A.J. Hassan and Jessica Berger must have great imaginations. When the couple were on the hunt for a home, they looked at a Lincoln Square two-flat with an odd floor plan (there was a bathroom in the middle of the first floor) and a wildly unkempt yard. Ignoring those unfavorable qualities, the couple were able to see their dream home: a two-story house inspired by midcentury-modern decor, but with an eclectic flair.
Hassan, 37, and Berger, 32, purchased the home in September 2009 and moved in during July 2010. In between, they completely renovated the space. They crashed with a good friend (who happens to live down the street), and documented the progress of the remodeling on a blog. “We walked by every day; it was fun to see the process,” Berger says.
When Hassan, a writer who works in advertising, and Berger, foundation relations manager at the national office of the YMCA, say they gutted this place, they mean it. “The first-floor apartment was divided up into small rooms,” Hassan says. “It had a mini bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom in the middle of the floor plan.” “It’s not a huge house,” Berger adds. “So we really wanted to maximize the space. And once we opened up this area, it just feels a lot bigger.”
Knocking down walls created a spacious living area and room for the salvaged farm table they purchased from Scout. (In fact, many of the standout items in the home come from Andersonville’s home-decor shops, including Roost and Urbanest.) The sleek, modern kitchen was designed by Archisesto Inc., a local company that specializes in contemporary Italian design (Hassan is often inspired by European home-decor magazines). While everything in the kitchen looks high-end, Hassan worked hard to find good deals on expensive-looking items. Two of her sources include Remodelista.com and Overstock.com. “Deep sinks and industrial-looking faucets can be really expensive,” Hassan says, “so we tried to be smart about where we could do some shopping around.”
The one feature in the house that survived the renovation is the main winding, wooden staircase. “That was the selling point for me,” Berger says. The couple also rearranged the layout of the second floor. And in doing so, they exposed a gap where the top of the stairs meets the floor. They solved that eyesore with the help of their contractor, Mike Downing, by installing a small glass bridge over the spot. “It’s a really sturdy glass, like the kind they have at the Apple Store,” Hassan says.
Just as that modern glass bridge resides next to a traditional wooden staircase (now painted ebony), many textures coexist within the couple’s home (such as the two types of wood mixed with tiles in the master bathroom). When it comes to personal taste, Hassan says she leans more toward minimalist decor. “But she [Berger] has more of an eclectic style, which helps add textural elements,” Hassan says. “We’re a good pair that way.”