Smart Life

Home Tour: Sarah Jacobson’s Historic NYC Apartment

There are few issues that curiosity us greater than a stunning earlier than and after, so once we got here throughout Sarah Jacobson’s NYC renovation, we needed to know extra about it immediately. Between her residence’s pre-war appeal and her sheer expertise and bravado to tackle such a big mission single-handedly, we had questions—and numerous them.

Sarah’s pre-war residence wanted some severe assist when she bought it. With no expertise in renovations, she determined to steer the inventive imaginative and prescient and mission administration on her personal to make it a house, and the outcomes are swoon-worthy.

Classic components like uncovered brick and an vintage clawfoot tub assist the historic appeal of her residence shine, however fashionable artwork, lighting fixtures, and furnishings are combined in to create the right steadiness between outdated and new. If the considered this excites you and makes you wish to name a contractor instantly, you’ll love this interview with Sarah the place she explains each element of her Decrease East Aspect residence renovation.


Title: Sarah Jacobson
Pronouns: she/her
Location: Decrease East Aspect, New York Metropolis
Sq. Footage: 700-ish
Hire/Personal: Personal in a co-op constructing


You might be initially from Massachusetts and moved to NYC after school. What introduced you to NYC to start with?

I moved right here to work in promoting! I had interned at an company the summer season earlier than my senior yr and had been informed that if I acquired myself to NYC, a job supply would observe. My transfer to New York coincided with the 2008 recession, and so although I had certainly relocated (to a tiny and darkish residence within the East Village), no job supply got here. Corporations have been laying people off left and proper, and I spent my first 1.5 years in New York scrounging up an earnings by way of freelance writing gigs (I child you not, I spent hours writing 800-word, Search engine marketing-optimized articles about watches). My mother and father provided to assist me pay my lease for the primary yr in New York in lieu of grad college, an unbelievable privilege that ensured I may afford to remain, and inside somewhat over a yr, I had my first actual job as a copywriter. I’m endlessly grateful to them for that present; I don’t suppose I’d be in New York with out it.


Earlier than you turned a house owner, you lived in a couple of residences. How did you make these momentary areas really feel like house, particularly with roommates?

I used to be by no means afraid to do a bit of labor to my leases, whether or not that meant constructing a lofted mattress, swapping out lighting, or portray an accent wall within the hallway. I feel generally folks hesitate to make “massive” choices in rental areas, considering they’ll be dinged by their landlord or that it’s not well worth the effort. However that is your house! House is well worth the effort, even when you don’t intend to remain endlessly! And so a lot of these seemingly “massive” choices aren’t as tough as they appear. Swap out your boob lights for fairly fixtures, after which put the boob lights again earlier than you progress. Paint your bed room a enjoyable shade, then paint it white earlier than you progress out. I by no means as soon as regretted placing a little bit of money and time into my rental residences, as that’s what made them really feel like my very own. As for my roommates, most of them have been right down to let me do my factor, as long as I ran it by them first!



Whenever you purchased your residence, you knew that it was in determined want of renovations. How did you will have the bravery to tackle such a big mission?

Truthfully? I didn’t have the bravery, not utterly, anyway. One of the best ways to explain my emotional state on the time was what Glennon Doyle calls “scited”—a mixture of scared and excited. I used to be unqualified and in over my head, and part of me knew it. However on the identical time, I couldn’t wait. I’ve cherished design since I used to be somewhat lady (a lot to the chagrin of my mother and father, who needed to put up with the fixed rearranging and redecorating of my bed room), and the thought of having the ability to make like all of the bloggers I cherished and design my dream house from scratch was thrilling!

Enterprise such a giant mission alone (although I had a contractor and a personnel, all of the mission administration and artistic imaginative and prescient got here from me) was at instances overwhelming, however like so many issues, doing the large scary factor confirmed me that I may. I’d by no means earlier than needed to combat a contractor about why my “bizarre, stylish” tile flooring have been the appropriate alternative or argue with a countertop fabricator who explicitly ignored me after I informed him I needed a breakfast bar with an overhang and as a substitute fabricated a “flush to the cupboard” piece. However every time I had these arguments or pushed by sexism to realize my imaginative and prescient, it acquired somewhat bit simpler, and I acquired somewhat bit braver. It’s no surprise I’m itching to do all of it once more 😉



We will’t recover from how effectively you’ve maximized house in your entryway. There’s storage, that superb accent wall, and even somewhat workspace! How’d all of it come collectively?

Thanks! That entryway house really regarded fairly completely different after I first noticed the residence. There was a closet the place my work house is now, and a bizarre little nook the place my entryway storage is. Once I knocked out the closet to construct a breakfast bar and open up the kitchen, I knew I wanted to seek out one other house for coats and such. I confirmed my contractor entryway inspiration pictures, and labored with the man who was constructing out my closets to create a customized unit that completely match the nook. I had them construct as far up as they may (each inch of storage counts in a small residence!), and had a bench cushion made out of an outdated textile I discovered at Melrose Flea years in the past. Right now, that house is house to my coats, boots, and cleansing provides. 

Lastly, my work house. Actual discuss: that was a breakfast bar till Covid hit, and generally I really feel a lil pang of unhappiness after I see outdated photographs of it sans big monitor. However, such is life! Issues occur, and we have now to pivot. I’m so grateful I occurred to have that house to work out of; I feel I’d go nuts if I needed to sit at my eating room desk every single day. A few yr into WFH life, I splurged on a comfier counter stool, which was a sport changer, and I attempt to preserve my work stuff as cute as attainable to protect the prettiness and serenity of the house.


Do you will have any ideas for taking advantage of a small house for fellow residence dwellers? 

Oh my goodness sure. First off, make the most of the one above: construct up! In the event you’ve acquired 9 foot ceilings, use each inch of ’em! Search for useful furnishings—benches with storage in it, media consoles that may conceal all of the issues, under-bed containers to retailer your out of season sweaters. Storage options have come a great distance up to now few years, so when you can swing it, put money into prettier baskets and containers to corral all of the issues (I like Open Areas, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with up to now!). That approach, what “open storage” you do have (bookcases, bar carts and the like) isn’t only a pile of issues however reasonably a styled assortment. One of many issues I like about dwelling in a smaller house is that doing so forces you to be purposeful. All of my greater items are useful, and all of my smaller ones have a narrative. I’m additionally usually a follower of the “one in, one out” rule: if I purchase one thing new, I attempt to give one thing away. I do a giant closet clear out as soon as a season, and provides away the items that not communicate to me; I do the identical for my house not less than every year. That helps preserve issues streamlined, and ensures my closets and cupboards aren’t overflowing always.


The wallpaper in your lobby is in contrast to something we have now seen earlier than! Inform us extra about the place you bought it and why you selected it.

Although my entryway isn’t a separate house, I needed it to make a press release and have visible separation from the remainder of the residence. Enter: wallpaper! I’ve all the time cherished the Daydream wallpaper from Hygge & West (I first noticed it in a pal’s residence on a nursery ceiling) and thought the gold colorway would completely praise my big vintage mirror (which I purchased off a neighbor for $25 years in the past). Paired with the Moravian star pendant (from Worlds Away) and classic runner (from Etsy), the entryway is its personal little temper.



What do you contemplate to be your design model and the place do you suppose it comes from? I’m positive it has advanced over time, however do you end up getting inspiration from anywhere or individual particularly?

I all the time battle to reply this query, partially as a result of I feel a lot of excellent design is about listening to your house. A mid-century fashionable home in Palm Springs goes to inform you it desires to be one thing completely different from a pre-war residence in Paris. That’s to not say you possibly can’t go Parisian in Palm Springs or go uber-modern in Paris, however I feel there’s one thing extremely particular about paying homage to the bones or the historical past of a house. There are a handful of designers who I feel do that extremely effectively, Jessica Helgerson being my #1. She’s a professional at adapting her model to the house, whether or not it’s an outdated firehouse-turned-coffee store in Brooklyn or a tiny home in Portland.

All that stated, I feel I’d outline my model as layered, eclectic, and somewhat bit bohemian. I like a impartial base, however I wish to heat issues up with textiles, texture, and classic or vintage items. I like a mixture of outdated and new. My kitchen is the house that I feel greatest defines the above: Although I went for conventional (and a few would possibly argue overdone!) white subway tiles and white cabinetry, I took a threat on Moroccan-style patterned ceramic tile flooring, then added a layer of historical past with open cabinets common from reclaimed New York Metropolis scaffolding and vintage wrought iron brackets.


Let’s discuss in regards to the open shelving in your kitchen (which is beautiful, by the way in which). Why did you determine so as to add them as a substitute of additional cupboards when space for storing is *so valuable* in NYC?

Thanks! I’ll be sincere: Initially, this was a “type over operate” choice. Open shelving was all the trend in 2016, and I cherished the look of it. Additionally, though my kitchen is comparatively massive by NYC requirements, it’s not huge, and I fearful that cabinetry on each side would make the house really feel closed in after I needed mild and ethereal. I’m blissful to report that I made the appropriate choice, because it seems my open shelving is each aesthetically pleasing and extremely useful. Having my most-used, on a regular basis gadgets at arm’s attain vs. hidden in a cupboard makes them simple to seize and prevents them from getting dusty!


Your eating space is such a novel nook. Inform us what impressed it and, most significantly, the story behind the fuzzy chair covers!

Thanks! I like to cook dinner and entertain (effectively, pre-COVID I did!), and so I needed to make certain that I made house for a eating space, even when it needed to be a small one. I’ve all the time been a fan of Thonet chairs, and after I noticed the black ones I finally ended up snagging from Crate & Barrel, I believed they have been the right combination of outdated and new: They regarded like the true factor, however in contrast to a classic Thonet, they have been sturdy. That stated, wood chairs with zero padding aren’t all the time the comfiest, and comfortable is my jam, so I made just like the Scandinavians do, added sheepskin rugs as chair pads, and by no means regarded again!



The pre-war character of your property is so distinctive. Was it tough to keep up its appeal whereas making it really feel new and contemporary? How did you steadiness making it really feel outdated and new on the identical time?

Thanks! Once I began my residence search, pre-war was my #1 requirement. It’s comparatively simple to discover a new construct in New York, however I needed that historical past and appeal! My residence advanced was constructed within the Nineteen Twenties as a house for displaced clothes staff—it was really sponsored by the Clothes Staff Union! It options European-influenced Artwork Deco structure and contains facilities hardly ever seen on the time, resembling a nursery, a roof backyard, and an auditorium. Maybe my favourite characteristic is the enormous home windows, which will be present in each room. The residences have been designed to maximise airflow and daylight—one thing strongly absent within the tenement buildings that characterised the neighborhood again then.

With all this in thoughts, I needed to guarantee that my renovation was much less about “modernizing” and extra about restoring my residence to what I imagined to be its authentic glory. Slightly than placing in a standing bathe within the toilet, I splurged on an vintage clawfoot tub and had it refinished. I tore out the outdated, damaged penny tiles on the ground however changed them with the identical. I added crown molding all through and refinished the hardwood flooring, patching them within the locations that have been past restore. Although my furnishings and lighting fixtures are fashionable, I’ve infused vintage items all through the house and am continually on the hunt for little methods to make the historical past of the house shine.


Your front room decor is so stylish and full of non-public touches. What are a few of your favourite items?

Thanks! I feel my favourite piece (which I get requested about so much!) is the vintage dresser that sits beneath my TV. Although it’s nothing fancy (it’s really chipping in lots of spots!), it belonged to my grandma. In my earlier residence, it lived in my bed room, however after I moved right here, I spotted there was no bed room wall on which it would match, and pivoted to reuse it as a media console of types. Past that, I’m a fan of the mini disco ball I’ve hanging from my home windows, which dapples the whole lot in somewhat little bit of magic, and all of the flea market scores I’ve scattered round my bar cart and on my bookshelf. I like nothing greater than “the hunt” and should have one too many tchotchkes, however hey—not less than every of them has a narrative!


We love that you simply didn’t paint the brick in your front room and stored it authentic to the house. Was it in that good of form if you moved in, or what was the method wish to refresh it?

That is my favourite story to inform! Once I first noticed the residence, that stunning brick wall was totally hidden behind plaster. A month or so into my renovation, the electrician got here to relocate the shops (they needed to be moved greater to deliver them as much as code). To take action, the crew needed to chip away on the plaster. And guess what they discovered as soon as they chipped away on the plaster? Brick. The look my contractor gave me after I requested him if the whole lot behind the wall was brick may solely be described as pure hatred (chipping an enormous wall of plaster is not any enjoyable in any respect), however with somewhat persuasion, the wheels have been in movement, and inside every week, I had a wonderful uncovered brick wall the place one hadn’t been earlier than.

As a result of I needed to spend a bit additional for the crew to chip away on the plaster, I made a decision to depart it unsealed (paying to seal it could’ve been costly!). A few yr into dwelling with it, I spotted the wall was actually shedding mud and enlisted my mother and sister to assist me DIY seal it with a brick sealant I discovered at Dwelling Depot. A handful of hours and a few very achy arms later, it was not shedding, and I’m thrilled to say that almost seven years later, it’s holding up extremely effectively.

It’s by far my favourite factor about my residence (the one factor that might’ve pushed me additional into pre-war heaven would’ve been authentic tin ceilings!), and it feels all of the extra particular realizing that it had been hidden for many years and was technically found accidentally.


Artwork undoubtedly makes a press release in your house. The place do you supply from and which piece(s) do you’re keen on most?

I don’t actually contemplate myself any type of artwork connoisseur, and in consequence, I feel the artwork I personal is a bit all over. I have a tendency towards flea market finds and attempt to take into account that nearly something will be artwork (for instance, I’ve an outdated European eye take a look at chart I purchased at a flea market in Portugal in my bathroom!).

If I’m at a flea market/vintage store/thrift retailer, you will be positive I’m scouring it for classic prints and frames (keep in mind, you possibly can toss artwork you don’t love and reuse the body!). A few of my favourite artwork items are old prints I snagged for less than $10 and framed inexpensively.

For these simply beginning out/with smaller budgets, I extremely advocate on-line print retailers like Juniper. I’m a enormous fan of Jenny Komenda (a real inspiration and design weblog OG!) and what she’s executed with Juniper. I like how she sources completely different artists and curates collections, and I feel her design know-how fills a gap available in the market that different on-line print retailers can not match.

Etsy can also be a fantastic supply for digital downloads! I print from after which body in IKEA if I’m trying to be budget-friendly or Framebridge if I’m prepared to splurge on a customized body. Final fall, I did a room makeover for a member of my IG group in Brooklyn and sourced the entire artwork within the house from Etsy for underneath $50.

On the pricier facet, I not too long ago invested in a bit from an artist I discovered on Instagram named Benny Cruz and am saving up for a purchase order from Josh Young Design House (I like his aesthetic!). I think about my tastes will proceed to shift over time, however for now, I’m blissful to have an eclectic assortment–every bit has a narrative or reminiscence related to it, and that’s the way it needs to be!



There are a whole lot of books in your front room! What’s your favourite?

I LOVE to learn and normally get by 50 to 60 books a yr. I may discuss books all day lengthy, however I’ll spare you and inform you that if you’re to learn something, you need to learn Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, which is my favourite e book of all time. Eugenides is healthier often called the creator of The Virgin Suicides, however he gained a Pulitzer in 2003 for this epic novel, which is house to my favourite literary quote of all time and which I nonetheless take into consideration typically, regardless of not having learn it in years.


Can we take a second to speak about your clawfoot tub? It’s so dreamy, however how on earth did you discover it after which get it into your residence? What’s your recommendation for different renovators within the metropolis who must get bigger gadgets like home equipment, new cupboards, and tubs into their house?

OK, I do know I stated my brick wall is my satisfaction and pleasure, however can I say the identical about my tub? From the second I knew I’d be intestine renovating a rest room, I began fantasizing a couple of clawfoot tub. The one you see in my house had fairly the journey: It belonged to an outdated shopper of mine, who’d had it sitting in her storage for years. She offered it to me for $300 (a steal for an actual classic tub!), and I paid $600 to have it reglazed/made good as new.

As for getting it in right here, two of my very sturdy man associates drove out to stated shopper’s home in New Jersey and picked it up for me, loaded it in a van, after which by some means (to this present day, I don’t fairly understand how!) acquired it up the steps to my constructing and into my tiny Nineteen Thirties elevator. The factor weighs not less than 300 kilos, if not 500, and but they didn’t drop it as soon as. They acquired it into my front room, the place it sat for a great month earlier than being reglazed, and my contractor and his guys juuuuust squeezed it into the lavatory as soon as it was tiled. Although I’d measured, I hadn’t accounted for the depth of the tile, and the bathtub simply suits.

In New York, you want one thing known as a COI (certificates of insurance coverage) to maneuver something massive or heavy (home equipment, massive items of furnishings, and so forth.) into your constructing, however I by some means managed to sneak the bathtub in with out one. Shh—it’s our little secret.


Inform us about your toilet mirror. It’s the good dimension for the spot it’s in. Is that this a classic piece or did you particularly supply that for the house?

It’s classic! I’d been hoarding classic items for years; there’s nothing that makes me happier than a flea market day. This explicit piece was present in an vintage retailer in Maine. I purchased it with out 100% realizing it could match or work within the house (I’d closed on the residence however hadn’t but began demo), however it was solely $40 and I figured I’d discover a house for it someplace. This has usually been my strategy for all flea market finds: purchase now, discover a house for it later. It’s not failed me but!


We seen that your bed room is usually neutrals whereas the remainder of your property has pops of brighter colours. Is that this how you will have created such a vivid but cozy bed room? And what are your greatest ideas for doing so?

When you’re proper that I admire pops of shade elsewhere, I’ve purposefully stored my bed room largely impartial. New York Metropolis is a excessive vibrational place, and it’s necessary to me that my house—and my bed room particularly—is somewhat sanctuary amongst the craziness. My bed room is kind of small (although not a nasty dimension for NYC!), and the impartial shade palette helps it really feel mild, ethereal, and (I feel!) somewhat bit bigger than it’s.

Once I first moved in, I stored the bed room partitions white (the remainder of my house is painted a Stonington Grey by Benjamin Moore) however rapidly pivoted to grey so as to add a little bit of depth to the room. This paired with an all-white mattress (my #1 tip for making issues really feel calm and peaceable!) + mild, ethereal linen curtains = an area that looks like a deep, cleaning breath.




We will’t assist however discover the classic particulars and attention-grabbing lighting fixtures you will have in each room. The place are your favourite locations to buy decor that feels collected but curated?

Lighting is one among my favourite issues to buy—it’s unbelievable how a lot a brand new fixture modifications an area! There are roughly a zillion on-line lighting retailers, however I’m a fan of Schoolhouse Electrical (I’d say 50% of my lighting is from there!) and CB2 (an skilled at enjoyable, stylish items that don’t break the financial institution). I additionally love discovering one-off items at flea markets (damaged report over right here) or smaller Etsy retailers (Etsy is a treasure trove!). Anthro has a fantastic lighting choice however will be expensive, and I’d contemplate promoting a kidney for a Kelly Wearstler or Aerin piece. Lastly, if I may store at one retailer solely, it could be Jayson Dwelling—their ever-evolving, eclectic choice is actually unbelievable! I’d should win the lottery first, however hey, a woman can dream.


Now that your renovation is completed, what ended up being your favourite mission or transformation and why?

Oh gosh, don’t make me select! Can I choose three? Kitchen, as a result of I like to cook dinner and bake and it’s the right house for doing so. Brick wall, as a result of it was a shock. And toilet, as a result of clawfoot.


You point out eager to do one other massive renovation (doubtlessly a home upstate)! What excites you probably the most about taking over a mission on a a lot bigger scale?

Doing a intestine renovation alone meant that I made a whole lot of errors. There have been questions I didn’t know to ask, plans I ought to’ve made (lighting and electrical) however didn’t, choices I’d make in a different way if I may return in time. In brief, I really feel like I discovered a lot, and it’s a disgrace that I can’t return in time and put that information to work on this house, however it means I’ve acquired designs on doing it once more—however greater and higher.



Your cat, Penny, is virtually a star in your Instagram. How outdated is she, and why did you title her Penny?

I’m so glad you requested! She is certainly the celeb of the household. She’s 13 and is known as after the Beatles tune (her full title is Penny Lane, also referred to as Pen, P, Pens, Peepers, and, my private favourite, Penneluh, which is the Yiddish spelling!).


You have got contemporary flowers in nearly each room. What’s your favourite type?

It’s a tie between dahlias, ranunculus, and peonies.


We all know you like to cook dinner and bake. What’s your specialty?

Salted chocolate chip cookies!


In the event you may have lunch with any girl, who wouldn’t it be and why?

An not possible query! I’m going to present a writerly reply and say Nora Ephron. I’d even be thrilled to dine with any of the next girls: Lisa Taddeo, Brandi Carlile, Brene Brown, Shonda Rhimes, and Jodi Picoult.

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