After getting married in New Orleans last October, Jenna Gottlieb and her husband, Bradley, needed a break from the fast-paced Manhattan life. As the editorial content manager at Shopbop and the co-founder of Haystack Stories, and an investment analyst, respectively, they needed a home that felt eons away from the bustle of their Midtown offices while still providing a convenient commute.
When they stumbled upon this light-filled three-bedroom, two-bathroom duplex apartment in a brownstone in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill, they were immediately struck by the beautiful natural light pouring in from every window. Between that and the stunning prewar features—a marble fireplace, crown moldings, high ceilings—they knew they had found the perfect space to make their own.
Moving from a much smaller unit in the city, they had never had this much space, and they were excited for the challenge to design their new home. But even though they already had a lot of existing pieces from their former home and Gottlieb already had style in spades to pick beautiful and stylish pieces to complement their existing furniture, they needed an extra push to give them design direction for their much larger space.
"We moved in last January, and wanted to integrate furniture we already owned with selective new pieces that fit both the layout and vibe, and that brought a bit of newness and energy into our home," she explains. With the help of Hutch, an online virtual decorating tool that mixes 3D technology with online shopping, they created a beautiful collected space to call home.
"I don't necessarily trust myself or my interior design sensibility, so it's so helpful anytime you can visualize something before it's actualized and really moves the decision-making process along," adds Gottlieb. In just a few short months, the couple transformed this empty prewar Brooklyn townhouse space into a beautiful and stylish home for two. Here's how they did it.
Though the duplex apartment is in the heart of Brooklyn, Gottlieb describes her décor aesthetic as California minimalist—with the tiniest dash of aging English professor. "We seem to gravitate toward clean lines, muted colors, and lots of texture, with a few antiques mixed in." That said, the couple had to make concessions when it came to making décor decisions: "One of us is a minimalist, the other is a cozy-ist," she jokes. "We're always meeting in the middle."
Like many New York living rooms, the couple's main space is multifunctional. "We wanted to create a space that worked well for reading/TV watching/couch dinners, but also for hosting and socializing," explains Gottlieb. "Aesthetic-wise, we wanted it to feel like ahh when you walked in. Calming—like a respite from the city."
Though they made significant updates throughout the space, the couple was also bringing in a healthy dose of pieces from their previous apartment—like their sectional sofa. "Our living room is a tricky shape—wide but shallow—which made it difficult to optimize seating," says Gottlieb. "Our low, not-too-big sectional felt complementary."
The couple also brought multiple chairs from their previous space. "The chairs are all transplants from our former apartment," adds Gottlieb. "I think we're maybe chair people. The big leather one is a family hand-me-down. It's actually half of a pair. My friend and former roommate has the other one. He just moved to North Carolina, so I especially like the idea of us having friendship armchairs."
"The bar also came with us from our former place," she adds. "It was helpful to use it as an anchor while figuring out the shelving situation." The alcove where the bar now stands was a tricky space to decorate: "It's an odd space that isn't obviously purposeful. We turned it into a library/bar area, with lots of shelving for books, records, and miscellanies. I really love having lots of odds and ends to look at."
In fact, some of Gottlieb's favorite pieces reside in this tiny alcove "I love our vintage rugs, which were Etsy finds," she says. "I also love my knickknacks. The shelves mean ample display space for candles, pottery, books, and plants. So I'm on a curiosities kick, which is really fun. Also, our new local Indian delivery spot. That was a very great find."
Rather than have a firm color scheme in mind for the space, the couple focused on light, neutral tones and buying what they love—which turned out perfect for their light-filled prewar townhouse apartment. "I tend to shy away from furniture in audacious colors, probably because I see them as being too big of a commitment," says Gottlieb. "As boring as it is, grays, blues, browns, and light woods seem to be our go-tos. I prefer to experiment with texture."
The first thing they bought for their new apartment was a practical one: a mattress. "We upgraded to a bigger bed," says the fashion editor. "It was a gift to ourselves. I think with any new space, it's really hard to resist being super impulsive when it comes to decorating. But I've learned to take it really slow. If I don't live in a space for a while before making decisions—especially on big-ticket items—I tend to regret it."
After a few months of living in their new space, it feels like a beautiful and collected home for two—with many cherished pieces with a lot of history. But the couple's favorite thing about the space is what enticed them to rent it in the first place: the natural light that pours in through every window. "It's truly mood-altering, especially after a particularly trying commute home from Midtown," she says.