"We did everything backwards," Jesse Armstrong tells me as we walk through the immaculately renovated 1901 townhouse that she bought with her husband Thom 7 years ago. At the time, the two weren't married, and were just in their mid-20s. But Jesse had been living in a condo in South Slope, "one of those new buildings with no detail whatsoever," and wanted "a project and a dining room" and certainly found one on a recently landmarked street in Crown Heights. So Thom and Jesse bought the townhouse together (the "pocket doors are what sold it to me," says Thom) and set to work restoring elements that had been the victims of a bad '70s renovation, and married a few years later. Their home is a beautiful combination of modern design sensibility and period detail including incredible fireplaces and the house's original inlaid mirrors, and is the perfect place to entertain—which they do often—or just hang out with their two small dogs.
And as much as their house has changed in the last 7 years, the neighborhood they live in has transformed as well. "When we first moved here," Jesse says, "our friends called it the B&B, because there wasn't that much around and they would always think of coming out here like they were traveling, and we were the destination. Now it's great because our friends will just be around the corner at a bar and we don't need to convince them to come out." One of the main differences has definitely been the addition of many new destination spots for eating and drinking. There's certainly no shortage of places to go and Jesse tells me some of their favorites: "We go to Chavelas and Barboncino an unhealthy amount of times a week. And Franklin Park, which was one of the first bars we went to when we moved here, and now there's so much more around like Double Crown and so many other places. What we really need is a burrito joint or a Korean restaurant, that's my biggest hope."
Although the home is full of beautiful furniture—much of it sourced from eBay and then reupholstered—the walls are covered with meaningful art, including a painting with which Thom proposed to Jesse. When responding to the somewhat cheesy, but always revealing, question of what, other than living things, she would save in a fire, Jesse immediately answers, "The artwork. Everything else is replaceable. But I would want to save our ketubah and a couple of other sentimental pieces." And while the home wasn't renovated with the intention of selling it, Jesse could imagine living in Prospect Heights off Vanderbilt, on one of those "wide, tree-lined streets" and Thom could easily see living in Cobble Hill, ideally on Verandah Street. But as for leaving Brooklyn? Jesse laughs and says "Oh, is there any other place in the world? I'm unaware of another location."
Jesse and Thom