“Buying a town house was the final stage of moving seven times in 12 years,” admits Alex Whitea fashion stylist and the proud owner of a gut-renovated Brooklyn Heights brick town house that’s flooded with light. “We wanted a home that we could put our own stamp on, that we could raise our two children in.” Their forever home went from a one-bathroom Greek Revival in need of much love to an exuberant four-bedroom owner’s triplex set atop a one-bedroom garden rental. “The [garden] apartment was essential,” White’s partner, Shaheen Knox, says.
To get from there to here, White and Knox viewed loads of fixer-uppers, finally landing on a 25-foot-wide home awash in sunshine on a quiet New York street that’s only one block long. The fact that their residence was part of a neighborhood organization that hosted potlucks and festive street parties was another big attraction. “I grew up in a village, so that tight-knit community appealed to us,” White says. So did the expansive backyard, where the couple’s son could play basketball. “I’m obsessed with daylight, and this house is not particularly deep so you get a lot of westerly light. It had a lot of skylights, and we added three more plus a back wall of glass.” The undertaking required an architect, but mostly to just configure the HVAC and the one I-beam, as well as to work on the permitting. Tom Van Den Bout of NV Design Architecture spearheaded that effort. The rest was a personal labor of love.
The couple had renovated lofts before, but undertaking a 5,000-square-foot home promised to be a process. They lived in the un-renovated space for five years, saving money and tear sheets that helped inspire their vision. White held onto fabrics from a Prada fashion show she was working on (which were eventually used to upholster a primary-room headboard) and objects collected from global travels, like an early 20th-century Venetian mirror from the estate of Oleg Cassini. Some of the couple’s favorite furnishings—rare 1990s dining chairs by Marc Newsom, a table by Paola Navone, a 19th-century Austrian slipper chair—awaited the perfect placement in storage for years. The pair scoured showrooms and purchased floor models at steep discounts from high-end suppliers like Boffi to stick within their budget. They moved into two different rentals during the two-year renovation. Most of all, they were patient, hiring subcontractors for different parts of the job.
A few years of inconvenience paid off big time. Now the White-Knox household host cookouts on their back patio and small dinner parties at their vintage dining table. Every family member added something to the design of the home: The first thing most guests will notice is the Chanel surfboard hanging on the living room wall. “I worked with Karl Lagerfeld for a number of years, and someone must have heard how much I wanted this surfboard I had once seen at a Chanel event many years ago in the Hamptons,” White recalls. “And when we finished renovating the house, a Chanel surfboard magically arrived! It’s such a fun piece. It brings touches of my work into the home in a subtle way.”
Now the abode is a true reflection of all four family members and their shared lives and history. “We have a cushion on the sofa upstairs that [our son] Harrison gave us. [Our daughter] India’s room is the happiest space, all fuchsia. All of our personalities are seen in little nods throughout the town house,” White says. “Everyone contributed. And that has given our home a lot of sparkle.”