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Designer’s Notebook- Modern Simplicity Meets Old World Charm

Fresh and fun, with a nod to tradition, designer Alison Jennison's eclectic Brooklyn home is a lesson in style

In a word, Alison Jennison’s home is bold. A mix of warm, natural elements with touches of bright, eye-catching colour, it’s a lively mix of materials coming together to create a space that’s finished yet casual, and one that offers a decided nod to her love of the fine arts.

“Growing up, I always envisioned myself as a painter,” Jennison says. Having attended Moore College of Art in Philadelphia before moving to New York City, she began working as a stylist in the fashion industry. Finding that world too stressful, she moved to the corporate arena, managing people and projects, and travelling extensively throughout the world before feeling the pull to design. “I realized I was missing a creative outlet and I wanted to find a way to mix my business acumen, project management skills and love of art. It dawned on me that pursuing interior design was the perfect fit.”

Rising Star

After graduating at the top of her class from the New York School of Interior Design, and with three years of experience working alongside Blair Harris at her New York City firm under her belt, Jennison launched her own brand, A. Jennison Interiors. Deemed an up-and-comer in the city’s design landscape—she was chosen by New York Cottages and Gardens magazine as a Rising Star for 2016—she sees her style as a marriage of modern components with Old World charm. “I aim to create spaces that feel like they have come together over time, as opposed to being done all at once. My style is eclectic but has strong traditional elements. I love combining pieces that feel like they have history with pieces that have a handcrafted feel.”

This unique approach to design is showcased in her stunning home in Brooklyn, New York. “My goal in designing the space was to make it feel both cozy and expansive,” she says of her 17-foot-wide residence. Taking advantage of every opportunity to accentuate her home’s length was key, hence her decision to open the back kitchen with glass sliding doors. Exposing the wood beams throughout the kitchen, living room and dining area also worked to increase vertical square footage. “It was a great move because it gave us an additional eight inches of height, while also adding such a lovely layer of overall warmth to the home.”

Clever Contrast

Salvaging as many original features as possible also worked to that end. “Exposing the hidden brick meant adding another layer of warmth, and highlighting an original fireplace did the same. Choosing light maple floors and white walls really encourages light to bounce around the space, and the dark kitchen cabinets provide a similar effect. “Whenever I walk into the kitchen, I’m reminded of how much I love the contrast between [the cabinets] and the white glazed brick backsplash.”

That said, overhauling the space wasn’t without its challenges—especially staying on budget. “Keeping myself in line financially was my biggest constraint because my husband allowed me to have full control in terms of design. Spending my days looking at, and sourcing beautiful things for my clients definitely made it difficult to finalize some of my choices. But being strict on the budget was very helpful in keeping me in check.”

A Budget can be Beautiful

But keeping a keen eye on the budget, she says, unearthed a treasure trove of beautiful and affordable design elements that Jennison has fallen in love with. “The exposed beams, brick and fireplace are some of my favourite parts of this renovation, but these features are made all the better because of the lighting throughout the house. I think I chose some really pretty and budget-friendly fixtures; the opaque blown glass globes from Token NYC have to be my favourite.”

Now that her reno is complete, what’s Jennison’s advice for those considering an intensive update to their home? For starters, get some professional help. “If you can find room in your budget, hire a designer. Having someone who has been through the process on your side is key. It’s so easy for all the little details that make a home feel special to be overlooked otherwise,” she says. “And remember: the whole point of taking on something like this is to make it your own—having the right team in place is the best way to make that happen.”

“The world is in such a state of constant change, and my outlook is that our homes are our safe spaces,” she says. “They should feel warm and lived in, and have a strong sense of who we are as individuals and families. I love being able to help my clients figure out what that means to them.” 

-by Liz Bruckner, Photography By Jessica Glynn