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Moving from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, Brian Crano and David Craig struggled to find a worthy replacement for the sizable Victorian home they left behind. They finally saw potential in the exquisite views offered by an uninspired apartment building in Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill. The couple ended up buying two apartments on the top floor and enlisted the help of Sarah Zames, of Brooklyn-based General Assembly Design, to help them merge the two into one coherent unit. “They took a developer’s building that was built without anyone in mind and really sculpted it to be exactly what is right for them,” says Zames.
To bring order into the space, Zames divided the apartment in two directions. She pushed all the functional elements—including a bedroom and home office—against one wall to provide more room for leisure, in the form of an open-plan area for entertaining, on the other.
The division is visible in the choice of materials and color. “We used raw and industrial materials on one side and brought more texture and color to the other,” Zames says. “In the public space all the walls are bright whites since they get a lot of great light,” Zames says, “and on the bedroom side we painted the ceiling a dark blue to make it feel quieter and calmer.” Connecting the two is what was once the building’s public hallway, that makes a strong statement of its own with the help of wallpaper from Flavor Paper.
The wallpaper reflects a desire on the architect’s side to create a balance between the natural and the synthetic. Although both the owners and Zames express a preference for natural materials, Zames was careful not to overemphasize their presence. “I think if you use too many natural materials things can end up looking a little bit too ‘country-kitchen.’” In turn, Zames juxtaposed the raw wood and the custom cabinetry with dark colors and wallpapered walls, creating a space full of dynamic details.
Although extensive, the nine-month renovation was guided by a number of small but key decisions. “When we first started working together Brian picked out a copper BlueStar range for the kitchen,” Zames says. The strong presence of the stove initiated a lot of conversations about materials and colors and the final design was revealed as part of the process. “Maybe some designers and architects come with grand, sweeping gestures of how to transform the space, but I think it’s often a series of small decisions that end up making the design,” Zames says.