Posts Tagged ‘brownstone’

I’m obsessed with social history – how the area we live in would have been X amount of years ago, but particularly  – and especially in New York – around the turn of the century. When we first moved here, it started with a Brownstone infatuation but now has extended to the whole city.

Before motor cars or Robert Moses, when Madison Avenue was filled with insanely extravagant palaces and downtown NY insane poverty and overcrowding but rich with the cultural diversity of the immigrant influx.

It’s the stuff of inspiration for countless writers and film makers, from Boardwalk Empire to the upcoming film adaptation of Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale (one of the most wonderful and baffling books I’ve ploughed through), which they filmed last Christmas in Prospect Park.

So I love this interactive feature on NYC Grid – of old and modern shots of landmarks in the city, which you can move around, like this one of Bowling Green in 2013 and 1907:

It’s interesting to see the ones that have really changed – where the building have been knocked down or former skyscrapers are now in the shadow of modern buildings, but I love the ones that haven’t changed that much, like this one of Bryant Park just the clothes the people are wearing. Goes to show how life just goes on in New York City:

Manhattan Bridge14th Street &  8th AvenueCapture

Bryant Park Bowling Green

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It’s awesome when you are a multi-platinum-selling hip hop star.

When Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys wanted to redecorate his Brooklyn brownstone he had a French toile designed especially for his walls (and cushions), with Brooklyn-inspired motifs.

Check out this design by Flavor Paper and Revolver NY, featuring Coney Island, Hasidic Jews and even the Notorious B.I.G.


For a guy who was famous for vandalising VWs, Diamond’s house, in Cobble Hill, is pretty classy. No graffiti on walls, or neon signs, no basement home cinema.

Funky and eclectic and original, yes. There’s nothing ostentatious about it.

It’s even pretty.

I think this might be the coolest modern makeover I’ve seen of a brownstone yet.

Check out these images from Intralld and the NYTimes:

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (2)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (6)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (10)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (11)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (12)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (15)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (16)


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OMG. An intact Brownstone has come up for sale in our neighbourhood.

I am always fascinated by these beautiful homes and love to see them in their original state, or how their lucky inhabitants have modernised them.

This one is going for a cool $3,500,000 on Corcoran NYC.

This room is the bedroom, or now nursery, in our apartment. The fireplace is hidden by the monstrous but very useful Ikea wardrobe. I wonder if it is that splendid?

Living Room

Living Room

This elegant room is the ground floor flat in our building:

Living Room

Living Room

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Love this piece from the New York Times Living section about a beautifully restored Brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The couple who own it restored it as close to its original state as possible, with furnishings and wallpaper etc from the Victorian era (funny how Americans still call it the Victorian era).

It’s always fascinating to me how these huge houses would have looked before they were split into flats for urbanites.

This picture is of the front room – and is what our bedroom would have looked like when it was still the grand parlour of the house (although the house our apartment is in is a bit wider). We still have those beautiful windows and woodwork detail, although all painted white now, and the fireplace is hidden by a gigantic Ikea closet. At least, I hope it is. I hope it hasn’t been ripped out.

Wish our entrance hall looked quite as inviting too (rather than the musty carpet and dim lighting is currently has, although the landlord swears they are sending in the carpet cleaners next week).

Do have a look at the other pictures by NYT interiors photographer Trevor Tondro because they are breathtaking.


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Browsing around my new favourite shop, I found this wonderful book, Bricks and Brownstone: The New York Townhouse 1783-1929 (Classical America Series in Art and Architecture) by Charles Lockwood:

(It’s $20 cheaper on Amazon, which I know isn’t a very supportive thing to say for local shops, but we did buy all our kitchen furniture from them – although we are still waiting for the fourth chair to be delivered).

The H1B and I lay in a post-dinner slump on our parquet floor last night (still eating turkey leftovers from our blow-out Thanksgiving supper at Fatty Cue), drinking rioja out of our Duralex glasses, and wondered again how our three rooms originally fitted into the scheme of the house.

I found some excerpts from the book online, which help to put our parlour level into context (our apartment is the ground floor, that is the one above the basement, and is exactly this layout):

Cross section of a brownstone from Charles Lockwood's book

In an era of large families and several live-in servants, the sixteen-room, five-story-tall brownstone-front combined grand parlors for entertaining and spacious living quarters for the family and, with its many floors, offered privacy for parents, children, and servants.

This is what our apartment could have looked like in its original get-up (though the parquet floor and fireplace are much more fancy and our doorways don’t have those fine wooden mouldings):

Interior of a late 1900s brownstone from Bricks & Brownstones (Charles Lockwood)

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I have some first pictures of our beautiful Brownstone parlour level apartment. Our broker worked her very unique brand of magic and got us the first viewing on the property. Over the next few months I’ll be posting more images as we decorate it. I think it’s a really unique space and I would love to hear some suggestions on what to do with it.

View from the front end to the back, through the middle room:

View from the middle room through to the shutters of the windows at the front of the property (which will be our bedroom):

Pretty fireplace (unfortunately not working) in the kitchen:

I’m now fascinated by the building and would love to find out more about these unique structures. The only fact I have discovered is that they are named after the, er, brown stone that comes from Jersey, which is used for the facade (underneath is plain old brick).

There are two floors above us and another below – all turned into flats now – so it must have been a very impressive home when it was intact. What I wouldn’t give to be able to restore it to its former glory but the realtor told me a building like ours would go for around $10-14 million today. Twenty years ago it was a different story…

Another thing I find particularly appealing about the place is that our landlord lived in our flat with his three siblings, parents and grandparents back when they first arrived from China in the 1970s (they slept in the kitchen, middle room and front room respectively). He obviously still has a strong attachment to the place as it is beautifully maintained and he was keen to meet us before we signed.

I’m happy that they now own such a valuable property (all our rent money goes to the grandparents), as Mr Han works very hard so his own children can study at college (he never takes a holiday but his son is going to the London School of Economics next year for summer camp, which can’t be cheap, and last year did the same in Paris).

It feels like the apartment is a piece of living history – with different types of New York immigrants living there over the decades. I hope we do the apartment justice. I’m quite sentimental about the place already.


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If you read my posts on using brokers or finding an apartment in New York, and are you looking for a place yourself, you might find the following glossary of realtors’ terminology useful.

Floor-thru – this is an apartment that runs through the entire floor of a building, from one end to the other. Typically it’s a feature of older buildings that have been divided up, such as brownstones. Be aware that the middle room usually has no windows (as it’s in the middle of the building). We were lucky enough to find a floor-thru that was at the end of a block, so the middle room has a window – a big bonus.

Condo – condominiums always make me think about racy pensioners in Florida for some reason (accompanied with a visual of the dive Brad Pitt inhabits in True Romance). It’s a legal term specifically – that applies to the ownership requirement – but what you need to know is they are normally newer-build blocks, which share a pool or garden, and most people own the flat they live in.

Co-op – if you apply for an apartment in a cooperative your lease will have to be approved by the board members of the building. Your application maybe vetoed if you have pets, for example. If you like to play jazz trumpet late at night, you might want to keep it to yourself.

(By the way it’s illegal for brokers to reveal anything about other people in the building. I guess this is so no one can be discriminated against, including yourself, but it does also stop innocently nosy questions about your potential neighbours, such as if they have kids or not.)

Corcoran has a pretty comprehensive real estate glossary if you need more information.

As for me, I’ve been distracted by thoughts of that scene where you get to see Christian Slater’s bum and (nearly) his winkie and when Alabama says that she is in love with him. Here it is:

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