Like many buyers, Lilly Burns and Tony Hernandez set some parameters to narrow their online search when they began looking for an apartment in Brooklyn in early 2018. In particular, “Our search was in elevator buildings only,” said Ms. Burns, 34, a daughter of the filmmaker Ken Burns, who, along with Mr. Hernandez, 46, is a partner in Jax Media, a television and film production company that has worked on shows like “Russian Doll,” “Emily in Paris” and “Search Party.”
What the couple didn’t anticipate was that their search would also turn up single-family homes with elevators.
“We were not thinking we wanted to live in a townhouse,” Ms. Burns said. But when they discovered a listing for a newly constructed house in Boerum Hill — with 5,000 square feet, four stories and its own elevator — they began to entertain the option.
“It was truly an accident of the search settings,” she said.
Lilly Burns and Tony Hernandez, now expecting their third child, bought a new townhouse with an elevator in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, and hired D2 Interieurs to personalize it.Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
After seeing the home in person, there was no turning back. “We came and looked at it, and it was just a little bit undeniable in terms of lifestyle,” she said, particularly as she and Mr. Hernandez had plans to expand their family. (They now have two children — Jax, 12, and Lou, 2 — and Ms. Burns is expecting again.) “As someone who has lived in the city for a really long time, it had these kind of inconceivable elements, like a parking space, a backyard, all these windows, this huge space and this giant basement.”
The couple bought it that March for about $5.9 million. While they loved the architecture of the space, which includes a dining room with a section of glass flooring that allows sunlight from skylights to flood the basement media room, they wanted to make sure the interiors had personality. So before moving in, they brought in Denise Davies, of D2 Interieurs, a design firm based in Weston, Conn.
Ms. Burns and Mr. Hernandez had met Ms. Davies a couple of years earlier, when they commissioned D2 to design their country house in Redding, Conn. During that project, they were impressed with Ms. Davies’s ability to divine their sense of style with little guidance, delivering a turnkey home with every last throw pillow in place.
“With the Connecticut project, we were so busy with work that we just made all decisions over email,” Ms. Burns said. “She is amazing at managing, sending options, overseeing it all, making all the right decisions and serving as a proxy.”
For the couple’s Brooklyn home, Ms. Burns told Ms. Davies that they were hoping for a slightly Parisian vibe, with modern furnishings set off by classic architectural details. And they wanted every room to feel extremely comfortable.
As Ms. Davies said, “We really wanted it to look like everything had been there for a while, not like a brand-spanking-new townhouse that just went up.”
For character, Ms. Davies added touches like trompe l’oeil wallpaper resembling three-dimensional wood to the ceiling of the entrance hall, and a slate backsplash along with open wood shelves to the kitchen. She also lined the walls of the elevator with colorful geometric Kravet wallpaper for a blast of pattern.
For comfort, and to encourage casual family hangouts, she designed a deep built-in sofa for one side of the kitchen. In the media room, she installed an enormous custom sectional similar to the one she put in the couple’s Connecticut house, because she already knew they loved it.
Then she added many pieces from local designers and manufacturers, including Well pendants by Allied Maker above the kitchen island, and Circuit sconces from Apparatus and a Modo chandelier from Roll & Hill in the living room.
Ms. Burns and Mr. Hernandez brought their own eclectic art collection to the mix, which includes pieces by Henri Matisse and a work by Alia Shawkat, the star of “Search Party.”
Compared with the colorful, high-energy vibe of the other rooms, the couple’s bedroom feels calm, with a palette of off-whites and pink-y taupe. “We were hoping to create a master that felt like a hotel room,” Ms. Burns said. “My husband and I both love to stay in hotels, and whenever we travel for work that’s a real plus of the experience.”
Most of the work was completed in a few months, before the family moved in during the summer of 2018, although Ms. Davies continued to fine-tune and add finishing touches until the end of that year. In total, Ms. Burns and Mr. Hernandez spent about $500,000 on the interior design.
Now they are thrilled with the townhouse they didn’t know they wanted — as well as the elevator that helped them find it.
“This crazy elevator is something we wouldn’t have ever thought we would want or need, but somehow use all the time,” Ms. Burns said, especially for schlepping laundry and luggage. “Never underestimate your laziness.”
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