Tour a Brooklyn Brownstone With Equal Parts Tradition and Whimsy

Louetta R. Clark

Interior designer Gillian Dubin and her husband, civil rights and criminal defense attorney Josh Dubin, feel a deep connection to Brooklyn. The couple has not only lived in the borough for the past 20 years, but Josh comes from a long line of Brooklynites. “My great-grandfather was a tailor in East New York, and my grandfather was a photographer in Flatbush,” he says. “I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Brooklyn.” When he and his wife began searching for a new home in Park Slope, they were drawn to a brownstone from 1903, the kind of construction that gives the neighborhood its quintessential residential charm. “The house was not in good shape—it had been converted into three units—but it maintained most of its original details, and I really appreciated that,” says Gillian, who established her namesake design studio three years ago. 

<div class="caption"> “Things we didn’t know we really coveted: a fireplace in the bathroom,” notes Gillian. What was formerly a bedroom on the second floor became the master bath, which has two marble-topped sinks with tapered legs from <a href="https://sinklegs.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Palmer Industries" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Palmer Industries</a>. </div>
“Things we didn’t know we really coveted: a fireplace in the bathroom,” notes Gillian. What was formerly a bedroom on the second floor became the master bath, which has two marble-topped sinks with tapered legs from Palmer Industries.

She worked with architect Jeffery Povero (featured in AD’s story about Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka’s house in Harlem) to restore the residence’s turn-of-the-century grandeur while adding modern conveniences like radiant-heat floors, energy-efficient windows, and new fireplaces. Even though it had been rejiggered into three apartments, the 4,600-square-foot, five-story property retained a host of elements from the early 1900s: coffered oak ceilings in one room, a latticed archway in another, intricately patterned crown moldings, and a beautifully turned balustrade in the central staircase. For Gillian and her design partner for the project, Flavia Braga, the challenge was to create a contemporary atmosphere within the historic bones of the home, conjuring up a space that nodded to both old and new Brooklyn.

Since there was an excess of dark wood covering floors, walls, and ceilings, Gillian painted some of it white to lighten the mood. As for the furniture, she went for boldness, mixing Italian aesthetics from the ’60s and ’70s with contemporary geometric shapes. The living room features a set of voluminous metal-framed sofas designed by Gianfranco Frattini, a sharply structured coffee table in blackened ash wood, and a vintage Murano leaf chandelier in the style of Seguso Adesso. “Gillian impressed on me that she could preserve the old details of the house and still make it cool,” says her husband. “Whenever she puts her personal touch on something, it comes out great.” Josh, who is an ambassador for the Innocence Project, spends part of his time fighting for clients of color who have been wrongfully accused or convicted. He also recently joined Jay-Z, Team Roc, and several civil rights groups in publishing a full-page Martin Luther King Jr. speech in newspapers across the country to honor George Floyd. The family’s commitment to social justice is reflected in the artworks seen throughout the home, many of them by Black American and African artists, including a portrait by Mickalene Thomas, a neon sign with The Notorious B.I.G.’s famous lyric “Spread Love. It’s the Brooklyn Way,” and a series of head sculptures by Jacob-Tetteh Ashong.

Tour a Brooklyn Brownstone With Equal Parts Tradition and Whimsy

<div class="caption"> Gillian and Josh Dubin and their three children live in this 1903 Park Slope brownstone. The five-story, 4,600-square-foot home, which had been converted into three apartments, underwent a top-to-bottom renovation by architect <a href="https://www.poandco.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Jeffery Povero" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Jeffery Povero</a>, who preserved and recreated original elements like crown moldings, plaster trims, and wall panelings. In the entrance, he expanded the opening leading to the living room. “It really helps feature the mirror and the spectacular piece of woodwork in the staircase,” says Povero. </div>
Gillian and Josh Dubin and their three children live in this 1903 Park Slope brownstone. The five-story, 4,600-square-foot home, which had been converted into three apartments, underwent a top-to-bottom renovation by architect Jeffery Povero, who preserved and recreated original elements like crown moldings, plaster trims, and wall panelings. In the entrance, he expanded the opening leading to the living room. “It really helps feature the mirror and the spectacular piece of woodwork in the staircase,” says Povero.
<div class="caption"> To decorate the living room, which features a new fireplace with an antique French mantel, Gillian Dubin chose a combination of Italian designs from the ’60s and ’70s and contemporary geometric shapes. The voluminous gray sofa, <a href="https://mattermatters.com/products/sesann" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a reissue" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a reissue</a> of a Gianfranco Frattini model from 1970, was paired with a sculptural two-piece coffee table in a new design by <a href="https://apparatusstudio.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Apparatus Studio" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Apparatus Studio</a>. The Murano leaf chandelier was made in the ’60s in the style of Seguso Adesso. Next to the fireplace is a powder-coated galvanized steel artwork by <a href="https://davinasemo.net" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Davina Semo" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Davina Semo</a>. </div>
To decorate the living room, which features a new fireplace with an antique French mantel, Gillian Dubin chose a combination of Italian designs from the ’60s and ’70s and contemporary geometric shapes. The voluminous gray sofa, a reissue of a Gianfranco Frattini model from 1970, was paired with a sculptural two-piece coffee table in a new design by Apparatus Studio. The Murano leaf chandelier was made in the ’60s in the style of Seguso Adesso. Next to the fireplace is a powder-coated galvanized steel artwork by Davina Semo.
<div class="caption"> The library is separated from the rest of the living space by a decorative wooden archway that’s original to the house, as is the fireplace with its restored Victorian mantel (the mirror now hides a television). A vintage Isa Bergamo chair upholstered in off-white shearling was paired with a resin-coated two-piece coffee table from <a href="https://www.hollyhunt.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Holly Hunt" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Holly Hunt</a>. Behind the archway we see a portrait by Brooklyn-based artist Mickalene Thomas and two Milo Baughman armchairs from the ’70s. </div>
The library is separated from the rest of the living space by a decorative wooden archway that’s original to the house, as is the fireplace with its restored Victorian mantel (the mirror now hides a television). A vintage Isa Bergamo chair upholstered in off-white shearling was paired with a resin-coated two-piece coffee table from Holly Hunt. Behind the archway we see a portrait by Brooklyn-based artist Mickalene Thomas and two Milo Baughman armchairs from the ’70s.
<div class="caption"> Bisou, a Bichon–Shih Tzu mix that Gillian calls “the queen of the castle,” sits regally on the library’s curved sofa (a Gesine model from <a href="https://www.thebrightgroup.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Bright Group" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Bright Group</a>). Restoring the bookshelf, which features a series of head sculptures by Ghanaian craftsman <a href="https://www.thefutureperfect.com/made-by/designer/jacob-tetteh-ashong-paa-joe/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Jacob-Tetteh Ashong" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Jacob-Tetteh Ashong</a> (son of artist Paa Joe), was a laborious process that involved sourcing pieces of glass and bits of hardware from neighbors. </div>
Bisou, a Bichon–Shih Tzu mix that Gillian calls “the queen of the castle,” sits regally on the library’s curved sofa (a Gesine model from The Bright Group). Restoring the bookshelf, which features a series of head sculptures by Ghanaian craftsman Jacob-Tetteh Ashong (son of artist Paa Joe), was a laborious process that involved sourcing pieces of glass and bits of hardware from neighbors.
<div class="caption"> The dining room, which had been turned into a kitchen when the residence became a multifamily unit, maintained its original coffered ceilings and some wall panels. Architect Jeffery Povero recreated the rest of the panels in the room. To add some “gothic glamour” to the space, designer Gillian Dubin chose a <a href="https://www.timorousbeasties.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Timorous Beasties" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Timorous Beasties</a> wallpaper printed with clusters of dark moths. The black-stained table and upholstered chairs are from <a href="https://shop.gubi.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Gubi" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Gubi</a>. </div>
The dining room, which had been turned into a kitchen when the residence became a multifamily unit, maintained its original coffered ceilings and some wall panels. Architect Jeffery Povero recreated the rest of the panels in the room. To add some “gothic glamour” to the space, designer Gillian Dubin chose a Timorous Beasties wallpaper printed with clusters of dark moths. The black-stained table and upholstered chairs are from Gubi.
<div class="caption"> In the fully renovated garden-level kitchen, an island in black belvedere granite takes center stage. The flush-mounted fixture is an Angelo Lelli six-arm design from <a href="https://carlylecollective.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Carlyle Collective" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Carlyle Collective</a>. </div>
In the fully renovated garden-level kitchen, an island in black belvedere granite takes center stage. The flush-mounted fixture is an Angelo Lelli six-arm design from Carlyle Collective.
<div class="caption"> This bay window in the master suite creates a perfect nook for lounging. Michael van Beuren’s iconic “Alacrán” chaise, together with various potted cacti, call to mind the Southwest. The rest of the room, however, has a Parisian feel, starting with the antique French mantel on the fireplace. Two patinated steel-and-glass sconces from <a href="https://blackmancruz.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Blackman Cruz" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Blackman Cruz</a> add a modern touch. </div>
This bay window in the master suite creates a perfect nook for lounging. Michael van Beuren’s iconic “Alacrán” chaise, together with various potted cacti, call to mind the Southwest. The rest of the room, however, has a Parisian feel, starting with the antique French mantel on the fireplace. Two patinated steel-and-glass sconces from Blackman Cruz add a modern touch.
<div class="caption"> A channel-tufted custom headboard in the master suite’s sleeping alcove softens the distressed paint design of the wallpaper from <a href="https://www.blackedition.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Black Edition" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Black Edition</a>. The pendant lights are from <a href="https://apparatusstudio.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Apparatus Studio" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Apparatus Studio</a>. </div>
A channel-tufted custom headboard in the master suite’s sleeping alcove softens the distressed paint design of the wallpaper from Black Edition. The pendant lights are from Apparatus Studio.
<div class="caption"> Things we didn’t know we really coveted: a fireplace in the bathroom. What was formerly a bedroom on the second floor became the master bath, which has two marble-topped sinks with tapered legs from <a href="https://sinklegs.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Palmer Industries" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Palmer Industries</a>. </div>
Things we didn’t know we really coveted: a fireplace in the bathroom. What was formerly a bedroom on the second floor became the master bath, which has two marble-topped sinks with tapered legs from Palmer Industries.
<div class="caption"> Custom bunk beds maximize the space in this boys’ room. Black paint from <a href="https://www.benjaminmoore.com/en-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Benjamin Moore" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Benjamin Moore</a>, a spray-painted artwork bought at a street fair, and rock guitars help set a playful yet masculine vibe. </div>
Custom bunk beds maximize the space in this boys’ room. Black paint from Benjamin Moore, a spray-painted artwork bought at a street fair, and rock guitars help set a playful yet masculine vibe.
<div class="caption"> Bisou has a knack for finding the most comfortable spots in the house, such as this shearling rug in the girl’s bedroom. The oversized pale purple tufted headboard was custom-made; its color matches the wallpaper from <a href="https://www.walnutwallpaper.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Walnut" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Walnut</a> featuring hundreds of little eyes with eyelashes. </div>
Bisou has a knack for finding the most comfortable spots in the house, such as this shearling rug in the girl’s bedroom. The oversized pale purple tufted headboard was custom-made; its color matches the wallpaper from Walnut featuring hundreds of little eyes with eyelashes.

Just like the streets of Brooklyn, the Dubins’ home has elegance mixed with irreverence, and Old World flair mixed with homegrown style. “I think the space was pulled together in a timeless fashion, but with something dramatic and edgy at every turn,” says Gillian. “I enjoy having a house that has a story to tell, while also giving it a new personality.”

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

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