“Quite frankly,” says designer Meg Lavalette, “I am a lover of neutrals.”
This statement seems at odds with the design of the Fort Greene, Brooklyn brownstone she was hired to renovate, which includes, among other things, a powder room swathed in bright green wallpaper embellished with painted mushrooms and rabbits. But to Lavalette, owner of LAVA Interiors, that’s precisely what made the project fun.
“One of my client’s main objectives was to inject lots of personality through color,” she says. “It allowed me to really explore that aspect of my creativity.”
A vibrant palette also served as a valuable counterpoint to another of the homeowner’s wishes—to use period-appropriate furniture and lighting to complement the building’s turn-of-the-century details. “The entire home is decorated in antique and vintage pieces so as not to contrast with the original architecture, but I didn’t want it to feel precious or dated,” she continues. “My client is very affable and loves to entertain. So I wanted the space to feel fresh and inviting.”
With 4,100 square feet to work with, there was ample room to play. Lavalette layered the building’s parlor level in color and texture: a 19th-century red lacquer table beside a blue cotton velvet sofa; a vintage bamboo chair next to a salvaged antique marble mantel.
Meanwhile, the third floor was converted to a private master suite, complete with bedroom, closet, sitting room, and bath, while the fourth was designated for work, laundry, exercise, and meditation. (An entire room was designed specifically for the homeowner’s practice, bathed in serene colors reminiscent of the sky.)
Despite the updates, the brownstone still retains its roots. Making preservation a priority, Lavalette aimed to restore rather than replace whenever possible, in both larger cases (exposed brick, refurbished wooden floors), and small (in the master bath, a mirror that once hung over a fireplace now has a home above the vanity).
The finished space has a look all its own, which, for Lavalette, was the goal from the beginning. “The night before my client’s housewarming, I came over to help set things up for the party,” she says. “The two of us stood in the foyer together, taking everything in, and we both teared up. It was a really special moment. Over two years, we not only managed to develop a friendship—we designed a home that’s deeply reflective of who he is.”
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