Ever since the owner of this Brooklyn brownstone first met designer Rebecca Amir through a mutual friend, she had admired her style. So when she and her husband decided to upsize from their East Village apartment, it was Amir whose name sprang to mind to spearhead the interiors. “I’ve always been drawn to spaces that look like they tell a story and that feel collected, and I think that Rebecca’s aesthetic is very reflective of that,” the wife says.
At the time, Amir, whose resume includes serving as home market editor at Vogue, was working as a designer at Soho House. Initially, she planned to tackle the project on the side but, as the scope grew, she decided to take the leap and found her namesake firm. “It was an ideal first project for me because we were so aligned from the beginning on style,” the designer says. “When someone approaches you purely because they like your taste, it’s the best kind of connection.”
The home that had captured the couple’s heart was a landmarked building in Cobble Hill. “We’d seen a lot of houses that had been totally changed over the years, but this one still had its original fireplaces and architectural details, and lots of quirks. It charmed us,” the wife recalls. Knowing that there would be preservation clauses to navigate, the couple brought architect Ben Herzog to see the space before they made their final decision. “Some of these old brownstones were built a little more solidly than others,” he notes. “This one definitely needed reinforcements to last the next 150 years.” Still, there was plenty of potential—enough for Herzog to tell them to go for it.
Crucial to the ensuing gut renovation was maintaining the historic character. And so, in collaboration with colleagues Sarah Rhoads and Julia Conti, along with general contractor James Wessels, Herzog painstakingly salvaged many of the best period elements, including the wide pine floorboards throughout and the parlor level’s elaborate crown moldings and unusual pair of Italianate-inspired columns. Meanwhile, heftier restoration tasks allowed for beautifully modern interventions. For example, the partial reconstruction of the building’s back façade allowed Herzog to add a wall of windows overlooking the garden, a decision that amplified the home’s natural light and sense of expansiveness. The kitchen was also enlarged, its country-chic island countertop and open shelves crafted from old Heart Pine floor joists from the basement level. Bathrooms too received charming makeovers, with an arched doorway and geometric tile floor adorning the powder room and a calm, classic vibe defining the primary.
When it came time to decorate, Amir looked to the design sensibilities of the couple’s respective hometowns—he hails from the Upper East Side, she from Bedford, New York, and Concord, Massachusetts—for inspiration. In addition to blending these influences, the mood was led by a specific visual reference provided by the wife: the London town house featured in the Netflix series Anatomy of A Scandal. “They really nailed the wallpaper game on that show,” Amir muses. “They didn’t shy away from color and pattern, and there was a rich, textured look to the rooms that felt purposeful and thoughtful.”
In turn, Amir layered in soft yet saturated tones, characterful wallcoverings and classic design elements. Knowing that the couple had a large collection of antiques they wanted to incorporate, the designer began her floor plan with those pieces in mind, rather than shoehorning them in later. “They had so many interesting furnishings, artworks and accessories,” she says. Among them: an oval gilt-wood mirror now hanging in the entryway, a Chinese sideboard that fits perfectly in the dining room and a bow-front dresser that makes for an elegant changing table in the nursery.
Amir knew the project had been a success when the mutual friend that introduced them visited the house for the first time. “She texted me afterward, and said, ‘Wow, I’ve never been in a home that’s so cozy and yet so fancy at the same time.’ And I thought, ‘Yes, I did my job’—that’s exactly what we were going for. She summarized it so well, and it felt good to have that come across.”