It’s not often that I see a home where I wouldn’t change a
little something here and there. Not because anything is wrong with the space, but just because I daydream about living there myself and how I would put my personal touches on it. But then I saw photographer Julia Sherman’s home. I knew Julia had impeccable taste in salads and artwork – her project at PS1 and her blog, , combines both – but I had no idea how much her incredible eye extended to home design.
Julia lives in this beautifully restored home, along with her husband and their dog, Lucy, in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn. Originally built in the 1890s, Julia and Adam’s home was in dire condition when they found it three years ago. Eager to put down roots somewhere quiet and near a park, the couple ignored friends’ warnings that a gut renovation job wasn’t something they should tackle. Instead they found a space that needed a total overhaul and had serious “haunted” vibes. After working through fallen ceilings, black mold and moldy carpet floors, the couple saw signs of light when crown molding, parquet floors and original Eastlake hardware were revealed. Despite not having any prior renovation experience, Julia and Adam were able to eventually finish their renovation using a mix of local salvage and building material resources. At the end of the day they have a totally custom home (they loved getting to choose every tile, light fixture and paint color) that still retains the original architectural beauty of the home. “The house is ours like no pre-fab home could have been,” Julia says. I couldn’t agree with her more. This is the sort of space that will only continue to grow and improve as the years go on.
Photographs by Maxwell Tielman
The Front Door: Julia spent a long time hunting for the right wallpaper for this entry niche. She wanted to find something fun, but that didn't clash too much with the traditional exterior of the brownstone. In the end, this handmade paper by was the perfect complement to the space - and the couple's black and white dog!
The Stairway: "I love the grand entrance to these townhouses. They just don’t make doors like this anymore," explains Julia. The couple sanded and re-painted the stairs and used black to "up the drama factor."
Julia waited at an auction in Pennsylvania for eight hours to bid on this blown glass pendant light for their entryway. She was really excited when she saw almost the same light in a West Village shop for 8x the price. She got a few more fixtures of the same type on eBay after finding this one.
The Living Room: Julia describes her living room as, "the place where where Adam and I project movies, always aware that the entire neighborhood can see what we are watching." Adam found the bucket chairs (Ward Bennet Designs for Herman Miller) on the street on the Upper East Side when he was in college.
The living room's hanging planter is one of Julia's favorite finds from the Elephant’s Trunk flea market in CT. The print on the wall is by her favorite artist/nun/political activist, Sister Corita Kent. When it was sent to Julia from the Corita Foundation, Adam accidentally tossed it out with the trash. It was soaked in the rain, and it spent a month with an art conservator being repaired.
Most homes in Julia and Adam's neighborhood have the same basic fireplace and moldings, but they each have a unique medallion on the mantel. One, of course, is a crest, another a dove and fruit combo, and the other is a Superwoman face (Julia's favorite).
The Kitchen: The kitchen needed to be the most accommodating space in the house, since Julia is always cooking and entertaining. The home's kitchen island is so big, you can’t capture the whole thing in one photo, Julia calls it, "the life raft that everyone clings to."
Julia and Adam turned a room that was not originally used as a kitchen, into one. They had to be creative with storage but Julia loves having the pots at arm's length, so the hanging pot rack is a huge convenience for her.
This arched wall section in the kitchen was crumbling when Julia and Adam first bought their home, so she saw this as a great place for some accent color. After falling in love with an intricate Moroccan star pattern mosaic that was "hideously expensive," she opted to have the pattern translated into custom painted cement tile. Now this is the most complimented detail in the house.
A detail of the painted cement tile arch and marble countertops in the kitchen.
Open shelving was a must for Julia and Adam. She can usually be found climbing the cabinets on her library ladder, reaching for three things at once. Julia admitted that she "[goes] to a super secret Amish yard sale in rural Pennsylvania every year, and stock[s] up on these blue ball jars for all my pantry staples. "
Details from the kitchen's fireplace mantel.
Julia is always propagating plants to share with friends. "It is one of those simple things in life that feels like a miracle to me. I love this purple vine-y plant, 'Wandering Jew.' "
This is Lucy, the couple's "pound puppy." The (empty) fireplace is her chosen home.
The Master Bathroom: Both Julia and Adam love the look of penny tile with dark grout. "It takes a really cheap and basic material and makes it feel intentional," she explained. Julia spent a lot of time sourcing vintage bathroom accessories, so the sink, toothbrush holder, shelf and sconces all have their own long histories and stories.
Adam found these blue enamel medals in an abandoned factory in Providence, RI when he was in college. They assumed they were the imperfect cast-offs from a military medal manufacturer and carried them around with them for years, to Los Angeles and back, always planning to use them to tile a bathroom. They love the way they look in this bathroom.
Julia found these sconces on a trip to Los Angeles at a salvage shop in Pasadena. She loves the deco-style ribbing and thought the circular shape would complement the penny tile.
This niche in the shower was built to fit a large bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, exactly. Adam only uses one shower product, so it was important that it have its due place.
Original Eastlake doorknobs that were found in-tact during the home renovation.
The Bedroom: The couple loves mismatched patterns and textiles. Julia collects them when they travel, so they always have at least 3 blankets on their bed at a time. The orange/yellow blanket was bought in a Hmong village in the Northern-most part of Vietnam, at a tribal market in the town of Bac Ha. In the Hmong style, it features elaborate cross-stitching. The rug is a Moroccan shag rug given to the couple as a wedding present.
Julia found their mid-century style bed at Build It Green, a local salvage yard where the couple bought most of the materials they used in the home renovation. The bed was in perfect condition and came from a movie set. Julia bought it based off a photo on their website without seeing it in person.
The couple's mid-century dresser.
The bedroom mantel.
The Office/Bedroom: Julia bought the tiles for this room before they had drawings done or any idea plan at all for the layout of the room. The Standard hotel was selling their leftovers on Craigslist and Julia pounced, not caring that she was "essentially working backwards." The Murphy bed came from an old man in Gramercy (via Craiglist). It is a 1960s Italian piece, and when you pull it down, the shelving stays level. Julia and Adam like to display extremely fragile objects on those shelves, just because they can.
These Mexican hammocks were acquired in the dead of winter, so Julia stored/displayed them on the wall. They never made it outside when the weather warmed up and Julia liked how they looked so much as wall-hangings.
Julia explained that their backyard was, "a bamboo forest when we bought the place. I pulled every last piece of bamboo, trucked in the soil, spread the gravel and planted everything you see here (there are large raised beds not pictured). I grow mostly salad, greens and herbs in the garden, with some flowers scattered in there. We grill out on the deck almost every night in the summer. I even grill when I am eating dinner alone."
The pavers under the deck were salvaged pieces of marble mantels and old slate steps that Julia found. She stripped the layers and layers of paint off each one.
The couple's favorite backyard breakfast nook.