You know you’re detail-oriented when you visit a house 14 times before buying it. Of course, when the structure in question is more than two centuries old, that’s also known as due diligence.
“I was so enamored with the bones of it, and yet also terrified by its benign neglect,” says designer Brittany Bromley of the house, a center hall Colonial built in 1790 on five acres in Bedford, New York. It had long ago lost its luster: Shag carpeting could be found in nearly every room; linoleum in brown, orange, and cream covered the kitchen floor; a bathroom was insulated “solely with newspapers from 1931.” Bromley and her husband, landscape designer Matthew Bromley, even discovered a toilet hooked up to a cistern under the kitchen floor. Still, they were undeterred. “We told each other that it would be a 30-year home, which meant that we would need a 30-year plan for bringing it back to life and giving it all the love it required,” Bromley says. They ended up making it livable in just eight months: “We were newly married, we had the stamina.”
The Bromleys approached their task with a preservationist’s precision, installing era-appropriate touches like hand-forged flathead nails in the new kitchen flooring and reclaimed granite front steps at the exact height that would have been required for dismounting a horse.
Each room in her home typifies the Bromley aesthetic: eclectic, layered, and rooted in a classic approach to design. “I love the traditional tropes of decorating, and yet I think we like to sort of turn those things on their ear,” she explains. Take the dining room, where the family blanketed the walls in hand-cut strips of tortoiseshell bamboo, or the kitchen’s inky cabinets, painted Farrow & Ball’s Pitch Black.
The finished house became an unofficial calling card for Bromley, whose professional design career took off after a visit from the neighbors. “When they saw what I had done with my home, they asked if I would do theirs. I said, ‘Well, do you know that I don’t even have a resale number?’ They said, ‘We don’t care. We’ll pay retail.’ ” Within six months, she had two employees and a dozen projects.
“This house has been awfully patient with all of our endeavors to better her!” Bromley says. “I believe that every home has a soul, and ours has been gentled and seems to be happier and brighter as a result of our being here.”
“From every room of the first floor, you can walk into the gardens; it feels very much like California here six months out of the year,” Bromley says. “I wanted the walls to have the same kind of life.” Wallpaper: Chinois Palais, Mary McDonald for Schumacher. Pendant: Visual Comfort. Sofas: custom, in Christopher Farr fabric. Table: custom, in Fermoie fabric. Pillow fabrics: Fermoie (blue woven), Schumacher (blue trellis and green print), and Thibaut (blue-and-green pattern).
Wallcovering: bamboo. Curtains: custom, in Schumacher white silk with Samuel & Sons trim. Chandelier: antique French toleware. Chairs: antique French bergères in Kravet fabric. Tablecloth: Quadrille.
“What I really wanted was a kitchen that felt like a library,” says Bromley. It took the designer nine days to custom mix a floor stain with the perfect “Jacobean bent” that allowed the grain to show through. Cabinet and trim paint: Pitch Black by Farrow & Ball. Range: Viking. Rug: Moroccan Beni Ourain. Pendant: Christopher Spitzmiller. Table: custom. Chairs: antique. Pillows: Peter Fasano. Wallpaper: Schumacher.
Bromley went all out with a classic David Hicks for Clarence House wallpaper in the room she designed for daughter Gigi (right, with older sister Charlotte). Window shades: custom, in Claremont velvet with Christopher Farr trim. Pillow fabric: PMC and Claremont. Rug: Stark. Chair: antique, in Chelsea Textiles gingham. Giraffe: Melissa & Doug.
Antique twin beds are made for sleepovers. “Lately, her favorite guest is her younger sister!” Bromley says. Wallpaper: Thibaut. Bedding: Charmajesty, D. Porthault, and Schweitzer. Canopy fabric: Penny Morrison.
“Make It Magic!”
Bromley created fanciful yet practical spaces for her two daughters.
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