Home Renovation After a Breakup

When Lindsay Weiss began renovating her home on the edge of Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, it wasn’t just an opportunity to give the place a new look — it was a chance to make a clean break from a failed relationship.

Ms. Weiss, an architect, bought the 922-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment with her boyfriend in 2008, for about $735,000, and filled it with a mix of furniture each of them owned and new pieces they acquired together. By 2011, they had broken up, and Ms. Weiss bought out her ex, who left almost everything behind.

For a few years, she focused on her work, doing her best to live in a home that cost plenty but didn’t make her happy. “I hated my furniture,” said Ms. Weiss, 41.

Credit…Robert Wright for The New York Times

After she founded the firm Weiss Turkus Projects with Noah Turkus, an interior designer, in 2014, she began dreaming about making a radical change at home, brainstorming design ideas with her new business partner. But as an architect with wide-ranging tastes, she found it hard to commit to one course of action.

“I didn’t know how much I wanted to spend. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was such a daunting task,” Ms. Weiss said. “I do this every single day, helping clients make these decisions, but it’s hard to pull the trigger yourself.”

By 2017, Mr. Turkus insisted it was time to take action. To get things moving, he suggested breaking down the renovation into a series of manageable decisions. “I was like, ‘Let’s get the flooring,’” said Mr. Turkus, 41. “Once we have our flooring, we can hit the ground running.”

Ms. Weiss selected wide-plank European white oak from Walking on Wood. Then, as if to prove to herself that there was no turning back, she cleared out her apartment, selling or giving away almost every piece of furniture, except her mattress. “I just ripped off the Band-Aid,” she said. “I thought it was a good time to say goodbye to everything.”

Soon after, Ms. Weiss decided to replace the swing doors into the bedrooms with pocket doors, and to rip out the closets to make way for custom cabinetry. She stayed with a friend for a few weeks while much of the apartment was gutted and moved back in as the new floors started to go down, carrying her mattress from room to room to stay out of the way.

Another early decision, which inspired much of what followed, was the material for the kitchen counter: Dzek Marmoreal, a terrazzo with large chunks of marble in various colors.

“I had been trying to use it in our projects, but nobody would really go for it,” Ms. Weiss said. “It had the color palette for my entire apartment in it, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. It set the stage for every other choice.”

She decided to keep the existing kitchen cabinet framework, but updated it with new lacquered doors. And when she wavered on what color to make those doors, Mr. Turkus came up with an ideal choice: Benjamin Moore’s Regent Green, which picked up on one of the colors in the counter.

With each decision — and with Mr. Turkus providing a steady stream of ideas and encouragement — Ms. Weiss grew more emboldened, searching for ways to amp up the apartment’s character by tapping into their network of artisans.

For the foyer, she hired Lillian Heard, a decorative plaster artist, to finish a wall with mottled waves of terra-cotta orange. In the guest bedroom, which doubles as a home office, she covered the walls with vibrant green, flocked Moooi wallpaper from Arte, meant to resemble sloth fur. For a closet in the primary bedroom, she worked with Peg Woodworking to create doors covered in intricately woven cotton cord.

And when she was in need of a monumental piece of art to anchor the dining area, Ms. Weiss went to see her mother, Dale Weiss, a painter in Los Angeles. “I hauled home a piece of the Marmoreal,” Ms. Weiss said. “I picked out a bunch of acrylic paints that went with the palette and just told her I needed to fill up the whole wall.”

Most of the work was done by the summer of 2019, but by then Ms. Weiss and Mr. Turkus were finally on a roll. So they kept going, adding art and accessories. “It’s like a snowball rolling down a hill,” Mr. Turkus said, “taking on more and more, and becoming this much bigger thing.”

They finally considered the apartment finished in February, just in time to hunker down for the pandemic, at which point Ms. Weiss had spent about $200,000.

Mr. Turkus seems just as happy with the result as Ms. Weiss is. “I was really excited to watch her develop into a decorator, because so many architects don’t have that skill set,” he said. “She succeeded infinitely beyond my expectations.”

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