Brownstones, historic row houses are desirable for their charm. There is a lot of uniformity in these nineteenth-century historic homes. Yet, these neighborhoods bring character to New York City’s boroughs.
Renovating a Brownstone to meet the needs of a modern family is no easy task. Jordan Slocum and Barry Bordelon, professionally known as The Brownstone Boys, transformed a passion for real estate and design into a full-time business renovating Brownstones into beautiful residences. “We have a passion for old homes and everything that comes along with them: the details, the quirks, the character, and especially the parts that need lots of love.” Helping Brooklynites and beyond, Slocum and Bordelon leverage their experience and expertise to restore these historic structures.
Tell us about your journey becoming Brooklyn’s go-to Brownstone remodeling experts.
Brownstone Boys: We both have backgrounds in real estate and design. Barry first got into real estate, buying, renovating, and selling properties. Jordan’s background is in retail design. We noticed there were limited resources available for renovating historic properties. We decided to start a blog to document our project. After a year of regular blogging, our following picked up steam. People started to reach out and ask questions about their renovations. Eventually, we found some remodelers that needed a lot of help. It’s been two years since we decided to help people renovate homes full-time.
What are Brownstone remodelers asking for now?
Brownstone Boys: Renovating a historic house is a big project. It’s very intimidating for people. We give people peace of mind and making people feel comfortable that their vision of the space is coming to life.
The first thing that excites most people is observing original details and determining which things can be saved. We believe really strongly that if you live or buy a historic property, it does not have to be a period piece. We have a ton of respect for all those gorgeous original details and love restoring them, but we are not afraid to add some modern touches. Old meets new is one of our favorite juxtapositions. There is no rule that a historic home must be traditional throughout. The idea of mixing a modern kitchen or bathroom inside of a historic home is welcome.
What condition was the property prior to the renovation?
Brownstone Boys: The property was a walk back in time. There was original charm from the late 1800s, but the last renovation was done in the 1970s, think dark wood, plexiglass, and textured walls.
The biggest issue was that the original layout was inefficient and dated. We completely reworked the entire configuration of the space. Nothing is where it was initially. We transformed a large one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom with a laundry closet and a hallway. Overall, the feel of the apartment is 100% different to accommodate the needs of a family. In many ways, we had this blank canvas to work with. The way that everything fit in there worked out well.
Tell us about the home’s historic details.
Brownstone Boys: Our favorite thing about working in historic homes is the possibility of restoring beautiful original details. There’s nothing better than bringing things back to life to shine again and be there for future generations to admire!
The original parquet inlay floors were worth every bit of the effort to put together each puzzle piece. They look perfect with the original marble fireplace and pier mirror they have been with for 150 years. The feel of the apartment is entirely different, yet modernizing the space draws tasteful attention to these stunning period details.
What were some challenges with the renovation?
Brownstone Boys: Most brownstones or townhouses are narrow and long. Natural light only enters at the front and back, leaving a long stretch in the middle with no windows. Squeezing every bit of natural light out of the windows is important.
The windows in the front of the home were initially a lot lower. For some reason, sometime over the last few decades, they put in shorter windows and bricked over them. It felt really weird and closed off. We were able to extend the windows down about two extra feet. We demoed under the windows and put in floor-to-ceiling windows. Extending those windows made a huge difference. Now, there’s beautiful natural light throughout the space.
Another challenge was adding storage without impacting the original details of the home. The homeowners dream to have a light-filled bedroom with a private outdoor deck and, of course, miles of closet space. The primary bedroom was originally a dining room. We put in this huge epic closet; the bedroom had no closet at all. We couldn’t build a traditional closet because of the original inlay on the floor and the molding on the ceiling, and we didn’t want to throw off the balance. So, we added a floor-to-ceiling cabinet system from Boxi by Semihandmade, providing 10 x 15 feet of closet space. This unit offers drawers, cabinets, shelves, shoe racks, and even high storage for all the things you need to tuck away.
What role did the color scheme play in this transformation?
Brownstone Boys: As a professional art curator, the homeowner sought a neutral background to showcase pieces throughout the home. This project incorporates an elegant mix of neutrals with tasteful pops of color in the art and furnishings. The wall color from Farrow and Ball offers a neutral background while adding a little warmth. The kitchen cabinets, crisp Semihandmade DIY cabinets, were painted a custom color to compliment the neutral color palette. Everything you see looks very custom.
The kitchen was relocated to the heart of the home. Describe its role for the family today?
Brownstone Boys: The kitchen is a modern contrast to the traditional ornate original features of the space. It spans a massive 17 feet of cabinetry with a large central communal table and a couple of built-in matching buffets on either side of a gorgeous marble fireplace. The kitchen incorporates beautiful Bosch appliances that enhance the design and offer eco-friendly performance.
The appliances were supplied by AjMadison, recently named the top Household Appliances retailer in Newsweek’s Best Online Shops 2021.
It takes a dedicated team of knowledgeable appliance experts to recommend the best products for every situation. The company has an exceptional team of appliance experts to assist customers with navigating the vast array of brands available, with thousands of in-stock products ready to ship. According to the Brownstone Boys, “We love working with our local AJ Madison Team. Not only do they assist in finding and recommending the best appliances for each space, they suggest items that are within budget and provide specs for each.”
In the Carroll Gardens Parlor kitchen, panel-ready appliances are entirely hidden from view. The Bosch Benchmark Series bottom freezer refrigerator, offers a special Optiflex Hinge allowing the unit to install completely flush with surrounding cabinets. It is also ENERGY STAR-certified with an eco-mode and internal LED lighting. A fully integrated Bosch 800 Series dishwasher offers a flexible 3rd rack for more loading capacity. Its sound rating of 42dBA is extremely quiet, and this model offers CrystalDryTM, an innovative eco-friendly chemical-free drying system.
Induction is the leading cooking technology known for safety, efficiency, speed, and easy clean-up. The Bosch 800 Series induction cooktop offers a super sleek cooking surface. The AutoChef® feature applies the perfect amount of heat to the pan to ensure perfect results taking the guesswork out of cooking. Below an 800 Series single wall oven includes a wide range of intelligent features, including the ability to monitor and control the oven from your phone or tablet.
There is a lot of information out there. At AjMadison trade experts have an average tenure of 10+ years in business. They are rigorously trained to recommend the right appliances for every budget, schedule, and project application. The Brownstone Boys note, “they make it easy to order everything and make sure everything is setup for proper delivery and install.” AjMadison operates the largest direct-to-site appliance logistics network in the US. “We love clients’ trips to our local showroom to have a better understanding of each appliance and learning from the specialists that know everything so much better than we do!” With showroom locations in Brooklyn, New York, Washington DC, and coming soon, Sunny Isles, Florida, AjMadison’s dedicated builder team is the best in the business.