A brownstone home typically refers to the townhouses made from brown sandstone or clad in this material. You see a lot of these brownstone residential buildings in areas like New York and New Jersey, thanks to a huge rock quarry 200 miles from the Hudson River. If you’re still not sure quite what a brownstone is, just imagine those four-story buildings from Sesame Street; sunny days and a large set of steps (known as a stoop) leading to double doors, with people sitting out and watching the world go by.
One of the things about a brownstone home extension is, more often than not, the buildings are protected by city planning regulations. In an effort to preserve this architectural heritage, renovations and extensions can sometimes be denied. Interior designer and feng shui expert Marie Burgos encountered this hold up during her renovation of this Hoboken home, but knew that the wait was worth it. By merging old and new elements together, the house is a glorious blend of modern classic styling that whisks you away on vacation, while keeping the curved staircases and coal-burning fireplace of its original build.
We caught up with Marie Burgos to talk about how this Hoboken brownstone home renovation played out. Read on to find out about why the whole process took seven months, how feng shui has transformed her world, and what the New Year brings for Marie Burgos Design.
This is a 3,300 square foot, three-bedroom and three-and-a-half bathroom home in Hoboken New Jersey. It’s a single family brownstone house, and my clients are a couple with two children. They had this house for a year. This is the house my client saw when she passed by this home for many years as a child and a teenager. And she always dreamt of buying a home such as this one. When she got married and a few years later, she ended up buying this exact home. The home was from the 60s but then it was remodeled in the 80s in the worst way and it lost all its charm.
So basically my role was to give it its former glory back. We’re obviously integrating the taste of my client and modernizing it, reintroducing all the character of a brownstone because it was kind of butchered by the previous owners.
The main room you enter is a living room. Burgos chose pastel hues and although it’s an older home, has been modernized and updated with the electrical wiring and smart technology to make sure it’s up to date.
One of the great tips from Burgos is that living in your home before renovation allows you to see what you want to get out of the home. The family lived in the house as it was for a year before remodeling. It gave them a clear idea of what was needed.
After meeting the client once, actually, she hired me right away, and we began producing the project drawings, 3D renderings, color boards; the whole design concept. We put the budget together and a presentation for her and her family. And off we went!
The whole remodeling lasted seven months roughly and, over three floors of a house. So we had great fun bringing the character back to this house, keeping the old features and bringing some new features to it.
When we’re talking about things being restored, take a look at the double doors. Before the renovation, the double doors were enclosed by a huge wall of glass blocks from floor to ceiling. Instead of the fireplace, there was a narrow corridor so you enter by the area where the window bench is.
Gone is the cubed glass wall, and hello to an open living room with a fancy fireplace. The original wooden doors remain, but the staircase handrail is refitted and the kitchen is extended.
There was no fireplace in the sitting room, at the entrance there was no fireplace. But there was a natural bump there on the wall so I was like “Why don’t we have a fireplace here?”
They said that basically it was existing in the 60s but then in the 80s they removed it, the previous owner had removed it to put a washer-dryer in the entrance there but did not want to have the fireplace. It was originally a steam system but we put in the HearthCabinet system which works with the one in the office floor. On the top floor, in the family room, I kept the original beautiful Chesney fireplace which is still using the steam system in the basement.
So I have integrated two fireplaces into this home because you know it’s really a traditional brownstone!
It was the area at the back of the house now housing the kitchen, which saw the biggest transformation. After waiting almost two months for the go-ahead from the Construction Code office, a whole eight feet of space was added on. This also took some time, along with the wait for custom cabinetry to arrive from Italy. The back extension allowed not only for a bigger kitchen, but also a dining room, which didn’t exist before.
Straddling the difference between an old and new look, Burgos chose the wallpaper in the powder room to mimic a Victorian style, but opted for fun modern fabrics in the family room.
Because in New York and New Jersey we are in the hustle and bustle city living, and going to work and all this, and having children growing up… that actually takes a lot of energy! So my client wanted to have something that was open, that was today’s taste but also have that feeling of the sea, vacation; a beach home.. so that’s what I’ve tried to represent in a home that is in the city but to have that little bit of the coastal hues to it. So the first floor, which is the kitchen-dining room and the entrance sitting room has really got coastal hues. But in the second floor you have more of a relaxed and fun color scheme with the family room that has both yellow touches with the window treatment and pillows. So this is more like the laid back room where all the family gets together and watches TV, so it has more fun fabrics.
This is really inspired by my feng shui background.
The blue color palette is found in the bedroom too, along with Burgos’ latest product line; pillows. The color combinations are inspired by her husband’s photography.
My husband is a photographer and artist, and the pillows are inspired by some of his fine art photography. So the one you see [by the fireplace] is the Cappucino line.
I was really inspired by some of his fine art photography, which you can find on the website. And then you have the Ying and Yang pillows in the master bedroom. This is really inspired by my feng shui background.
Feng shui is a big part of Burgos’ design, focusing on having balance. Where there are hard areas, they’re softened with textiles. Dark elements jostle alongside lighter ones.
I combine natural elements, so you have wood, fire, earth and metal in the space. They are represented not only by the elements themselves, but also you have colors that represent the elements. Glass would be representing water, stones and ceramics would be representing earth. For the fire you have the fireplace, lighting, and the bright and yellow fire colors.
It was after discovering feng shui that Burgos moved into the world of interior design. Fifteen years ago she was working in the food industry, managing restaurants across Paris, London and then New York. By chance she came across Karen Rauch Carter’s book Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life. And.. well! The title did as it suggests!
I decided to join feng shui classes to understand what it was about, and actually certified as a feng shui consultant. Then I was declared a feng shui expert by Time Out New York. It changed my life because I changed career; I went back to school and followed something that had always interested me. […] I tapped into my creative part that had always been there. So I went to study at NYU for design, and I was working full time! Then one day I decided to take the leap and started working in design, it started with doing my friends’ apartments and doing my own apartment and suddenly I had clients!
Feng shui made me aware of how your environment impacts not only how you feel today but also your future. It’s really like the objects around you talk to you. The space that you surround yourself in; the images that you have, really give you messages. So it’s really about putting your energy out there and understanding how your space influences you. So that’s what I implemented in my design.
The new year brings about big change for Marie Burgos, as she begins the relocation process to LA to open a second branch of Marie Burgos Design. As well as residential interiors, the cosmopolitan team of designers are doing office projects and (full circle!) creating designs for restaurants.
I can really say I have been very blessed with the people who are working with me, and I hope we can increase the team so we can have more fun and also be able to grow. You know, in a healthy way. And just carry on bringing design to people and changing their life in a positive way.
A job well done, the brownstone home renovation gives the owners a greater sense of cohesion with their environment. Coastal vibes and relaxing blues are met with higher energy yellow, and the kitchen is double the size! Perfect.
Fancy checking out more of our interviews with designers? Check out our top three tips for a cat-friendly home with Rosly Mok, or take a home tour in the gorgeous Hong Kong apartment belonging to Asian stylist and interior design blogger Marilen Styles.
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