“Buying a townhouse was the final stage of moving seven times in 12 years,” admits Alex White, fashion stylist and proud owner of a fully renovated, light-flooded brick Brooklyn Heights townhouse. “We wanted a home that we could put our own stamp on, where we could raise our two children.” Their forever home went from a one-bath Greek Revival that needed a lot of love to a lavish four-bedroom owner-occupied triplex perched atop a one-bedroom garden rental. “The [garden] the apartment was necessary,” says White’s partner, Shaheen Knox.
To get from there to here, White and Knox sifted through a bunch of fixer-uppers, finally landing on a 25-foot-wide, sun-drenched house on a quiet New York street just one block long. The fact that their residence was part of a neighborhood organization that hosted lunches and festive street parties was another big attraction. “I grew up in the country, so we liked that tight-knit community,” White says. As well as a large yard, where the couple’s son could play basketball. “I’m obsessed with daylight, and this house isn’t particularly deep, so you get a lot of western light. It had a lot of skylights and we added three more plus a back wall of glass.” The venture required an architect, but mostly just configuring the HVAC and one I-beam, as well as working on permits. Tom Van Den Bout of NV Design Architecture led those efforts. The rest was a personal labor of love.
The couple had renovated lofts before, but building the 5,000-square-foot home promised to be a process. They lived in the unrenovated space for five years, saving money and tearing up the sheets that inspired their vision. White kept fabrics from the Prada fashion show she worked on (which were eventually used to upholster the headboard of the primary room) and objects collected from world travels, such as an early 20th-century Venetian mirror from the estate of Oleg Cassini. Some of the couple’s favorite items—rare 1990s Marc Newsom dining chairs, a Paola Navona table, a 19th-century Austrian slipper chair—had been waiting for the perfect spot in storage for years. The couple scoured showrooms and bought deeply discounted floor models from high-end suppliers like Boffi to stick to their budget. They moved into two different apartments during the two-year renovation. First of all, they were patient, they hired subcontractors for different parts of the work.
A few years of inconvenience paid off in a big way. Now the White-Knox household hosts cookouts on their back patio and small dinner parties at their vintage dining room table. Each member of the family has added something to the design of the home: the first thing most guests will notice is the Chanel surfboard hanging on the living room wall. “I worked with Karl Lagerfeld for a number of years and someone must have heard how much I wanted this surfboard that I saw once at a Chanel event years ago in the Hamptons,” White recalls. “And when we finished renovating the house, Chanel’s surfboard magically arrived! It’s such a fun piece. It brings touches of my work into the home in a subtle way.”
Now the residence is a true reflection of all four family members and their shared lives and history. “We have a pillow on the sofa upstairs that [our son] Harrison gave us. [Our daughter] India’s room is the happiest space, all in fuchsia. All of our personalities are visible in little nods throughout town hall,” says White. “Everyone contributed. And that gave our home a lot of shine.”