Designer Liz Lipkin updates a sizable-yet-stuffy Cobble Hill townhouse for a young family, blending turn-of-the-century details with Mid-Century style.
Photos by Sean Litchfield.
Modernism might sound easy. If it’s all about less, then how hard is it to go into a classic home and bring it into the today? To peel away layers to just the beautiful, most aesthetically pleasing bones?
Yeah, it’s pretty hard once you start to think about it.
At least that’s what Wes and Kelly found out. Upon moving into their unique Cobble Hill townhouse, they realized their dreams of creating a home that reflect their calm and collected style, while balancing their family-friendly needs, could use an assist. So they called in Homepolish designer, .
“When we met, they were struggling to give the space their style and personality,” Liz explains. “The previous owner had wallpapered almost every room and had a mature classic English country-meets-contemporary style. It was so satisfying for all of us to lighten things up and create a younger, more relaxed, and modern space. The contrast of their Mid-Century and modern style in a classic turn of the century townhouse feels fresh.”
Liz needed to address the home’s unusual flourishes (it’s 14-feet-wide and one has to pass through the living room to access the rest of the house, but on the other hand—there’s an original fireplace, a gorgeous soaking tub, 12-foot ceilings on the second floor, skylights on the top floor and tin ceilings in the kitchen and the nursery), respect the historic bones, and help the family spread out from their former 1,000 square feet abode into 2,700 square feet.
Liz’s deft balance of architectural reverence and modern ingenuity comes to life strongly in the dining room, where a stunning gallery wall looks both serenely graphic and incredibly intimate.
“A big highlight for me is the family photo wall that I created in the dining area,” Liz beams. “It adds so much personality, and putting it together was a team effort! Wes and Kelly selected and printed photos, while I sourced frames and designed the layout. Wes even helped me hang a few frames.”
The collaboration brings the airy space to life, and gets admired often as it’s positioned primely where the family gathers. The formatting of square images in vertical rectangular frames renders the prints equally as mementos and minimalist art—you can read the instillation as a whole or dig into the details of each image.
Beyond the gallery wall, Liz uplifted the room from its former heavier vibes. She removed heavy grasscloth wallpaper, bulky shelves, and a less-than-ideal banquette, then swathed the room in white paint. Liz smarly faked the look of a renovation by mimicking pricery casement windows with a smart paint job.
“The dining room was little dark and it wasn’t their style,” Liz explains. “Kelly and Wes loved the look of steel casement windows, so I said ‘Well you know you could get the same look by painting them.’ You have to have the right windows for it, but it adds a certain depth to the room and it also creates this focal point. It frames the outdoor space, and I love it that it mirrors what’s happening with the gallery wall.”
In the living room a large-scale artwork sets up rugged color story that Liz softened with well-chosen accents.
“I wanted to incorporate softer, more feminine elements and a little bit of shine to play off of the rugged masculine look of that piece,” Liz shares. “It could easily dominate the room so we wanted to make sure other pieces felt important too and weren’t eclipsed by either the size or the color of the artwork.“
Upstairs, the master bedroom is an exploration of luxury and dimension. Based on the existing rich grasscloth wallpaper, Liz wanted to highlight the bed as a textural focal point. Layers of different neutral materials—cotton/cashmere sheets, a nubby wool throw, and reindeer hide—beg you to indulge in a nap. The space compliments the equally sumptuous bathroom. With the amazing soaking tub in place, Liz wanted to amp up the room’s spa-like feature. Weighty window treatments were swapped for sleek motorized roller shades, while a modernist light fixture put the spotlight on the tub.
“The space had an old fashioned light fixture, so I wanted to put in something really clean but special,” Liz explains. “Since you really cannot miss that bathtub.”
Meanwhile, the guest bedroom offers an even deeper dive into moody texture.
“Everything about that room made me crazy in a good way,” Liz gushes. “The decoration is pretty simple and i think that lets the artwork that Wes has speak for itself.”
There’s lots to love—a smoky grey accent wall, a chic desk area balanced with a stunning vintage print, and built-in rough-hewn shelves that ground an architectural niche (and conveniently display Wes’ collection of vintage books). Liz kept the heirlooms from feeling to heavy by mixing in lighter elements and subtle nods to the city and Wes’ love of Modern Art. Leather sconces with wooden backplates and hints of brass intermingle with a vintage Persian rug and inviting periwinkle linens.
For the family’s tiniest member, Liz injected the neutral vibes of the home with pint-sized personality.
“Their daughter was nine months when we first met and she’s their first child, so they wanted to create a really special room for her,” Liz shares. “They were both thrilled with the transformation of her nursery, and loved how something as simple as removable decals could add to the charm of the space.”
To create a space that would grow with the baby, Liz built on the white-one-white palette and flexible furnishings, then accented them with more whimsical decor to keep the crisp backdrop from feeling too flat.
“I installed removable decals on the feature wall instead of wallpaper —they’re an inexpensive and low-commitment alternative that can easily transform a space,” Liz shares. “When the room and its’ occupant are ready for a refresh, decals peel right off, making way for new decor.”
The nursery adheres to Liz’s advice on designing for “young tenants.” Avoid the pressures of a stereotypical baby space and create a room that reflects your style. Think about how you dress your baby. If you aren’t swathing your daughter in hot pink, opt for sweet and sophisticated colors like baby-friendly coral and gold accents to add warmth.
That axiom of embracing your style reflects the project in general, with Liz feeling blessed to work with the clients and such a stunning space.
“They both have great taste and they’re also really open minded, and that’s always a bonus,” Liz gushes. “They are a very modern couple and really like minimal neutral interiors, and I personally love that combination of old and new. Turn-of-the-century architectural details are so great for setting off modern pieces.”