While spending much of the pandemic in their Catskills weekend home, New Yorkers Bill Caleo and Megan Noetzel realized it was time to make their relationship more permanent. “So much quality time together solidified the idea that we didn’t want to live apart any longer,” recalls Noetzel, an interior decorator. The couple, who have four children from previous marriages, began searching for a place back in the city that they could share as a primary residence.
The hunt first focused on town houses. Caleo is the cofounder of the Brooklyn Home Company, a real estate practice that counts brownstone renovations among its specialties. Caleo himself had occupied just such a quintessential Brooklyn building for the previous 18 years. “I didn’t know any other way,” he says of brownstone living. But as Noetzel pointed out the inconveniences of owning a freestanding home in New York, Caleo began “a latitude shift” about the type of building best suited for a blended family. Upon touring a sprawling 26th-floor space overlooking Brooklyn Bridge Park that was nearing the end of construction, he required no further convincing.
“It was unlike anything I had experienced in Brooklyn,” Caleo says of walking through the waterfront aerie. He and Noetzel confirmed their decision to purchase the tower apartment when its developer offered to “allow us to adapt it the way we wanted.”
Since its launch in 2006, the Brooklyn Home Company has developed an identifiable design vocabulary for both brownstones and medium-scale condominiums, which will be featured in a monograph published by Abrams this fall (full disclosure: This writer was responsible for the book’s introduction). For the firm’s projects, Lyndsay Caleo Karol, Caleo’s sister and the company’s creative director, conceived a toolkit of white-finished surfaces, natural woods, and traditionally crafted millwork in response to the daylight conditions and historic inspirations of Brooklyn. But the Brooklyn Home Company had never created one of these comfortable, transitional spaces in an all-new skyscraper, nor was the Brooklyn Bridge Park–based apartment required to stay on brand.
“I wanted to implement my own spin on the company’s tried and true values, in a way that was right for both the building and for Megan and me,” Caleo says of customizing the high-rise interior. Caleo collaborated with the Brooklyn Home Company’s principal interior designer, Holly Waterfield, on the project, with Noetzel having final say on decisions for the six-bedroom residence.
Of her introduction to the glassy space, Waterfield recalls thinking to herself, “Whoa, this is different.” In response to the challenge of working on such a contemporary project, “We zoned out the architecture a little bit, pretending we were in a town house,” she says, citing a molding-lined den as an example of that brownstone mindset.
But Waterfield adds that the project did pay close attention to the breathtaking views and incoming daylight, if not necessarily to the sleek building that frames them. “Take the living area. You’ve got the sky and Ellis Island and all of Manhattan laid before you, so of course the furniture plan needed to be oriented to the view, and the room needed to be monochromatic and quiet.” And whereas official Brooklyn Home Company undertakings hem toward white cabinetry, Caleo and Waterfield envisioned a walnut kitchen as a counterpoint to the living area’s flood of sunshine. In a similar vein, in addition to exercising her approval or veto rights, Noetzel spearheaded the use of floor-to-ceiling waterproof plaster in the primary bathroom, lending it the feel of a cloud suspended over the river.
“We were able to play with textures, colors, and forms that might not feel right in a town house or a smaller condo, while keeping it sun-drenched and cozy,” Noetzel says of adapting the Brooklyn Home Company’s point of view to the new residence. She also deems the experiment a success, noting, “My biggest joy comes from a Sunday morning in the apartment, when all four of the children are in the living area enjoying the beauty of the city.” Caleo echoes the sentiment, noting that the living area is equally special when taken in alone. “As somebody who is constantly on his phone, I can’t help but look out the window and be grateful for the view that we have,” he says.
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