A room in the showcase. Photo by Erica Gannett
Guests attending Wednesday night’s opening party for the 2022 Brooklyn Heights Designer Showhouse gave rave reviews to the creativity, furnishings and artwork which transformed a historic Heights townhouse into a showcase of modern interior design.
The Showhouse is the Brooklyn Heights Association’s (BHA) premier fundraising event. Hundreds of local patrons, design professionals and the house-curious came to admire and be inspired by the creativity on display within the stunning, five-story 1839 Greek Revival townhouse at 145 Columbia Heights.
Some of the features the designers had to work with included a 66 ft.-deep double parlor and a fifth floor solarium, with floating stairs leading to the roof deck with scenic views.
“I’m just so extremely proud of the BHA and all the creative designers, many from Brooklyn, who have brought their fabulous decorating ideas to a classic Brooklyn Heights brownstone,” BHA President Koren Volk told the Brooklyn Eagle. “We’ve outdone ourselves yet again! I hope everyone comes to see it.” The Designer Showhouse opens to the public on September 23 and run through October 30. (Visit brooklyndesignershowhouse.com to book your ticket.)
The Showhouse is co-chaired by interior designer Ellen Hamilton and architect Erika Belsey Worth.
“There are many different reasons to come,” Belsey Worth told the Eagle. “One of them is to have the experience of seeing things in a fresh, new way. What’s interesting is that the Showhouse is the work of all these different designers, and they are working without a client. So they have to come up with an idea that becomes a room. In one room it can be surrealism, in another it’s memories — or it can be a narrative.
“The designers don’t know what the other designers are doing,” she added. “And yet, themes emerge in a house, and there are connections. Why are there so many rooms with a touch of dusty rose or pink. What is this responding to? Are we creating warmer rooms because we are post Covid?”
BHA first approached the homeowners Helena Lee and Richard Klapper in the spring, Belsey Worth said. “The owners are very loyal BHA supporters. In fact, they had done pro-bono law work for the BHA and this was their way of saying goodbye and thank you to the BHA, because they are moving full-time upstate.”
Participating is also a win-win for the homeowners because the Showhouse designers and contractors installed improvements that enhanced the house’s value. For example, the original small galley kitchen was out of proportion to the rest of the house (note the double parlor). Taking down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room created a kitchen “that is correctly proportioned for the living room and the rest of the house,” Belsey Worth said. (The house is going on the market after the event.)
Also, homeowner Lee was curious to see what someone else did with their house. “It’s really kind of a magical,” Belsey Worth said. “The homeowner was excited to see what happened. She walked through with yesterday and she loved it!”
Most of the furniture and the objets d’art are for sale, “So when people come through, they’re also shopping,” Belsey Worth said. “The appliances in the kitchen were all provided by an extremely generous, wonderful sponsor, Ferguson Showroom down in DUMBO at 360 Furman St.,” she said. The appliances will stay with the redesigned kitchen.
The Showhouse grew out of the BHA House Tour, a previous series of fundraisers. “We wanted to do something that represented the mission of the BHA,” she said. “And in my mind that’s what the Showhouse does, because we love these old houses and we take our cues from them. We love to preserve our beautiful buildings, but we’re also a vital, vibrant neighborhood.”
“I love the Showhouse because it’s a beautiful way to blend the old with the new, the historic with the ‘now,’ which is also what I think makes Brooklyn Heights itself so special,” said BHA Executive Director Lara Birnback. “I hope that visitors from the neighborhood and beyond will enjoy the talents of our fantastic designers and will also take the opportunity to visit some of our great local businesses while they are in the area.”
“This event is tremendous,” said developer David Kramer, CEO of Hudson Companies, who attended with his wife, writer Stacy Kramer. “The BHA should be applauded for figuring out a way to execute on a showhouse, which is incredibly complicated — finding the right homeowner, coordinating with the designers, and coming up with a substitute for the open houses that they used to do. It’s also lovely to have a non-Covid event, where we can all be together and see great stuff.
“My wife came here today specifically to go brainstorming about potential designers for our house,” Kramer added. “I always love the details — what books and magazines are out, that kind of thing.”
“It’s a very important event for the BHA, a big fundraiser,” said Judy Stanton, former executive director of BHA and still very much involved with the organization. “There do seem to be a lot of people here.”
“This is very important because it’s benefiting the BHA, which does everything for the neighborhood, starting with warding off highways and weird things that are in planning,” said Showhouse Honorary Design Chair Harry Heissmann. “BHA is always trying to keep everything pretty and beautiful for everybody and the way we’ve always known it. Everybody should see it because it’s full of color, full of ideas, full of a magic little moments.”
“It’s absolutely stunning,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes, representing the newly drawn 26th District. “It’s my first time coming to a fundraiser like this, and just going from room to room, it’s absolutely incredible to see the breadth and scope of the design possibilities. It’s really a testament to all these designers. And what a great fundraiser to support the Brooklyn Heights Association.”
Judith Scofield Miller (whose home on Joralemon Street once starred on the BHA’s House Tour) said she wasn’t involved with this year’s Showhouse, but “I’m totally showing up as a patron and an admirer of what the BHA does for our community and what it will continue to do going forward. I recommend that people come and visit — this is so much fun.”
“I think this is magnificent,” said Kathy Kermian-Leicht, who lives around the corner on Willow Street. “I was really taken by all the lacquered walls and the living area downstairs. I also like the way that it rambles — it really feels like it’s not a typical 20 ft.-wide townhouse in Brooklyn Heights.” She added, “Actually the same architects who did this house — Baxt Ingui — also did my house.”
It’s a wonderful house,” said Jane Platt, BHA volunteer who has been working for most of the summer on organizing group tours. “There was an amazing amount of teamwork that went into getting it organized. Erika is amazing! On Mondays and Tuesdays we have group tours, usually led by one of the co-chairs and maybe a designer or two. You get to hear what the designer’s mission was and they tell you all kinds of inside stories.”
Platt said one of her favorite rooms in the Showhouse is the laundry room. “I love the solarium but I also love the laundry room — it made me want to do laundry. Everything is so well thought out; you have someplace to hang things, someplace to fold stuff.”
“It’s really lovely,” said Heights resident and interior designer Catherine Brophy, who said she came to the event to support the designers involved in the project and the BHA. “I’m taken in by the dark rooms in particular. I also really like the Ladies Lounge room that has that sort of blush pink tonality — and in general I think everyone knocked it out of the park.”
Brophy added, “I really love the juxtaposition of modern elements thrown into the traditional architecture, and even things like the mid-century modern, like the Finn Juhl chairs. It’s like taking Brooklyn Heights forward in a classically elegant way. “
“Everything here is just so beautiful, and they have so many outdoor spaces,” enthused Cheryl Nielsen Saaf, who has been selling real estate in Brooklyn Heights for 37 years. Nielsen-Saaf is with Corcoran, but is not representing this house. “It has a lot of Zen outdoor space, and plenty of everything that you need to live a beautiful and luxurious life.”
“Obviously, I’ll do anything to support the Brooklyn Heights Association,” said Heights resident and science journalist Laurie Garrett. “But I’m also really intrigued because, like most people, there’s a tad of the voyeur in me that likes to see how people live and how their homes are designed and arranged, and get ideas. It’s fascinating to see what people come up with and what are the trends and so on.”
Maxwell Collins, who works for Google in the areas of information, artificial intelligence and advertising, said the Showhouse is a “Fantastical experience.” His favorite room is the upstairs bathroom. “I love the wallpaper, I love the hands from the wall holding the beads, I love the shower curtain that was textured and a beautiful color. And I just love the ‘ladies who lunch’ Library [Lady’s Library], it was fantastic.”
This is our first show house and we love it,” said Phoebe Derlee and her husband Hadi Fallah. “We just moved to this neighborhood — we live on Pierrepont Street.” The couple said they were looking at designers to reach out to.
Mauri Weakley and Laura Rucker, partners at Collyer’s Mansion on Atlantic Avenue, designed the Lady’s Library. “We started with the color; we wanted something that was soft and warm,” Weakley said. “It’s sort of a sandy color with a little peachy pink undertone … We enveloped the room in this color and it just created this lovely canvas for us to layer in all of the artwork and the books on the shelves, the fabric on the upholstery and the rug, and we were just able to really play. It’s comfortable, it’s very cozy and soothing.”
Artist Liz Collins is one of the artists whose work hangs on the Showhouse’s walls. “I love interior designers and I want them to see my work and imagine it in that context,” she said.
Kim Glickman, deputy director of the BHA, has been helping with everything from getting contracts signed to working with a caterer for the party. “This has been in preparation for months,” she said. “When I started in May they had already secured the house, and I think Erika had already secured about a quarter of the designers by then.”
“It’s been an amazing coordination for this Showhouse from the moment it was conceived,” said BHA volunteer Maria Segalini. “Getting the designers and all the logistics in place, and also things as boring as insurance and contracts. It has been an incredible, incredible journey … Everyone has worked their magic and then some.
Jenny Kirschner, of JDK Interiors, designed the colorful children’s room dubbed Candy Coated Dreams. “My inspiration for this was to capture experiences children have whether it’s at the zoo, at the circus, taking a hike, being outside at the playground, and putting that into a room. So this is supposed to be a very happy and very experiential environment for kids,” she said.
Designer Tara McCauley created the primary bedroom, plus a dressing room, terrace and hallway. “Personally, I am a wild dreamer,” she told the Eagle. “I studied art history in college and I’ve always loved the surrealists. I am also inspired by fashion and I like to incorporate it into my interior design. So I imagined that my client was Elsa Schiaparelli, because she’s one of my favorite designers and she had a lot of trompe l’oeil effects, and collaborated with the surrealist artists Like Dali and Cocteau.”
Designer Antonino Buzzetta created the Lounge. “I wanted to create a sexy ‘70s vibe, inspired from Italian design, kind of like Old World meets New World,” he said. “Mixing professional pieces, classic design, a lot of curvatures that lead you into the room, with the layout of the carpet and a really unique floor plan.”
Participating designers include Antonino Buzzetta Design, Antonio Deloatch, Baxt Ingui Architects, Chused & Co, Circa 22 Design Studio, Collyer’s Mansion, JDK Interiors, JS Interiors, KD Reid in collaboration with Bo Concept, Laurie Blumenfeld Design, Meagan Camp Interiors, MeLinda K. Design, Nigel Rollings Landscape, Rupp Studio, Studio Dorion, Tara McCauley, the Brooklyn Heights Gardens, Inc. and The Primary Essentials.