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This Modern Brooklyn Home Shows Us How to Decorate With Color

Color, pattern and more color... yet minimal.

After living in Park Slope—Brooklyn’s epicenter of hip young families—for over 15 years, Dania Ahmad and her husband, Louis Cordone, were ready for a change. The couple began looking in the quieter and increasingly desirable neighborhood of Greenwood Heights.

“It feels more like our personality,” says Ahmad. “It’s quirky, every building is different. The businesses here are still small and family-run.”

Thanks to a tip from local friends, who informed them of a neighbor putting his house on the market, the couple found their new home. In 2014, they closed on a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath, 2,300-square-foot house that was charming but in need of a complete overhaul.

While most people would run at the thought of a gut renovation, Ahmad was excited by the prospect of designing a home just right for her family. Her background in interiors didn’t hurt; a lifestyle publicist for 18 years, in 2012, she founded Good Word PR, a media-relations and social media firm focused on design clients such as wallpaper stalwarts Graham & Brown and lighting designer Tracy Glover.

Here, she takes us through her renovation process.

Down to the studs

The couple had taken on on smaller renovations in the past but didn’t realize just how much work their new house required. “The place was in such bad shape, we literally couldn’t salvage anything,” recalls Ahmad. They ripped everything down to the studs and with the help of Cordone’s architect brother, Matt, they built a cheery family home that maximizes every inch of space and lets their personalities shine.

“The main thing was that this is the perfect size for us,” says Ahmad. “It’s a smaller house, but I think we did a good job of thinking through ways to make it feel spacious.”

Befores

  • Bathroom
    Bathroom
  • Staircase
    Staircase
  • Kitchen
    Kitchen
  • Entryway
    Entryway

Create smart solutions

The double-sided fireplace that separates the kitchen and living room isn’t just a cool modern decor element—it’s a savvy space-saving solution. “We were trying to have all things in a small space,” explains Ahmad. “We wanted a big sectional sofa and fireplace, but with an open floor plan, that would have been very difficult.” After scouring magazines and Pinterest, she came up with the idea for the half wall. To save cost and space, the couple removed two fireplaces and inserted a new gas one. “The wall allows us to have all the things we wanted in the living room,” she says.  Another major benefit: The structure houses some electrical work and the air conditioning. “It held us up but created a lot of solutions.”

 

The sofa, blue chair and ottoman are from Moroso and the rug is by Amy Helfand.  

Statement Stairs

A lover of modern design, Ahmad wanted an open staircase, but with 7-year-old Zain and 10-year-old Anisa running around (“My son does everything in his power to not go up stairs in a normal way”) opted for the safer contemporary look of vertical wood slats. “We have so much white that it adds a lot of warmth,” she says.

Welcome Home

One quick adjustment the couple made after moving in was replacing the wood floor in the entryway to tile. “The wood was getting a beating from people coming in and out and the water from rain and snow,” explains Ahmad. Not only has tile solved that issue, the way it’s installed creates a natural entryway and adds some visual interest.

Bold Flourishes

The kitchen underwent one of the biggest transformations in the house. “We changed the orientation of the kitchen,” explains Ahmad. “I wanted windows facing the backyard.” The couple went over different design schemes to maximize square footage and settled on a mix of cabinets and open shelving (“I’m not a fan of a monolith of cabinets”); smaller island (“We prefer a bigger space to just move around”); custom cabinets and farmhouse sink (“Every woman that walks into the house falls in love with the sink”) and a mix of white countertop and butcher block to add warmth. “In general, what I like is wacky,” says Ahmad about her dramatic tile choices.

 

The kitchen floor tiles are from Nemo and barstools are Bend.

Pops of Color

“It was not enough color for me [in the kitchen], so Louis painted the trim around the window and door in Benjamin Moore's Waterfall."

Take a Seat

The couple reupholstered the dining room chairs with Marimekko fabric. 

Master Bath with Flare

One of the splurges the couple made was radiant heating. “It’s highly efficient, says Ahmad. “It allows for a mostly consistent temperature. When you walk in the bathroom, I never have the shock of walking on cold tiles.”

The tiles are from Nemo, the faucet and shower are from Dornbracht and the sconce are from Flos.

Surround Yourself With What You Love

“We are very deliberate about the [furniture and things] we have,” says Ahmad. “Everything we have in the house we love. I don’t like to have stuff for the sake of having stuff.” In the master bedroom, Ahmad chose an Amy Helfand rug, Blu Dot bed and side tables, and Jennifer DeLonge dresser. The bedding is from Anthropologie and the gold antique plate is a gift from Ahmad’s parents. The boldest item in the room, the Elysian Fields wallpaper by Flavor Paper, is a nod to the famous Greenwood Cemetery, a few blocks away. “I love how if you look from a distance [the print] looks a bit more traditional but then when we really look you see bats and bones and Venus flytraps,” she says.

Have Fun

“We really appreciate cheeky, playful design,” says Ahmad, and the powder room, located next to the kitchen and dining room, is a perfect example of that. The couple chose City Park by Flavor Paper, a damask style pattern with urban imagery like parking meters and pigeons. “I’m a total New Yorker so the paper is an hommage to the city I live in and love.”

Tiny Room, Big Design

“The kids’s rooms are pretty tiny, so we needed to be wise and efficient about the furniture,” says Ahmad. She chose the Oeuf Perch Loft bed, which allows for storage and playspace beneath.

As for those fun, cheery wall stripes. Ahmad gave the kids Benjamin Moore colors to choose from. Anisa picked Funky Fruit, and Zain went with Cool Aqua. And if you’re wondering where all their toys are stashed, they are in the closets but mostly in a playroom downstairs. “That’s really their domain,” she says.

Exterior Upgrade

The couple painted the exterior in Benjamin Moore's Blue Note.

Home Sweet Home

"I love that we've made the house cozy and comfortable, modern and colorful," says Ahmad.