Brooklyn Brownstone Project Updates


brooklyn door before and after

From this…to this!

You may recall some posts from last year about numerous projects I was working on in a Brooklyn brownstone, including this door restoration. While the house will be professionally photographed soon, I got to stop by this weekend so I can’t resist showing you some quick updates. The front door has been returned to its 19th century glory but as beautiful as the outside now is, the interior of the entryway may very well have become the favorite room in the house. The new front doors added significant space but it is the Farrow & Ball Ringwold wallpaper in green and the black and white marble floor that have dressed it up to scream elegant welcome.

brooklyn entry farrow ball ringwold

The two are such divinely perfect partners that the young daughters of the house have taken to having tea parties in here – wouldn’t you? There is still an antique art deco iron coat rack to go in and while the marble is eminently durable and we don’t want to hide any of it, we need a simple entry mat for bad weather.

brooklyn entry farrow ball ringwold

Some of you may be scratching your head recalling we had originally planned for encaustic tiles on the floor. In the end, the marble was more sensitive to the period and design of the house. I found a better use for the encaustic tiles anyway, as you can see below!

brooklyn kitchen encaustic tile

The kitchen renovation at the brownstone is almost finished and looking stunning. If you recall the Sheila Bridges kitchen, shown below, that served as the original inspiration, we are very close, but the dark woods and rich colors elsewhere in the house demanded some pattern and color complexity be added to all the white. Enter encaustic tile backsplash!

Final painting and window treatments still to come, but the counter-depth refrigerator, farmhouse sink and paneled dishwasher make all the difference. Peek back here to compare. Other final choices included white macoubas quartzite for the counters (which is reading gray in these photos although it is white in person), the single lever Perrin & Rowe faucet, with sprayer and water filter, which really is easy to use and a budget choice with the Barclays fireclay sink. Links to the original posts on these decisions can be found at the bottom of the post.

brooklyn kitchen encaustic tiles

Speaking of Sheila Bridges, be sure to check out another luminescent brownstone she has designed in Harlem in the new June issue of Elle Decor.

Sheila Bridges ED June 2014 brownstone

Sheila Bridges dining room harlem brownstone ED June 2014

And on the wallpaper front, my client has generously offered to give me the leftover F & B Ringwold to line the back of my china cabinet at the beach. It would look great, or I might use this roll of Osborne & Little wallpaper, recently discovered in my stash from a project from almost 20 years ago. Trellis and quatrefoils – two of my favorite things still – on a soft blue-green background.

Osborne & Little wallpaper trellis quatrefoil

Sorry for the general quietness these last weeks. Between the launch of the new blog format, the Great.ly launch – don’t forget to check over there regularly as I am adding to my boutique all the time – and this whirlwind trip to the USA, I have been utterly exhausted. Next week I’ll be giving you an update on my settling in here in Doha, including some of the decorating challenges we expats face. But I am super pumped to be headed to the beach in just 10 days!

Related Posts:
A New Entryway in Brooklyn…Door Change and Encaustic Tile
Late Night Design Epiphanies
Form Versus Function…White Marble Countertops? Really?
Form Versus Function…Inset or Overlay Cabinet Doors?
Form Versus Function…A Farmhouse Sink and That Perrin & Rowe Bridge Mixer Faucet
Brownstone Kitchen Inspiration From Sheila Bridges

Carpe Diem…de Gournay Fishes Wallpaper

Koi, the ornamental carp so long associated with Japan are heavily on my mind these days and you’ll see why in an upcoming post quite soon. In honor of their variety and beauty, I can’t help but highlight one of the most extraordinary wallpapers out there, Fishes by de Gournay. Everywhere you turn, de Gournay’s Chinoiserie wallpaper is being used to stunning effect (some great blog round-ups here and here as well as here on the de Gournay site), but lately the liquid movement of Fishes has really captured my attention.

Early projects like this powder room by Katie Ridder highlight how dramatic and daring it is in small spaces. In fact most of the examples I came across were powder rooms, as always the perfect place to cut loose with design.

Katie Ridder fish bathroom via KR

A key to each of these bathroom photo shots is the reflection of the paper in the mirror.

de gournay fishes

This lighter colorway – Blue Pearl design colours on tarnished silver gilded paper – seems to be the most popular – although as it is custom painted it can be ordered in any color under the sun.

‘Fishes’ design in Blue Pearl design colours on Tarnished silver gilded paper de gournay

Stefan at Architect Design recently featured this powder room which used panels and a large mirror to envelop the viewer as if they were under water themselves.

de Gournay fish via architect design

Sarah Story‘s Gramercy Park study has also been featured everywhere and its small dimensions make it a perfect place for this wallpaper, much like the powder rooms above. There are a few versions of this space out on the web including this one with antique desk and klismos chair…

Sarah Story de gournay fish gramercyPark

…and this very different version with white Parsons desk and modern Eames chair. I find it fascinating how light and photography affect our perception of this paper. It’s mutable, like any given day at the ocean.


Larger scale examples include this staircase hallway with its crystal ship chandelier.

de gournay fish ship chandelier via everything leb

Further down the stairs the fish seem to be racing upstream.

degournay Fishes’ design in Blue Pearl design colours on Custom Silver gilded paper.

Because the design could be overwhelming this is a paper that is wonderful for using along a single wall as in this kitchen by Jeffrey Alan Marks & Ross Cassidy. I find its placement here quite witty.

Jeffrey Alan Marks & Ross Cassidy de-gournay-fish-wallpaper_ElleDecor

And in this dining room, the silver leafing goes all around, but the fish are constrained to one wall.

Fishes’ design in Blue Pearl design colours on Real Silver gilded paper with pearlescent antiquing de gournay

I’m not sure if this is actually de Gournay paper in this design by Wendy Schwartz – it is only listed as being hand painted on red silk – which leads me to believe it may be. I did want to include it as the dramatic orangey-red colorway is quite a change from all the silvery greys. And doesn’t that fixture remind you of a mod version of a netted glass fishing float?

Wendy Schwartz koi wallpaper Rue 3-4 12

de Gournay have recently expanded their Japanese and Korean collection, adding ‘Abstract Pines’, ‘Kiso Mountain’, ‘Cranes’ and ‘Matsumisha Waves’. I’m looking forward to seeing them used.

de gournay new japanese korean designs

Another option, if you can’t take the price tag nor the commitment to wallpaper, would be to buy an antique or vintage Japanese byobu (screen), perhaps something like this one. I’ve featured it before here, and the photo has never ever done it justice (the harsh fluorescents at the Heiwajima antique fair are very unfriendly), but it was truly beautiful.

pale byobu from heiwajima

More on some other special carp to come soon…

Image credits: 1. Katie Ridder via Everything LEB, 2-3, 7-8, 10 & 12 via de Gournay, 4. via Architect Design, 5. via Sara Story Design, 6. Sara Story in Elle Decor, November 2011, 9. Jeffrey Alan Marks via Elle Decor, 11. Wendy Schwartz via Rue Magazine, February 2012, 13. me.

Renovation Report and a DIY…Using Indian Wood Blocks to Create “Wallpaper” in the Master Bath

So this is the lovely Madame de Montreuil wallpaper from Les Indiennes that I wanted for the master bathroom. No real reason not to get it, other than its high price and its durability in a small bathroom with poor ventilation, but I also liked the idea of a challenge in creating something similar on my own.

So those of you who have been following for a while know that in Singapore in March of 2011 I purchased these traditional floral Indian wood blocks designed to print fabric with the intent of making my own “wallpaper” in the bathroom. Like any project, there is always some other work that needs to come first and I had been waiting on the installation of the pocket door in this earlier post.

So with that finally done and the sheetrock repaired and painted in BM White Dove as the base background, I bought paint and poster paper, set up a workspace and got to work practicing my block printing technique. Wow, it was so much more difficult than I had imagined and my first attempts were just awful! I had too much paint in the tray and trouble figuring out how much blotting I needed to do before stamping. I was looking forward to an irregular organic look, but not this organic!

I wanted to try out different patterns so I did a dense one, which was waaaay too busy, but more importantly, made me realize that as this isn’t wallpaper, I don’t have a partial block print option and need to leave space between each row so it can finish cleanly around wall edges and the ceiling.

Aha! Now this was starting to look right. And I liked the idea of a band of the small flowers above the tile and bisecting the wall behind the toilet. We even considered a square border of the little flowers all around on each wall – a fillet à la the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire – but discarded it as the room is just too tiny. I did this just casually eyeballing it, so luckily my sweet and very mathematically smart husband decided to help by figuring out the exact spacing and placement for the walls.

Hours of work went into these documents and the success of the project really hinges on his work more than mine.

While the design had started to come together, the quality of the actual prints was not so good. Here’s a close-up of one of the practice flowers – you can see the paint is very thick and three-dimensional.

Then late that night it finally occurred to me to actually research how this should be done and lo and behold, I discovered I was missing one essential piece, a small rubber roller called a brayer. So day two and off to the craft store we went! The brayer solves the gunky paint issue by controlling how much goes on and keeping it on the design part of the block only and out of the deep recesses. You can see from the practice below how much better the printing looks.

We took turns and painted the bathroom all in one evening. Sweet husband would work with a T-square and level and make tiny pencil registration marks (which were so small I couldn’t photograph them) on one wall and then I would paint there. Then we would switch off for the next wall. I didn’t realize how physically exhausting this would be, but it was like an extreme workout with a few hundred lunges and squats – squat and roll the paint, climb the stepstool, push with my arms raised, climb back down, squat again. Days later and I am still extremely sore.

Here is a little video – totally unrehearsed and you can hear how tired I am as I am almost slurring my words – but in the heat of working we forgot to take any more footage. Painting on the wall was very different from painting on the poster board as the wall was much harder and absorbed less paint and I needed to really work it on by pressing, rocking and banging. I even got adept at making repairs by adding paint to the block only in the spots that hadn’t printed well.

As I said before, having the design perfectly planned and marked on the wall made this project much easier than it would have been and guaranteed a great result.

We even went so far as to plan out the exact location and dimensions of the towel bar and did not print there, leaving the space perfectly clear.

How pretty and perfect is this Florence glass towel bar from Pottery Barn? The shape of the escutcheon mimics the shape of the flowers. More on all the accessory details in the final reveal post!

I am holding back on photos for one final post showing the whole bathroom, so just keep in mind that none of these photos do justice to the room or how fabulous the painting came out. It is softer and prettier than any actual wallpaper would have been!

Master Bathroom Related Posts:
Renovation Report…Do You Throw Good Money After Bad? Thoughts on Fixing My Master Bathroom
A Day Too Late…One Perfect Bathroom Photo
Renovation Report…Pocket Door Progress
Renovation Report…Vanity Dreams or Vanity Reality?

Tie Dye Heaven…Painterly Effects from Monique Lhuillier and Eskayel

I wasn’t due for another post yet, but the juxtaposition of this extraordinary Monique Lhuillier gown worn by Sarah Michelle Gellar to the Golden Globes last night and a half written post about Eskayel‘s new collection of rugs for Doris Leslie Blau sent me straight to my computer. While I have written about shibori (Japanese tie dye) before I have never seen such a literal and amazingly modern translation of this traditional art form as that dress. Say what you like, and I know some have put this on their “worst dressed” list (although many more on the “best dressed”), it truly is a spectacular show stopper!

Lluillier has some other dresses with that shibori feeling, but they also remind me of artist Shanan Campanaro’s amazing fabrics and wall coverings for Eskayel.

Having written about them before, it may come as no surprise to see them here again, although this time, translated into carpets for the floor in her new collection with rug doyenne Doris Leslie Blau.

Campanaro’s digitally manipulated watercolors have been re-colored in this new collection. You’ll need to stare closely at her Dynasty wallpaper hanging next to the new Dynasty rug to see that they are the same pattern, just colored and highlighted differently.

She also features some great new projects on the Eskayel blog, including this apartment from Jami Supsic Designs.

Those Wegner Wishbone chairs again.

They are everywhere and come in the most amazing colors these days…

This dark blue Samui Sunrise paper is so cozy and welcoming in the bedroom.

Another project by designer Sylvia Reyes uses Eskayel’s Aquarius wallpaper to great effect in this Puerto Rico apartment.

And guess what? Eskayel wallpaper is now available in Japan at Walpa. Walpa carries all the “cool wallpaper brands” and is looking to bring a new appreciation for patterned walls to Japan.

Related Posts:
A Little Shibori Feeling From Eskayel and Anthropologie

Image credits: 1. via temptalia, 2-5. via Neiman Marcus, 6. via Eskayel, 7. via New York Magazine November 2011, photo credit: Wendy Goodman, 8-9, 12. Jami Supsic Designs, via Eskayel, 10-11. Danish Design Store,  13-14. Sylvia Reyes via Eskayel

A Little Shibori Feeling From Eskayel and Anthropologie

Shiboru in Japanese means “to wring, squeeze, press.” Although shibori used to be designated as a particular group of resist- dyed textiles, the verb root of the word emphasizes the action performed on cloth, the process of manipulating fabric. Rather than treating cloth as a two-dimensional surface, with shibori it is given a three-dimensional form by folding, crumpling,stitching, plaiting, or plucking and twisting.
-Shibori Textile Museum

Everywhere I turned this summer, Brooklyn based design studio Eskayel was featured, from apartment therapy, to House Beautiful and Lonny. Artist Shanan Campanaro’s unusual abstract patterns drawn from her paintings and then digitally manipulated and expanded as wallpaper and fabric are utterly riveting. I received numerous emails from friends and readers who also had noticed it in the press and wanted to alert me to its beauty.

While her textiles and papers are not in any way shibori (tie-dye) related, every time I looked at them, I couldn’t help but be reminded of it.

Perhaps it is the rich indigo blue colorways?

Or the Rorschach quality the patterns share with shibori?

Here are two classic shibori patterns, tegumo and hinode for comparison with the pillows above. Are you feeling it too?

Even this Galileo basket feels Japanese in shape and nature.

If you are loving her patterns but not interested in indigo, be sure to check out the full website as there are other gorgeous colors and designs.

Last June, the design team at Anthropologie, fascinated by an antique piece of Japanese cloth, traveled to Kyoto in search of more information and inspiration. The result was their “Arimatsu” bedding line.  The history of Arimatsu, a town known as the center of shibori, dates back to 1608 and it has been a dyeing center ever since.

A room view of the bedding from the catalog.

You know me, I cannot ever resist an interesting lamp shade. This Arashi shade has classic shibori details. Love the pleating too! Hmmm…where could I use it?

Shibori is not Anthro’s only inspiration. Their Nightbloom bedding series is based on a few Japanese motifs. The central medallions are stylized chrysanthemums, the kamon of the emperor. And the circular pattern is a complicated version of shippou-tsunagi (seven treasures pattern), just recently shown here.

The sheet set reverses the colorway.

The bolsters would make a great accent anywhere.

This spliced shibori throw pillow is both dyed and pleated.

And this long thin swatch bolster has to be my favorite. It is a little smörgåsbord of everything.

Hey my quilting friends, doesn’t it make you want to gather our yukata fabric scraps and make some pillows?

Related Post: Feeling Fresh…Indigo Textiles and Tenugui

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