Dil Hildebrand in Architectural Digest

How Brooklyn Designers Created a Historic Townhouse for Modern Living
The inaugural Brooklyn Heights Designer Show House merges old and new, to striking effect

By Hadley Keller

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It's about time Brooklyn had its own designer show house. Over the past few years, the borough has proven itself as more of a creative oasis than ever, with everything from furniture to lighting to ceramics making waves throughout the design community; one room at this year's prestigious Holiday House featured only decor from Brooklyn. And while show houses like Holiday House and Kips Bay are buzzworthy events in Manhattan, its sister borough hasn't seen the same opportunity for showcasing its best design—until now. With the inaugural Brooklyn Heights Designer Show House, the Brooklyn Heights Association as gathered 17 of the borough's creatives to outfit a historic townhouse on Livingston Street, with funds benefiting the association's preservation efforts in the charming neighborhood.

"I kind of can't believe it hasn't been done yet," laughs designer Ellen Hamilton, co-chair of the show house along with Erika Belsey Worth (Thom Filicia serves as honorary design chair). As for the actual home, 32 Livingston is a stunning example of the historic brownstones for which the area is known. In the same family for the last 60 years, the property bears nearly all of its original details, something designers were excited to incorporate. "Even in Brooklyn Heights it's rare to have a house as intact as this one to work with," says Belsey Worth. Fittings by Nanz and Forbes & Lomax throughout the house fit into the history but allow for modern comforts—a theme prevalent throughout each room, where, in order to best meld old and new, designers preserved the home's handsome historic attributes while making them feel more approachable. "It feels like real life, but with an emphasis on stylish living," Hamilton says. "Nothing feels imposing or heroic."

Living Room by Glenn Gissler
Gissler, a Brooklyn Heights resident, worked with 1stdibs to source a collection of furnishings that would look at home under the room's original molding and large-scale windows. "Our goal was to create a 19th-century living room for the 21st century," Gissler quips. "Placing a rich and sophisticated selection of 20th-century furnishings, artwork, and accessories gives the room a more modern feeling reflecting more contemporary lifestyles."

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