Apartment tour: 2BR in Brooklyn Heights

Neighborhood veteran and real-estate guru Zelda Josephs matches her Zen-like abode with a killer view.

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  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Independent real-estate broker Zelda Josephs (zeldajosephs.com) has occupied her airy 22nd-floor perch for the last 27 years, sending her kids off to college and witnessing the first month of her granddaughter's life from within its walls. Since purchasing the corner apartment---complete with a 1,000-square-foot terrace boasting an unobstructed view of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline---in 1984, she embarked on a lengthy renovation. "A couple of years ago, I looked outside and I said, I'm here till the end, and I might as well make it fabulous," she explains. "I wanted it to float and glow. And it does."

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Everything in this apartment is natural," notes Josephs. "It's stone, it's stainless, it's wood." That includes her Brazilian walnut floors and neutral granite countertops, both from Foro Marble Company (140 3rd St between Third Ave and Bond St, Gowanus, Brooklyn; 718-852-2322). "Whenever I entertain, everybody just hangs out around the counter," she says. "The last party I had lasted until one in the morning. It starts and ends around the kitchen counter."

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "There were two main men in my life," says Josephs. "One did the paintings and one did the tables." That explains the earthy dining slab, which was crafted from a redwood tree from Big Sur, California, by her friend Jake Solomon. The other man, painter Bear Espinoza, is well represented throughout the apartment; this modern gem, however, is by local artist Joseph Stabilito (josephstabilitopaintings.com). In the corner, she hangs a vintage Artemide lamp that was purchased from a friend who moved to Italy.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Josephs used to have a grand piano, but traded it in for a less monstrous instrument. "I've been playing the harp for about seven years," she proclaims. "It was a fantasy of mine from the time I was about ten. When you strum it, it sounds like heaven."

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    The mod chairs were an affordable find at Tribeca Decor, while Josephs picked up her minimalist sofa at Crate & Barrel (611 Broadway at Houston St, 212-780-0004 * 650 Madison Ave at 59th St, 212-308-0011 * crateandbarrel.com). Her sun-inspired mirror was purchased from a street vendor on Montague Street. "This guy was selling different mirrors from Mexico," recalls Josephs.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "This was a Jake," Josephs says of her trunk-turned-coffee-table, referencing furniture maker Jake Solomon again. "He was very influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright." After filling the top's grooves with glass and pennies, Josephs settled on a mass of pearly beads. "I did that and I thought, Well, it's kind of sparkly."

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Josephs discovered this Buddha statue at Overtures (216 Hicks St between Montague and Remsen Sts, Brooklyn Heights, 718-643-9345). "I thought I'd put it on the terrace, but it never made it out the door," she laughs. "My daughter came here and said, 'Ma, I like that.' I said, 'Forget it, you can't have it.'" She places her treasured find on top of a light-up cube from Design Within Reach (locations throughout the city; visit dwr.com).

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "It's quite a daunting thing to do a renovation," admits Josephs. "You're expressing who you are. And it's tough---it's like, Who am I?" The kitchen was particularly difficult to figure out, since the cabinets and countertops Josephs originally envisioned didn't fit into her budget. With guidance from her contractor Donald Butler (donaldbutlerandson.com), however, she achieved a sleek, contemporary look by raising the ceiling and adding a stainless-steel backsplash. "It's like an exquisite slow dance," says Josephs regarding the back-and-forth with her contractor. The space-age stools came from Tribeca Decor.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Now that the apartment is all hers, Josephs used the extra space to create a sun-filled study. Her abode's all-white walls were a conscious decision. "The contractor said, 'What color are you going to paint it?' and I replied, 'You're looking at it,'" recalls Josephs. "I have this view and I don't want to compete with it---there's no competing with it." The crisp white sofa was ordered online from ShangriLa Furniture (shangrilasofa.com), while the chrome end table is from Ikea (1 Beard St at Otsego St, Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-246-4532, ikea.com).

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    This sturdy desk was another creation by Jake Solomon. "This was made with Japanese joinery," notes Josephs. "One day, I was at the Met, and I was in the Japanese section and I saw tables like this. I said, 'Shucks, I've got museum-quality stuff and I didn't even know it!'"

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "That was another little Jake thing," Josephs says of the tiny bronze mouse that sits on top of her desk. "Apparently, a friend of my daughter's had one that her grandfather owned. It's an antique."

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Josephs adorns her study wall with photographs of the view from her terrace. "I woke up one morning and looked outside, and I saw pieces of the tower of the Brooklyn Bridge. Everything else was in a fog," she remembers. "It was so ethereal, so I grabbed my camera and ran outside. A friend of mine who is a photographer said, 'Zelda, you've got to print these.'"

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "There used to be an ABC Carpet & Home (abchome.com) in Dumbo where they would sell things for less," says Josephs, wistfully remembering the discount spot where she scored her dreamy white duvet. The painting above the bed is by Netherlands artist Stephanie de Ganon (stephaniedeganon.com). "It's an Italian love letter," she explains. "The Italian is just so beautiful: 'My dear, I miss you from the bottom of my heart, I can't breathe'---that kind of thing."

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    This antique vanity and mirror belonged to Josephs's mother. "I always loved it, so years and years ago, she said, 'Take it.' I've had this for 35 years," she muses. "She's no longer with us."

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Another hand-me-down from Josephs's mother, this white armchair conjures fond memories. "When I was in high school, I'd come home from school and curl up and fall asleep in that chair," she recalls.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    This embroidered pillow was a flea-market find. "I had it cleaned and intended to give it to my son," says Josephs. "Then I thought better of it and decided to keep it myself."

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Josephs finished the bathroom in soothing, neutral Travertine tiles from Home Depot (locations throughout the city; visit homedepot.com) and replaced the frosted window with clear glass. "When you take a bath, it frames the Empire State Building," she says.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "I do dinners, terrace openings, terrace closings---any excuse to have parties," Josephs says of her penchant for entertaining on the patio. "I had people over for dinner three weeks ago and it was 80 degrees. We had our appetizers and our wine outside."

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Josephs's apartment has seen a lot over the nearly three decades she's lived there. "I have two teenage granddaughters," she says. "It seems like two weeks ago that my daughter was pacing the terrace in labor."

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Independent real-estate broker Zelda Josephs (zeldajosephs.com) has occupied her airy 22nd-floor perch for the last 27 years, sending her kids off to college and witnessing the first month of her granddaughter's life from within its walls. Since purchasing the corner apartment---complete with a 1,000-square-foot terrace boasting an unobstructed view of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline---in 1984, she embarked on a lengthy renovation. "A couple of years ago, I looked outside and I said, I'm here till the end, and I might as well make it fabulous," she explains. "I wanted it to float and glow. And it does."

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Grand Central Showroom (19 Bond St at Lafayette St; 212-777-7984, centralplumbingspec.com)
Josephs was impressed by the prices and service at this appliance and fixture showroom. "The price for a Kohler bathtub was less than at Home Depot," she marvels. "All of the bathroom fixtures—the sinks, the toilets—came from there."

Overtures (216 Hicks St between Montague and Remsen Sts, Brooklyn Heights; 718-643-9345)
"It's a very sweet gift store with cards, some handpicked jewelry and other odds and ends," says Josephs, who scours the spot for decorative knickknacks. "One never knows what you can find in there."

Tribeca Decor (358 Broadway between Franklin and Leonard Sts; 212-274-1852, tribecadecor.com)
Josephs found the retro stools at her kitchen counter and the mod swivel chairs in her living room at this furniture mecca. "They're copies of the real deal," she says of her swivel chairs, which are modeled after Finnish tulip chairs designed by Eero Saarinen. "They're extremely comfortable and they rise up and down."

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