Bold and Colorful Travel Influencer Cynthia Andrew Designs Her Brooklyn Brownstone as a Modern, Blank Canvas
The Brownstone Boys, Jordan and Barry, are innovative designers, renovators, and restorers, tackling Brooklyn, New York’s most demanding projects while continuously pushing the design envelope.
Recently, they took on the ultimate design challenge: helping Cynthia Andrew, travel and fashion influencer, take the leap to transform her Brooklyn brownstone into something she could call her own. Like many homeowners, Cynthia and her husband had a long wish list for their home. However, after reality set in, “it became about a house we could make into a home, in a neighborhood, we would want to raise our kids in,” she said.
Cynthia says her fashion style is bold and colorful, and her design style is constantly evolving. She wanted a space that could grow with her and her family. Cynthia says, “We started with a mostly blank canvas and white walls, which will allow us to play around [with the space] a little more.” She wanted the white walls to create an airy feeling and reflect the start of their new life with their growing twin boys.
With the Brownstone Boys’ design expertise and Cynthia’s inspiration, they juxtaposed modern elements to the brownstone’s historic charm.
Learn how the Brookstone Boys use selections from Walker Zanger to create a place for Cynthia and her family to truly call home in their full interview below.
Tell us a little bit about the project and what type of aesthetic you were trying to achieve.
When we first met Cynthia, we knew we would get to play with bold colors and textures. She is the color queen, and she has inspired us in so many ways. We were so excited about this opportunity because we knew the result would be something extraordinary. We were ready to incorporate pattern, texture, and bright colors (something Cynthia is SO GOOD at!).
Can you describe the process of fusing the original brownstone charm with modern updates? Did you hit any challenges during the renovation or design process?
Much of the design of a Brooklyn brownstone is already there. When there is a historic charm, we like to highlight it, but we aren’t afraid of going modern in other areas. We like the juxtaposition. We try to balance the restoration with the modern upgrades in a way that makes contrast complementary rather than competing.
There are constant challenges when renovating, especially in NYC! However, after we got over some of the building’s structural work, the design of #SimplyCynReno was a breeze. The architectural design of the home spoke for the space: beautiful arched bookshelves, custom niches. We knew Cynthia wanted to live in the space for a while before fully decorating, which is smart and how all renovations should work.
How do you feel your Walker Zanger selections influenced the overall look you were going for?
From our initial consultation at Walker Zanger, we knew we were in great hands. They listened to our ideas and Cynthia’s and helped us narrow down the selections. Sometimes going into a beautiful tile shop, such as Walker Zanger, we’re so overwhelmed with how many directions you can go. Seeing all of the tiles in person, and understanding how they would work together, helped build the design. We all enjoyed our visit to the showroom and left, so excited about what space could become.
Ellington Black & Gold on the floor and accent wall, and Ellington White & Gold on the opposite three walls.
This was a bold choice, but it’s a powder room and should be fun! One of the highlights of visiting the showroom was mixing these gorgeous art-deco-inspired tiles and seeing how they all work together. Seeing Cynthia smile when the two tiles were placed together was an instant a-ha moment where we knew we had a powder room! Stepping into the space feels like another world. The contrast between the white and black tile and, of course, the pop of the gorgeous brass inlay is a jaw-dropping experience. We are so excited for all of Cynthia’s guests to experience it!
Outdoor Deck Tile
Terracotta Star & Cross (star- white, cross- blue).
Cynthia loves to travel, and if you’ve seen her Instagram, you know she looks incredible wherever she travels. Color and pattern are a constant theme throughout her social media presence. With the contrast of the home and her new floor-to-ceiling glass wall, there is a slightly visible line of the deck from the entire parlor floor. This bright custom terracotta star & cross gives the space every pop of color that is as much part of the interior design as the exterior. It’s a striking pattern, and the rich blue and bright white are show-stopping. We only think of vacation whenever we see it. And who doesn’t want to feel that way when going outside!?
Bathroom Tile- Duquesa Fez Decorative Field- Grey, MILK CRACKLE 3 x12. One of our favorite things is mixing patterns. With the milk crackle 3 x12, we chose a herringbone pattern on the walls from floor to ceiling. It’s truly a herringbone paradise. Some might say this is too much, but it’s perfect for the new guest/kids’ bathroom. It has a feeling of tradition with a modern twist. Paired with the floor tile, Fez Decorative Field in Grey, the bathroom has an exquisite and classic feel. It’s just such a stunning space!
How would you describe your aesthetic in three words?
Organic, Modern, Honest
Where do you find inspiration?
Really from a bike ride around Brooklyn. There are so many different cultures, architecture, and styles throughout the borough it just always leaves us inspired. Peaking in floor-to-ceiling windows and seeing how one building right next to the other is completely different.
What’s your favorite part about designing?
We love transforming a space into something new, but being honest to its roots. The historic homes we design were here long before us, and we respect the gorgeous features that just need some love while modernizing them in a way that makes them beautiful, comfortable, and functional. We also love learning about how materials are made. Visiting showrooms and workshops where unique and special artisan-made items are produced is always a highlight.
What are your three top design tips for Brownstones?
1. Don’t be afraid to incorporate boldness- try painting a room a different color, add a bold tile in the new powder room, or have fun in one of the spaces!
2. Let the building speak for itself. When you walk in a brownstone (or historic home), find something original in the space you want to be featured. They really don’t make things the way they used to.
3. Bring something one-of-a-kind back into the home if it doesn’t have anything original. Spend ample time scouring salvage yards for an original door, a marble fireplace, anything to make the home have a mix of old meets new!