A Nineteenth-Century Duplex in Brooklyn Heights

Interior designer Glenn Gissler called Manhattan home for nearly 30 years. Never did he think he’d find himself living in Brooklyn Heights in his mid-fifties as a single dad. “I’d been to Brooklyn Heights maybe five times in my whole life,” says Gissler. But a year ago, an afternoon of real-estate exploration with his daughter, Siena, 12, unearthed a two-story Victorian cottage that elicited an “Oh my God, Dad, this is so cool!” response. Three months later, they were Brooklynites.

The art-filled, 1,500-square-foot duplex is something of a departure from the “half-full, half-empty” design approach Gissler is known for—that a space should feel as empty as it is full. According to his theory, if there’s an entire wall of books in a room, there should be another wall left bare. “I’m a collector, so this is definitely more on the full side,” he says.

But in truth, aside from the addition of two walls (a large one separating his daughter’s room from the kitchen and a small one extending the sitting area upstairs), most of the transformation boils down to warm paint colors and an ingenious use of mirrors—and Gissler’s extensive collection of art and furniture.

“The biggest project was ‘un-kitchening’ the kitchen, which was also the entryway,” he says. Because it was the first thing guests saw when they entered the home, Gissler downplayed its functionality by replacing the see-through glass cabinets and backsplash with wire-glass mirrors, which splendidly bounced natural light around the first floor.

Upstairs, the dark-brown paint plays up the original wood beams and his selection of his artwork on paper. “It’s my Paris atelier,” says Gissler. “I never in a million years thought I’d have this. Who knew I just needed to come to Brooklyn to get it?”

The room is dotted with white accessories, like a mid-century ceramic lamp and throw pillows, to enhance depth and dimension. “I think of artwork over beds as thought clouds,” says Gissler. He’s placed a Tantric cosmological drawing by an unknown artist over his. Photo: Thomas Loof

Gissler has over 30 works of art hanging in his stairwell turned gallery space by the likes of Richard Avedon, Susan Rothenberg, and Sonia Gechtoff, to name a few. “I’ve been into art for a really, really long time,” he says. He displays his growing collection of early-nineteenth-century black basalt ware along a shelf in his stairwell. Photo: Thomas Loof

Picture lights were used to illuminate the bookcase. But instead of hanging them from a shelf, Gissler attached them to the ceiling to dramatize the effect. To make the small, recessed windows feel larger, Gissler placed panels of mirrors along the tops and sides. “It expands the openness and almost makes it feel like a wall of windows,” he says. Photo: Thomas Loof

Gissler used wire-glass mirror as the backsplash and cabinet-fronts in his kitchen. “Light is a constant problem in townhouses. You’ve got windows on both ends, but what do you do with the middle?” he says. “The mirrors do a nice job of making the whole room bright.” The kitchen is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Desert Twilight to match the stone on the dining-room fireplace. One of Gissler’s main objectives was “”un-kitchening’ the kitchen.” For countertops, he chose Uba Tuba, a dark-green granite. Photo: Thomas Loof

A Nineteenth-Century Duplex in Brooklyn Heights