Deft Design Brightens Park Slope Brownstone With Ornate Woodwork

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When people who are used to living in modern buildings walk into a vintage row house, said architect Sarah Jacoby, “Their first reaction is often, ‘Oh my god, it’s so dark!’” That was the case with her clients, a couple with small children, who, even after purchasing a three-story brownstone in the South Slope, were “ambivalent” at best about its lode of dark Victorian woodwork. That included an ornately detailed entry hall with fretwork, a mirror and a bench with carved horses’ heads, and an elaborate staircase, all of which her clients felt “unsure of at first.”

Jacoby, a Long Island City-based architect whose practice has included many detail-laden brownstones, took several tacks to brighten up the house while retaining as much intact woodwork as was practicable. Instead of removing or painting the front parlor’s woodwork, Jacoby convinced her clients to strip the window trim and fireplace of their very dark stain instead. “That helped a lot,” she said.

Of course, opening up the back wall and inserting an expanse of glass there, in the new kitchen, “made a world of difference.” Jacoby also widened the opening between the front and rear halves of the parlor floor and removed part of the hallway wall. These interventions allowed the natural light that poured through the new glass wall to penetrate the entire parlor floor.

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