After renting in SoHo for a few years, a couple of years ago Australian ex-pats Jeremyville and Megan Mair decided to take a leap of faith and invest in buying a house in New York . They researched every area – from upstate New York, to Harlem, the East Village, West Village. ‘We looked everywhere to find the best value, most amount of space, close proximity to Manhattan, lowest taxes, and great capital growth in the property’ says Jeremy. Their labour intensive search led them to Stuyvesant Heights, which offered value for money but most importantly, a great sense of community and a great number of period brownstones. ‘Actually many Aussies have moved to this neighbourhood, there’s also an Australian cafe called Brunswick right around the corner from us – great flat whites and avocado on toast!’ says Jeremy. (He mentioned this more than once during our visit, he REALLY loves that cafe!).
When Megan and Jeremy first took possession of their five (!) storey house, it required a bit of love. It wasn’t in bad shape, but had previously been subdivided into three separate apartments across all five floors. This industrious pair wasted no time in restoring the house and turning it back into a single family home. A kitchen on the third floor was removed, returning this level to a spacious bedroom floor with attached sitting room. The beautiful original staircase was restored with the help of a local carpenter, who reinstalled original banisters that were stowed away in the basement in miraculously perfect condition, and recreated a staircase rail to match for the upper floors. Five marble fireplaces were also discovered during the renovation process, concealed under countless layered of paint – these were stripped back and returned to their original form.
Megan and Jeremy also updated the colour scheme throughout. A classic grey and white palette was used in the main rooms, and a soft mossy grey/green on the bedroom floor. ‘We wanted to achieve a classic yet contemporary feel’ says Megan.
‘We renovated and decorated each of the five levels in the home, but nothing major. It was a series of simple aesthetic changes that, when added up, created a totally new home.’ says Jeremy. ‘It’s still ongoing, the next phase is tweaking the lighting and installing more of our art collection. It’s really all the pleasurable changes, I don’t think we have the head space or time for a major renovation.’
What’s interesting about this home, is just how distinctly different it is from Megan and Jeremy’s usual style. Having previously lived surrounded by contemporary design in a loft apartment, the pair were totally inspired by the strong period features of this home, and were keen to embrace its aesthetic.
‘We totally embraced the period and style of the house, and decided it needed some classic antique pieces combined with a little modern flair’ Megan says. ‘I grew up with beautiful antiques in my family’s home, but up until this point, Jeremy and I have only lived with very modern furniture and interiors, so it was a fun challenge to start collecting antiques, and contrast these with contemporary pieces’.
Having lives in various kinds of homes both in Sydney and overseas over the years, what Megan and Jeremy have found interesting about living here is how each floor has its own unique atmosphere and specific function. ‘Every room in the house now has a function: The library, the informal sitting room, the formal Parlor floor, the dining room, the painting studio on the top floor’ says Jeremy. ‘I like the concept of specific feelings and times of the day for each room.’
Though they’re still very enamoured with life in Brooklyn, like many Australians, the ultimate arrangement for Jeremy usually means a good chunk of every summer is spent in Bondi!
‘Our first winter in this house was a brutal, freak polar vortex winter, so now we just close up the home around early January and go back to Bondi Beach for the Summer, and come back to New York from March onwards!’ says Jeremy, who has an office in Sydney, and works wherever he is. ‘I think personally I need that mental escape from New York, as I grew up in Tamarama, near Bondi Beach, so I miss the ocean. New York Brownstone living is very different from a casual beach lifestyle. It’s much more formal and grown up in comparison. I need to wear my flip flops back in Bondi for a while. Somehow thongs don’t really fit the brownstone aesthetic!’