“He wanted the space to feel like an opium den at Burning Man.” When Bill Caleo, founder of family-run design-development firm The Brooklyn Home Company, got this “half-joking, half-serious” directive from a new client for his Montauk, New York bungalow, he did what any good designer would do: “We took it seriously.”
“The client had recently gone to Burning Man and fell in love with it,” Caleo recalls. So while his team remained committed to their go-tos—think natural materials, highly functional open spaces, and hand-crafted accents—they also seized the opportunity to give the home an edge. The 1,025-square-foot craftsman had what Caleo describes as “good bones,” including a sizeable plot of land steps from the beach, white oak doors, and original hardwood flooring. But otherwise, it was falling apart. And the project had to be completed in just eight months, in time for the Memorial Day holiday and the unofficial summer season kickoff.
What better project for the Brooklyn Home Company’s newly-launched interiors division? The Interiors Studio, helmed by José Blanco and Holly Waterfield, devised a home that could take a bit of wear and tear and still age gracefully. Guests would be able to sit on the furniture in wet bathing suits, or give the hardwood floors some welcome wear without worrying.
White pine cladding on the walls nods to the home’s surf shack roots, hand-textured white oak covers the floors, and custom charred millwork by New Holland, PA’s Seven Trees Woodworking was used for the hood, lower cabinetry, and refrigerator. With the abundance of wood tones throughout the kitchen and in the home overall, Blanco kept the hues on a monochromatic gradient, with soft and subtle changes that keep from overshadowing each other. “We used the custom flooring as the base wood tone in the home and applied it on the beams, casings, countertops, and trim,” he explains. “It’s made from ash and is a blonder beige. It would have been challenging had we gone with darker woods. A really contrast-y look is much more difficult.”
Waterfield, The Brooklyn Home Company’s lead interior designer, added two seagrass pendants by Zoco Home in the kitchen, and another in a larger size over the dining table, which was hand-fabricated by Grand Wood Millworks in Naples, NY with solid old growth Douglas fir pine. Its surrounded by four vintage Børge Mogensen chairs sourced from 1stdibs.
Blanco also designed the frame for the daybed in the living room in the same ash wood seen throughout the home, and made it himself. “We wanted at least two seating areas, but it was a tight furniture placement,” said Waterfield, who had to design around a perimeter of the metallic brown enamel wood stove by Vermont Castings for safety. “We decided not to do a coffee table that would take up space and instead added two moveable Cisco Brothers poufs in St. Frank cactus Fabric and two vintage French leather club chairs. Everything has a patina to it.”
A utility sink by Kohler in the powder room lends even more patina to the home, and doubles as a spot to throw wetsuits after surf trips. In the master bath, however, the team went back to its roots by blending old and new with a black-and0white tiled shower that pops against the teak vanity fabricated by Whitney Wood Work in Amagansett, NY.
“The challenge was aligning all of the eight-inch by eight-inch cement Granada Tile, which runs from floor-to-ceiling and even folds around the corners,” says Blanco. “It plays well with the warm cabinetry and brass metalwork from House of Antique Hardware. For this millwork, we wanted traditional hardware that would age. The bin pulls contrast nicely with the knobs.”
The client added art by abstract expressionist Vernon O’Meally and requested a niche to display even more, like a wood sculpture by The Brooklyn Home Company’s artist-in-residence and co-creative director Fitzhugh Karol. “We created a blank canvas for the owner’s objects and art that he’s curated over his travels,” says Waterfield. “The palette needed to be really natural so that both the objects and art could pop.”
In the guest room, the owner displayed a large-scale contemporary piece by Harif Guzman. A custom live-edge bed in bleached walnut, topped with cozy bedding by Roller Rabbit, was made by Blanco when he first started working for The Brooklyn Home Company.
“I remember it was such a joy to create because I was really young and felt blessed to have the opportunity,” says Blanco. “It used to be dark brown, but I experimented with wood bleach to lighten it for the space. I never imagined it’d end up here, but it fits perfectly on the wall.”
Although the home is small, every inch of its spaces—even the outdoors—is highly considered. The design team retrofitted a shed on the property to create surfboard storage and painted the window casings, eave trim and front door in the home’s original teal paint color but added copper accents and a period-appropriate awning over the entrance.
“The client had pretty particular interior design goals,” says Blanco. “The home already had a level of character and, ultimately, that’s what we hoped to nod to in the redesign.”
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