The Brooklyn home of Julio and Kenza Leitao is a place of stories. Originally from Angola, Julio became a celebrated dancer in Portugal before immigrating to New York. Upon arriving in his new home, he founded Batotu Yetu (“our Children”), a youth company that has performed for the likes of Bishop Desmond Tutu and with the likes of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Usher. Together with their two daughters the couple lives in a fully renovated 5-story brownstone that perfectly mixes classic architecture with modern design. With bursts of color and culture throughout it’s the perfect backdrop for a classic New York success story: an African family living the American dream.
A classic black and white color palette characterizes this room, from the walls to the massive overhead pendant light. The palette repeats throughout the home, providing the perfect canvas for the many pops of color that bring the combination of Angolan and African American cultures that characterize the family into the space. As a final touch, plants lend a colorful touch of life that makes the space even more inviting.
Classic Architecture with a Modern Twist
The ornate fireplace, one of four hearths this home boasts, is original to the space, as is the decorative scrollwork that runs across moldings and ceilings in this room. When decorating a room with classic features, don’t cover or remove them. Filling a traditional space with modern furnishings creates a contrast of styles that adds layers of sophistication to a room.
Open Plan Living and Dining
The living room is large enough to fit a dining area, presided over by an image of Julio’s young dancers from Batoto Yetu. The chairs continue the room’s dichotomy between modern and traditional aesthetics as they contrast the ornamentation at the top of the doorway. A glance through the room’s entrance reveals a look at the entryway and colorful doorway as well.
An Expansive, Luxurious Kitchen
An expansive kitchen space is one of the true luxuries of this home. On this side of the room, a streamlined and efficiently laid out space is perfect for preparing family meals. The black and white color palette is ideal for kitchens with it’s clean and perennially on-trend look, especially when accented with warm metallic fixtures. The marble backsplash which extends from counter level to the ceiling is another timeless touch. The kitchen island with sink helps facilitate movement throughout the room by dividing attention between the island and cooking surfaces while a line of bar stools provides seating for family, friends, and guests.
Bistro Seating in the Kitchen
On the other side of the room, away from the kitchen’s more functional areas, the room is a study in comfort. A small bistro table flanked by chairs and built in seating comfortably accommodates the family of four. A second fireplace features a collection of small busts and other elements set against the ultra-modern geometric wire hanging that adorns the wall. Once again, a large plant provides the final touch that makes this very curated space feel like a home.
Moments of Culture
This house is full of wonderful and delightful details and no opportunity to tell a cultural story has been lost. At the base of the stairway, this gorgeous bust takes the place of the usual pommel. Intricately detailed, this quiet moment is just one more way that the Leitao family has found to turn their home into a celebration of the beauties of their culture.
A Colorful Room for the Girls
Up one flight of stairs, a colorfully decorated hallway leads into the room that Zeza and Luena share. The room positively shines with stylish moments coming from all corners A modern basket-style pendant light hangs over the space. Bedding in the home’s signature black and white color palette juxtaposes stripes and polka-dots for a very modern meeting of patterns. Pops of orange throughout the room liven up the space while giving it a warm yet youthful feel. Even more color finds it way in through the metallic side table and lamp while leopard-patterned pillows on both beds tie the colors and patterns together.
A Stylish Primary Bedroom
Black walls in the bedroom have quietly become a full-on design trend in the past few years. For anyone who worries that dark walls will make the room feel cramped or cold, this bedroom should put all of those concerns to rest. Far from closing the room off, the black walls in Julio and Kenza’s primary bedroom feel intimate and comfortable, providing a wonderful canvas for the rooms white areas to pop off of.
The term “Primary Bedroom” is now widely used to describe the largest bedroom in the home, as it better reflects the space’s purpose. Many realtors, architects, interior designers, and the Real Estate Standards Association have recognized the potentially discriminatory connotations in the term “Master.” Read more about our Diversity and Inclusion Pledge.
What makes this room special are the small touches that connect the space to the stories of the people who live in them. Above the bed, another image of Julio’s dancers is proud reminder of the lives he’s touched while sharing his Angolan culture. At the same time, the decorative mirror above the dresser, inscribed with the words of Harriet Tubman brings a meaningful touch of Kenza’s African American heritage as well.