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This 1906 Brooklyn Home is a Time Portal to Victorian Style Decor

by Debbie Stoller

In the heart of Brooklyn, surrounded by streets filled with brick apartment buildings and fast-food joints, sits a strangely untouched neighborhood of stately Victorian homes. One of these belongs to artist/director Syrie Moskowitz (@westminstershabbey) and her music-producer husband, Stuart Matthewman. The couple purchased the home in 2019 and spent the pandemic years fixing it up.

Renovating an old house was nothing new for Moskowitz. “My mom’s obsessed with old Victorian houses, so we’d buy broken-down pieces of trash and renovate them. I grew up stripping floors, tiling, sheet rocking—I can do lots of that kind of stuff.” As a result, she did much of the work herself. “I was up a lot of ladders in 2020,” she says. The final result is as idiosyncratic as its neighborhood. The walls are covered in old-fashioned wallpaper, chandeliers hang from the ceilings, and the entire house feels like a cabinet of curiosities, with each of its 12 rooms decorated in a different style.

Every corner is filled with Moskowitz’s eclectic collections of endearing bric-a-brac: a miniature set of iron cats playing instruments (with one, inexplicably, tightening a corset) sits on a shelf; an assortment of thread on vintage wooden spools adorns the sewing corner; and a gallery of old botanical prints hangs in the stairwell. “I’m literally the anti-minimalist,” Moskowitz says, laughing. “I’m like, Marie Kondo, take that! It all gives me joy.”

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On the small plot of land surrounding the home, a rambling garden that includes over 65 different types of roses adds a romantic feel.  “I really wanted the garden—which is very loose and English in style—to connect with the interior. So all the wallpaper in the house, for the most part, is botanical in theme,” Moskowitz explains

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The dining room is the only area where the previous owner’s wallpaper remains. Moskowitz added blue butterflies and additional crystals to the chandelier above the table, and both the Victorian dining room table and sideboard were rescued from a neighbor’s attic, covered in coal dust. The room, as well as the home itself, is filled with Moskowitz’s varied vintage finds. “My mom is an antiques dealer and a lot of this stuff either came from her or she told me how to acquire it. She taught me how to hunt and find deals,” she explains.

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The wooden kitchen cabinets were already in the house, but Moskowitz painted them and added new appliances and fixtures. The contrast in styles between the bright kitchen and the darker, neighboring reading nook is intentional. “The idea for the kitchen was that there was an original Victorian element, with the William Morris paper and the Eastlake-style furniture,” says Moskowitz. “And then in the ’20s [I like to imagine] this girl came and was like, No, I want a modern kitchen. So she paints the kitchen that iconic ’20s green color and hangs her Art Deco light fixtures around, and then she kind of gives up.”

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Charming still lifes can be found at every turn; Moskowitz changes them with the seasons.

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The sewing corner boasts two antique sewing machines—one (shown) that belonged to Moskowitz’s mom, and another that Moskowitz still uses to sew her exquisite dress designs.

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Moskowitz says she wanted the house to “feel like you’re kind of in a tree house. All the rooms and hallways are different shades of green.” The wallpaper in the bedroom is modern and made to simulate silk tapestry; the gold headboard was a thrift store find.

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Affectionately known as “the little girl’s room,” the once-dark attic bedroom/workroom combo was brightened with lots of lace curtains. Moskowitz created the three-dimensional painted plaster tree to memorialize the 100-year-old Norway maple that stood in her backyard until it fell on a neighbor’s house and was cut down.

All interior photos by: Winnie Au 

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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