see what you do! xx

Anna (My Design Ethos)

Mariel said...

Jenny! Just saw your spot in the July Issue of BHG! Congrats! Those were some great tips. My mom and I are huge fans of yours, we're always saying things like "Well Jenny says you should do it this way..." or "Did you what Jenny did today?" :) All the best to you in your big move!

My Crafty Home Life said...

Just call it "Home".

Homestyling101 said...

Brownstone is slang in NYC for townhouse- sort of like 'street meat'- we don't expect you to be technical. Good luck and I'm looking forward to watching the transformation!

LindsB said...

I'm so excited for you!! Well also in a kind of selfish way because I know all of the amazing projects that you are going to share and I'm pretty friggin excited about them already!!

Lorri@ReturnToHome said...

That is so funny - I also went to my new house yesterday to take measurements. It was the third time seeing the house - I had the EXACT same experience - boy did that fuzzy lens fall right off! Everywhere I looked there was a total lack of perfection!! My heart sunk a little bit when it hit home just exactly HOW much work we're going to have to do. But I like your positive perspective - what a great opportunity to really get in there and create a beautiful space! I'm going to take your inspiration and change my attitude!! :) :)

Quatorze said...

I say "townhouse", but "brownstone" is a quite acceptable generic term in NYC.

Oh, I thought you had bought it. I take back much of the grand planning I suggested for the garden...

No moldings? Do what I did in my rented Union Square boxy just postwar flat, paint 'em in. Using painters tape, I came down a few inches on the wall and out a few inches on the ceiling and then painted in a series of thin lines, replicating the "edges" of moldings. I then put in some verticals replicating Doric metopes and voila, I had an easy classical molding. I used Ralph Lauren Slipper Satin paint in pearl, which is no longer made but which can be found from other companies. The beauty of this is that the relatively sheer paint is reflective of light, and changes subtly with the day and lamp light. It draws the eye without screaming "Look at me!" I later was in a sumptuous Fifth Avenue apt. with a 22 foot high ceilinged ballroom, the kind of place one dreams about, and they had the same thing, moldings and even a beamed ceiling painted in rather than actually molded in. Its a great solution and allows for a lot of creativity at almost zero money. Let me know how to send you pictures so you can see what I did.

Anonymous said...

I imagine that you are a landlords dream! I found that in some ways, the grubbiness of a new place is freeing since there is no way to live with it as is. Better to bite the bullet and change it rather than having to make do with,a not your style, 80's reno.

shawniawillson said...

Quazorze, Can you send me pictures? The mouldings in my house were ripped out as well, and U couldnt affort real mouldings, I get deppressed thinking about them being gone lol! Please could you email shawniawillson@msn.com or shawniawillson@gmail.com ? I would so appreciate it. Thank you. And Jenny, I am so excited to see what you do with the brownstone/townhouse/ private hotel. I LOVE your blog. LGN is my favorite blog! Thank you, Shawnia

shawniawillson said...

I meant "I" couldnt afford the real mouldings, not U. Sorry.

Barbie said...

You are the Energizer Bunny. I cannot wait to see what you do with this place, whatever it's called. Your energy and talent are amazing Jenny! Those are some smart renters, to give you carte blanche.

eLIZabeth Floyd said...

I am soooo excited about your new home! And I would call it a brown stone or townhouse, which ever works best because it does have a brownstone base.

Ashley said...

so, just curious cause i'm a city renter too - how to the renovation expenses work out? is your landlord footing the bill or is this all out of your pocket? i'm curious because i think the couple who owns the condo my hubby and i rent would be open to some changes, but i don't know how that all works out.

Cressie Matthews said...

My husband just graduated law school and we are now looking for a fixer-upper here in Utah. I can't wait to see some of the renovations you do to the brownstone! I know they will inspire me when we have a home of our own!

Elizabeth said...

You have amazing talent and impeccable taste. I'd say you're a landlord's DREAM tenant.

Elizabeth said...

You have amazing talent and impeccable taste. I'd say you're a landlord's DREAM tenant.

Anonymous said...

Through all fix upping to be done, the place sounds wonderful. Grubby furniture former tenants not so much.

How2home said...

This space is going to look phenomenal once its complete! I can't wait to see pictures! Any decorating plans for fathers day this weekend?

Eva from ~ Sugar Shack Studios ~ said...

36 years, born and raised in NYC and we call it a brownstone, it's a row but everyone calls it a brownstone ~ I'm sure it will be stunning when you're done with it (please take lots of pictures for us!). And most importantly, you're in a great neighborhood, the home is inhabitable and now you get to take your time making it yours ~ wishes for the very best to you!

melanie said...

We call ours in Hoboken a Brick Row

Also - i just realized you're RENTING! kudos for taking on all those projects for something that's not yours! I've always been tempted, but alas felt like it wouldn't be nearly as appreciated as all the work that would go into it... can't wait to watch the transformation! :-)

Elliott P. said...

Call it whatever the heck you want, its yours.

Emily said...

Can't wait to see your transformation!

Paddy said...

So happy for you, says this long-time lurker first time commenter from the winter side of the world. You bring a lot of positivity into the world with your blog so it's great to see it radiating out and coming back to you. It does seem like a great fit which we all get to benefit and share in. Win win!

Pam said...

I'm so exited for you, the place has so much potential. It's absolutely adorable, and you can call it a brownstone if you want!

I can't wait to see how you transform it!

~Pam

Maria @ All Things Luxurious said...

How exciting! It is adorable from the outside! ;-) Just think -- this way, it will truly be yours, you know? I can't wait to hear more about this! Have a wonderful weekend!

Victoria M said...

How exciting! I am looking forward to seeing your changes!

My mother was telling me yesterday about a magazine article she read, and the designer suggested using a drop cloth as curtains. I told her I thought it was a great idea and my favorite design blogger had used a drop cloth for the back of black out shades. Well I am at my parents house for Fathers day this weekend and she shows me the magazine. Little did I know we were both talking about you! This is my long winded way of saying congrats on the bhg article!

Carolyn said...

Can't wait to see progress! How exciting for you!
Carolyn http://sillyhappysweet.blogspot.com

Holly said...

I think one of the best things that we did was buy our 1940s house that looked like it hadn't been updated since the 70s. You will have so much fun putting your own spin on this place and really seeing it come to life the way you want it to come to life - it is really rewarding to say the least. Enjoy it and looking forward to more updates.

Donna Benedetto said...

Best of luck to you.
Sounds like an exciting project,sometimes it takes a bit of time to wrap your head around a project, then once you do it falls in to place quickly.
Looking forward to seeing pictures along the way.
Donna
thebeneblog.com

Anonymous said...

Hi, I did the black walls flat, in fact they were the Benjamin Moore washable scrubbable so they did not get scuffed. I am still in love with them and because they are flat they do not show imperfections. Love seeing your photos! Keep updating!

Jessica @ The Tiny Abode said...

Brooklyn Heights is such a great neighborhood. You are a lucky lady... especially seeing that you lucked up with a laid back landlord! I can't wait to see the progression.

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