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Real Talk

The Brownstone Boys

With all of us spending more time than ever before in our homes, we were excited to chat with Jordan and Barry Bordelon, the professional brownstone renovators behind The Brownstone Boys. We got a sneak peek inside their own beautiful 130-year-old brownstone in Brooklyn, and jotted down their go-to renovation tips and recipes for making our time at home more enjoyable. Read on below. 

You guys are the owners of a beautiful 130-year-old brownstone in Brooklyn that you’ve been restoring. You also help other people restore brownstones. Can you tell us a little about your careers and how you got into home restoration? 

Our career backgrounds are in software sales and marketing, but we have both always had a passion for renovation, restoration, and historical brownstones in Brooklyn. We quickly realized this shared passion when we started dating. We decided to blog about our entire journey of renovating our home, and through the blog the community reached out to us for help. We were so fortunate to recently quit our full-time jobs to focus on this as a full-time career! We are currently project managers and designers for 7 full gut brownstone renovations in Brooklyn.

Pasta bowls in grey and short drinking glasses

You have a lot of great content on your website about restoration tips. What are your top pieces of advice for someone considering restoring a home?

1. Don’t be afraid of all of the beautiful original woodwork in a historic home covered in layers and layers of paint. Although it’s insane that someone would paint it all, it likely has been protecting the wood underneath for decades. All of it can be stripped off and the wood brought back to its original beauty.


2. If you’re restoring a home, you’ll likely need more mouldings, baseboard, and trim as you move a wall or repair damages. You can’t buy more original mouldings to match, but you can have it reproduced. It’s actually not much more expensive if you go to the right place.


3. No matter what else is going on, we are always happy to see when the floors of an old home are still level. Many are crooked and slanted after 100-150 years of settling. That can be fixed but it’s a big and expensive job. It is also a can of worms in that it produces a lot more work that will need to be done. If we see a place with level floors we know that it's a good foundation to build on even if it needs a lot of other work.

    This is a year when we’ve been in our homes more than ever before. Can you tell us your top 3 interior design/décor tips for turning your home into a happy place? 

    First of all, have an open mind about what the costs are. If you’re inexperienced in renovations almost everything is going to cost more than you think! There are also a lot of considerations you may not be taking into account. 

     

    Second, take your time! If you’re in a time crunch or have a hard deadline to get it all finished, chances are you’ll have a few delays along the way. 

     

    Third, don’t be afraid to go bold! When you are going through a renovation it’s the opportunity to build the space of your dreams, not just a practical space. Sure, a lot of choices will be practical but work on a couple of things that really make you excited.  We love the feel of vintage New York and we weren’t afraid to go a little bold with our guest bathroom design. 

    Short drinking glasses

    Favorite part of the restoration process? 

    Uncovering the history within each home and seeing how special the craftsmanship used to be. The process is really such a learning lesson.

    Least favorite part of the restoration process? 

    It’s definitely a practice in patience. The instant gratification is never going to happen overnight. Our home is over 100 years old and sometimes with restoration it feels like it takes that long to get it back in decent condition. 

    You are both from other cities but have lived in Brooklyn for 15 years. You've mentioned that you love the sense of community there. How has your neighborhood been supporting one another during social distancing? 

    We’re very fortunate to live on one of the most community-driven blocks in Brooklyn. During the pandemic, our block held monthly stoop socials where our street was blocked off for the day to car traffic and our neighbors socially distanced on everyone’s stoops. It was really nice to see our neighbors and have everyone check in on each other. We put up a free library on the street where children and adults were able to take a book and leave a book for others to utilize! Our big annual block party was canceled this year due to the pandemic. This event is so special because our block, which is full of people from  sooo many different backgrounds, gathers to celebrate and honor Brooklyn. There's even usually a drumline! We all are excited to hopefully be able to celebrate this year, and we know it will be bigger and more special than ever before! 

    Along those lines, where are your favorite neighborhood spots for dining, coffee, shopping, etc.? 

    We love supporting our local community as much as we can! 

    Coffee: Milk & Pull

    Dining: Mama Fox, Saraghina (for pizza!), and Peaches Hot House for mac n’ cheese and fried chicken!! 

    Shops: We love picking up new household plants from @dirtqueen – she has a plant speakeasy! 

    Outdoors: Our favorite weekend activity is playing catch with our dog, Zuko, in Prospect Park.

    Serving bowl and dinner plate in charcoal navy; pasta bowls in grey; flatware in black

    How has the pandemic shaped your cooking / eating at home routine? 

    We were definitely guilty of having ordered out almost every night pre-pandemic. Not that we don't love to cook, but we would be exhausted when we got home from a job-site. The pandemic has given us a new hobby, and we now enjoy planning meals and visiting our local grocery store each week. We take turns making meals and we even like to critique each other's dishes and venture outside of our comfort zone. Not only are we getting creative in the kitchen but our bank accounts are also thanking us. :)

    Why are cacio e pepe and aperol spritzes a go-to for you right now?  

    Cacio e Pepe and Aperol Spritzes remind us of travel, something we miss most. We both love Italian food and the comfort it brings into our home. We were supposed to travel to Italy for Barry's 40th birthday and we had so many activities planned, mostly centered around cuisine. Since we had to postpone our trip, we try to bring Italy into our home whenever we can to remind us that hopefully we can visit soon! We will never say NO to an aperitivo with a spritz!

    Pasta bowl in grey

    We’re excited to try out your pasta dish! Can you please share the recipe?

    Cacio e Pepe:

    • Kosher salt
    • 6 oz. pasta (such as tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
    • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
    • 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
    • ¾ cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
    • ⅓ cup finely grated Pecorino

    Step 1

    Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a pot. Season with lots of salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving ¾ cup pasta cooking water.

    Step 2

    Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.

    Step 3

    Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente (add more pasta water if the sauce seems dry). Transfer pasta to warm Rigby serving dish and serve.

     

    Short drinking glasses

     

    Aperol Spritz:

    • Ice
    • 3 ounces (1 part) Aperol
    • 3 ounces (1 part) dry Prosecco
    • 1 ounce (a splash) club soda or unflavored sparkling water
    • Orange slice, for garnish 

     

    Favorite Rigby piece: 

    We’re obsessed with the pasta bowls! They're the perfect, versatile size not only for our favorite pasta dish but also to use for a quick lunch salad or morning yogurt and fruit. We love having them displayed on our open shelf in the kitchen.

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