Blank Canvas: Art Leads the Way in this Downtown Brownstone

A spacious, airy home boast a roof deck with a view of the city skyline.
by Ayn-Monique Klahre | photography by Brie Williams

Right at the expanding edge of downtown is a new development of row homes, rising from what used to be a parking lot. And this home, in particular, is a gracious example of urban living: it has a mostly open floor plan inside and out, with built-in nooks and smart seating arrangements throughout to invite cozy moments.

Greg Paul Builders began the interior construction of the home, and when it came time to design the space, the homeowners tapped Judy Pickett and her Design Lines team for the living and dining areas, kitchen and rooftop. Their directive: the homeowners were moving from a historic home, and were ready to “start fresh” in this space. “We wanted to be more urban and live with less flourish,” says the homeowner. The only things they really wanted to carry over from the previous home were a handful of family pieces and their extensive collection of art. “They wanted a new and different look, but their beautiful art collection was the departure point,” says Pickett. “It was a gift to have that curated collection.”

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Along with Christie Stewart, Pickett started in the living room, anchoring it around a large Jason Craighead canvas. “Its neutrality and energy really spoke to me, and the size was perfect,” says Pickett. In the adjacent den, a kinetic painting by Chinese artist Aniwar Mamat pops against the darker furnishings; there, the Design Lines team played off its tones in brass-trimmed furniture and a colorful book collection. In the all-white kitchen, an abstract by James C. Leonard offers a counterpoint to the gleaming surfaces.

Beyond working with the art, the biggest challenge of this home was to create distinct spaces within the open floor plan, while keeping it feeling comfortable and uncluttered. Design Lines did this through a mix of furniture arrangements, built-ins and rugs that define each of the smaller spaces. On the rooftop, for example, they created four distinct “rooms” from the open area: a living area under a pergola with adjustable shades; a dining area with a long table; a reading nook with a comfy chaise and a spot for intimate meals at a smaller table. Inside, Design Lines used lighting elements that echo each other from one space to the next, and movable furniture that bridges each room.

The result is both grand and intimate, where neutral furnishings invite guests to become as much a part of the home as the artwork. “The people are part of the design,” says the homeowner. “Everyone is a participant here, no one is an observer.”