Before and After: A Cheap Collage of Browns & Creams Gets a Bold, Blue Modern Remodel in Queens

Peggy Wang, Buzzfeed’s founding editor, decided one day a few years ago she was ready to move out of tiny apartment living. “It was like a weird sudden existential outburst in my usual lazy put-everything-off-forever mindset,” she writes. When she purchased this 1100-square-foot home in Queens, it felt like the right fit. But boy it needed a face lift. She worked closely with White Arrow—Keren Richter and her husband Thomas Richter—to remodel this home.

Keren shared more information about the renovation in her own words: “When we first began, the rowhouse had been stripped of nearly all the original period details. The interior finishes were cheap and in bad condition, with a collage of browns and creams and questionable wallpaper. We had a few goals in mind—to bring back the house’s character, to make the home feel light and fresh, and to create a refreshing mix of finishes, fixtures and furniture that was youthful and fun. We appreciate historic homes but are equally interested in creating spaces that reflect our clients’ tastes and don’t feel like time capsules to an earlier era. The play between old and new is what excites us.”

“The floor plan of a rowhouse is long without windows for a large stretch of the interior. If not done right, it can feel quite dark. So we lightened the floors and brought in antique frosted glass and large pocket doors to keep the light bouncing and making interior rooms feel brighter. We also added sconces and dimmers everywhere. We tore down some walls to open up the kitchen and dining room and unified furniture and finishes in the spaces that would now be seen simultaneously.

Our initial plan had bathrooms and the kitchen’s gas and plumbing in new locations, but the budget was quite tight so we kept things in place and minimized the existing asymmetry of certain architectural elements through a strategic array of cabinetry.

We collaborated closely with the owners during the course of renovating a charming old rowhouse in the historic district of Ridgewood, Queens. Peggy Wang, Buzzfeed’s founding editor, had all sorts of ideas and cost-cutting strategies.

We dove deep to find solutions for the gut renovation of her apartment (and a downstairs rental unit—not photographed). It was an exercise in resourcefulness and shared creativity. Our goal was to design a home that felt luxurious on a cost-conscious budget. To embrace the house’s historic bones, we used a mix of architectural salvage (doors, knobs, fireplace mantel, and lighting), and we created period appropriate millwork. We sourced a fresh mix of vintage and contemporary furniture from the internet and auction houses along with some custom-painted vintage pieces and a few White Arrow-designed furniture.

To save money, we refinished and bleached the existing subfloor. What resulted was an airy and light atmosphere that offsets the black painted antique doors and deep blue Shaker cabinetry. The lights are a mix of Schoolhouse Electric, Cedar and Moss, Park Studio LA, and salvaged holophane glass pendants from an old asylum.”

“The kitchen was inspired by simple shaker design. It features Ikea base cabinets and island we clad in Scherrs custom fronts and larder painted in Farrow and Ball’s “Hague Blue.” A copper Watermark faucet and Menu pendant lights play off the deep blues and grays. The top notch appliances (a Bertazzoni oven, panel-ready Bosch dishwasher, and Subzero fridge) we found on Craigslist.”

“The refreshed vestibule features cement patterned tile and simple yet bold paint choices and beautiful antique doors. What results is a cohesive and updated home that is both modern with a lot of warmth.”

“The owner’s bedroom features a natural palette—linen and light woods play off the patterned rug and pillows. The bed is from Muji, unfinished shaker nightstands are from Hoot Judkins, the Paul McCobb dresser and 1970s bentwood plywood side chair are from eBay. We made the African mud cloth pillows and sourced the mix of planters from Etsy. The framed artwork is by Michael Ortiz. Throughout the home we used a mix of collages by Keren Richter, a poster by Maurizio Cattelan’s Toiletpaper magazine, and various silkscreened posters—all framed with Framebridge.”

“The living room features 1970s Italian leather armchairs by Gae Aulenti and Poltrona with a Warren Platner side table (all from eBay). These complement a Meritalia canvas couch from Aptdeco. The 1980s mirror is from Craigslist—we painted it and the coffee table to make them feel a bit more integrated. The Dhurrie rug is from India and the vintage hanging pendant light and accessories are eBay scores. The TV stands on a White Arrow-designed credenza—we were inspired by pegboard and chose to enlarge the dot pattern so the client could turn on and off their TV when it was closed, and to prevent their electronics from overheating.”

“We designed the shower to accommodate a glamorous extra tall sailcloth curtain and paired their 1930s pharmacy-inspired vanity from Restoration Hardware with Lefroy Brooks bath fittings and a Toto toilet. The cement star tile is from Amethyst Artisan in Manhattan, which offsets inexpensive subway tile we sourced from Daltile.”


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