Are you a designer? Join our Trade program
Deep Dive

From Formal Dining to Fetching Family Room in This Historic Brooklyn Townhouse

Words by Morgan Goldberg
a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Image courtesy of Jesse Parris-Lamb

This young family’s early 20th-century townhouse in historic Brooklyn was once better suited for formal dinner parties than Netflix marathons.

But the new owners wanted to create a cozy family room for watching movies, reading by the fire, and playing board games, so they reached out to local interior design firm Jesse Parris-Lamb for guidance. Founders Amanda Jesse and Whitney Parris-Lamb helped them curate a relaxing space with contemporary comforts, while still honoring the traditional architecture.

Amanda and Whitney softened—but didn’t hide—original details like half round windows and ornate molding by layering the room with playful patterns, textured fabrics, and jewel tones. They ensured each seat was exceedingly comfortable—but not too slouchy for the dignified surroundings—and incorporated plenty of extra seats for guests. They also arranged the furniture to allow for both easy conversation and quiet contemplation, striking a modern balance.

The project: A three-story, Neo-Federal-style row house

The location: Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York

The room: A family room

The client: A couple with two young children

a living room filled with furniture and lots of windows

Image courtesy of Jesse Parris-Lamb

This room feels like: A vibrant and inviting space. The room is located directly off the main stairwell in the house. As you come up or down the stairs, you get a peek of color and pattern that pulls you in.

The item that started it all: The Dmitriy & Co Chelsea Square Mono Sofa. This is the casual family gathering spot, so our client demanded extreme comfort. But the more formal lines of the room’s architecture meant we didn’t see a super low, lounge-y sofa working well. We needed a tailored yet super cozy couch.

We sourced exclusively from local vendors with custom capabilities so that the client could sit in every option before making a decision. “Comfort” is wildly subjective, so it’s important to get actual butts in chairs rather than having clients take our word for it!

The biggest splurge: Window treatments! The cost of custom curtains always seems to catch clients by surprise, but the level of polish that they add to a space always makes them worth the price tag. In this particular case, the windows were so spectacular that we felt we had to dress them with equal stature. We chose a sheer fabric from Élitis to allow for light to pass through, but went for a chunky weave that would add more heft and texture to the room.

The design risk with the biggest payoff: The floor lamp is a custom piece from ceramic artist Cathrine Raben Davidson. The bold harlequin pattern felt a bit daring in the context of the many other patterns and colors in the room, but the scale and geometric lines actually turned out to be quite elegant.

a living room filled with furniture and a lamp

Image courtesy of Jesse Parris-Lamb

Something vintage: The cork coffee table is a modern interpretation of a vintage Paul Frankl design.

The little detail with a big impact: We love the swooping curve of the arms on the leather Kaare Klint armchair. The architecture of the room is very rational and rectilinear, as are most of the furniture pieces. The curved arms add an unexpected organic element that keeps the space feeling balanced and fresh.

The biggest learning: A room can always handle more thoughtfully-executed color and pattern than you might guess—as long as the furniture lines are clean and the proportions are well-considered. 

Why this space works so well: The traditional architectural elements in the space are a stately backdrop for a more playful color and textile palette. The vibrant window treatments simultaneously celebrate and temper the impressive wall of windows and restored moldings. The design honors the home’s historic past while updating it for modern family life.

The Goods

a blue and white table lamp with a white shade
Catherine Raben Davidsen Checkered Triangle Floor LampINQUIRE
a close up of a blue and brown checkered fabric
Mark Alexander Crosshatch Check AtlanticINQUIRE
a colorful chair with a flowery pattern on it
Josef Frank Armchair 336INQUIRE
a wooden table with a shelf underneath it
Pinch Clyde Side TableINQUIRE
a blue rug with white arrows on it
F. Schumacher & Co. Teton SkyINQUIRE
a table lamp with a white shade on it
Lostine Bella Skirt LampSHOP NOW
a white chair with a wooden frame and a beige upholstered seat
Kaare Klint KK43960 Mix ChairINQUIRE
a close up of a red, green, and blue pattern
Morris & Co. Wandle Indigo/CarmineINQUIRE

Want personalized design advice from Jesse Parris-Lamb? Book a consultation.