Charmaine Zaynab February 27, 2021 Home Design
Nestled down a country road, past oak trees, off the road and out of view from anyone passing by, sits a home built from the ground up, for and by homeowners and artists, Vivian and Walter Neill. Also on the large, wooded property is the blacksmith studio of homeowner Walter, a full chicken coop, and the art gallery that the Neill’s run together, Oxford Treehouse Gallery.
Betsy and Peter have kept close to their love story, literally: they met in college, married in Saratoga Springs, NY, and now their home is just down the street from their alma mater. The family was planning to relocate to be closer to Peter’s job and had one weekend to find their house; coming back to their college hometown was a happy byproduct. Despite the varying styles of homes they toured, Peter and Betsy knew the moment they stepped into their now home that it was “the one.” Betsy had actually always wanted to live in a barn, and loved how open the spaces were. The fact that it was somehow an in-town barn made walking to restaurants and shops incredibly convenient, it had a space for an on-site design studio as well — it was the perfect fit.
Farah Malik lived in seven countries before landing in the United States. She admits to a penchant for heirlooms and admires their power to promote a pass-down-from-generation-to-generation culture. Having grown up in England, Farah keeps multiple pots for tea, including this Moroccan kettle handed down from an old friend’s grandmother in Marrakech. Other expressive pieces from Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Kenya, China, Pakistan, Zanzibar, Cyprus, and all over Europe — just to name a few — encourage a broad global awareness in her Brooklyn home.
It would be the perfect home for Sarah were it not for the fact they can’t have cats. “I have offered bribes and contracts and everything I can think of to our landlord but we just can’t have a cat.” Luckily, Cat Town Cafe, America’s first permanent cat cafe, is within walking distance. It also happens to be one of several non-profit groups where Sarah has volunteered her design work. Other than the lamentable absence of a cat, I can imagine that an ideal evening would be spent in Sarah and Matthew’s gorgeous home, listening to their records, sipping Matthew’s flawlessly mixed cocktails, all while coveting that unbelievable crown molding. And, of course, toasting Sarah on her courageous and inspired decision to reimagine her life.
To tackle the overhaul, Sam, a creative director at an ad agency, and Jonah, a securities regulator, enlisted the help of architect Sarah Jacoby to helm the 2,400-square-foot transformation. The long list of renovations included enlarging the home’s garden level, adding a guest suite with a new bathroom and laundry room, adding a new kitchen to the parlor level, opening up the living room wall to expose the central staircase, and designing an updated master suite with ensuite bathroom, among other changes.
“We’d been searching for a home in Park Slope for what seemed like forever,” she says. “At one point we tried to buy a big house with friends and split it in half, but it got very complicated very quickly. About that time I said to Jonah, ‘we just need a little house, where are the little houses?’ When we saw our house we both said: ‘it is definitely little!’ But compared to what we were used to, even though it’s only 12 feet wide it really is a lot of house. On top of that, it has a lot of original detail, gorgeous ceiling moldings, original stained glass. I’m sure I was staring at those pretty windows while ignoring words like ‘complete electrical/plumbing updates,’ [and] ‘mechanical redo’.”
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