Nick Glimenakis Photography

Brooklyn architect Roy Leone’s clients wanted to update their turn-of-the-20th century Brooklyn townhouse while honoring its elegant old bones. While many owners of aging homes decide to strip them to the walls and start over with all new interiors, the residents of this Park Slope rowhouse were determined to salvage as many of its historic design elements as possible. They asked Leone to rehabilitate the scratched, slightly slanting wood floors, restore the plaster crown molding, and refurbish the mantel even though the fireplace is inoperable. “There was a lot of character and charm in the house and the clients like the older, quirky stuff,” says Leone.

Nick Glimenakis Photography

Despite being adamant about preserving the home’s history, one thing the owners wanted to change was the placement of the kitchen, which was originally located on the ground level in a cramped corner with little exposure to natural light. It was up to Leone to transform it into the centerpiece of the renovated house so the new owners—a couple with three young children—could entertain and cook in style.

With the clients’ blessing, he relocated the kitchen to the second level, placing it front and center in the floor plan. The south-facing space is flooded with daylight from two floor-to-ceiling French casement windows and a patio door that provides access to a large deck. It is also connected to the den below via an open staircase, perfect for pre-dinner time when the husband and wife are cooking and the kids are relaxing downstairs.

The 300-square-foot room is anchored by a massive poured-in-place concrete island that provides a gathering spot for guests while offering plenty of storage underneath. Subtle color variations in the 4-foot-6-inch-by-9 foot-9-inch countertop give off a contemporary handmade vibe, says Leone. “I like the sheer size of it,” he says. “It’s a cool massive block sitting in the space.”

Although the new kitchen exudes low-key sophistication, it took quite a bit of planning to strike such an effortless feel. Leone and his clients thought about every piece of cookware, dishes, small appliances, and food items to ensure there was a place for everything. Much of it is hidden behind custom panels. “It’s all about making sure you have enough storage so that you have plenty of places to put the stuff that doesn’t look so good when it’s out,” he says. “Then you can carefully curate what you put on the open shelves.”

Simple detailing on lacquer-finished MDF cabinets, muted paint colors, and an onyx backsplash laid in a chevron pattern complete the contemporary feel while blending with the elegance of the original house. “It’s a fresh and modern look but not out of place,” says Leone.