A modern classic: renovating a Brooklyn home

A water damaged, dilapidated 1970s house was no contest for Anna who turned it into her family home. We share the lessons she learned along the way

white marble kitchen with industrial pendant lights and large fridge-freezer
(Image credit: Stefanie Schiada)

When Anna started hunting for her first home, she knew one thing: she wanted a home she could make her own. She found just what she was looking for in a neglected 1970s Brooklyn one family house. Not only had it never been renovated but also it had substantial water damage as a result of burst pipes. 

“Everything had to be redone” she matter-of-factly shares when retelling the story of what drew her to this home. 

“By choosing a house that was in terrible shape, I was avoiding the expense of paying for someone else’s upgrades.”

Lesson #1: By knowing what you absolutely must have and, just as importantly, what you really don’t need, you’ll be able to find the right property for you

Instead of being intimidated by the daunting task, she relished the opportunity and got to work. When she first started planning the renovation, she expected to end up with a very traditional styled home.

a panelled dining room with Mid-century furniture and a feature pendant light

She spent quite a bit of time during those early stages pouring over blogs and Pinterest looking for inspiration. As she did, she realized she was leaning toward something more contemporary mixed with traditional touches instead. Knowing her style helped guide her through all of her choices from layout to molding to lighting fixtures.

Dining room

While quite a simple space, this room had an amazing transformation thanks to the help of crown and picture moldings which add texture and visual interest. All painted in a warm white, they add charm and texture to this simple space while creating the perfect canvas for just about any furniture. While Anna is still hunting for the perfect dining chairs, she has just about finished this space with a custom made buffet and table, a Lindsey Adelman inspired light fixture and a traditional multi-color rug.

White panelled walls in a dining room with a Mid-century sideboard and copper chair

Lesson #2: Do your homework and learn what your style preferences are before starting a renovation project

While Anna worked with an architect to file the necessary plans and permits, she found she often disagreed with the design choices he recommended. Instead of allowing the end result to be something she wasn’t happy about, she redesigned some of the plans herself and worked with the architect to make changes to the drawings as needed.

Anna acted as her own general contractor managing all of the sub-contractors on the project. “It was exhausting at times. No matter how carefully the contract was written, I really had to stay on top things to ensure the work was getting done properly.”

Master bathroom 

This room is Anna’s private retreat. The spa like design allows for tranquility but also plenty of storage for all of the essentials. Both the floor and wall tiles are Venato Carrara marble. The vanity was custom made by Hedgehouse and topped with MSI Quartz Artic White countertops. The wall and floor tiles are Venato Carrara. The room is painted in Benjamin Moore Paper White.

A marble-tiled bathroom with large walk-in shower and double-sink vanity

Second bathroom

Marble finish vanity and tiling in a small bathroom

Lesson #3: Educate yourself about design and construction and be present at the site as much as possible. You will live with the end result so you need to be engaged at all times

As with many renovation projects, there were a few bumps in the road. “Once you open up walls, you never know what you might find.” Issues like where to hide pipes and ductwork presented itself time and again. Going into the project with the expectation that things can and will go wrong helped Anna keep a cool head and keep pushing forward. 


This square kitchen layout maximized every inch without sacrificing style. An open concept allows light to pour in from two sides making this space a wonderful area to cook and entertain guests. The addition of the kitchen peninsula created a lot more countertop space as well as the perfect spot for casual eating. Kitchen countertops are low maintenance MSI Quartz with a Neolith Calculatta porcelain backsplash. 

kitchen with industrial pendant lights over a white kitchen island with large fridge-freezer

Lesson #4: Be mentally prepared for something to go wrong

Despite many fits and starts, the renovation did complete and she finally had created exactly the home she had dreamed. It takes no more than looking at the ‘before’ photos to see what an amazing transformation she has done to this home.

Before: the 1970s property had been neglected and damaged by water

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a run down bedroom in a 1970s home before renovation

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Run down bathroom in 1970s property

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bathroom with dated metallic wallpaper and pink bathroom suite

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dated white kitchen in a 1970s property