The Circuitous Route Home
"Even for Park Slope, the house is a showstopper, blooming with intricate mahogany paneling inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and nestled into a block just a few streets away from P.S. 321, the much-coveted elementary school."
“You should see the stroller parade in the morning,” Christina Anderson said. She and her husband, Simon Anderson, are in many ways typical of the area, professionals with young children drawn by the extraordinary housing stock (their 1890s Victorian was in pristine condition when they bought it three years ago) and the school district. Yet their way home followed a circuitous route.
Eight years ago, Ms. Anderson, now 35 and the executive editor of Elizabeth Street, a lifestyle blog for stylish mothers, and Mr. Anderson, who is 44 and works in financial services, left New York for Southern California. At the time, she was a fashion editor nearing burnout. “I felt there had to be more to life than that,” Ms. Anderson said.
She joined Teach for America and the couple settled in Manhattan Beach, to the delight of Mr. Anderson, an avid surfer. But when their children were nearing preschool age (their daughter, Dylan, is now 6, and their son, Harley, is 4), Ms. Anderson wanted to be closer to her parents, on the East Coast. “I chose this neighborhood because of P.S. 321,” she said. “I had never even been to Brooklyn.”
The Andersons sublet an apartment on Garfield Place, and with a budget of $1.8 million, started looking for a house. Even in 2009, Ms. Anderson said, that meant someplace that they would have to gut and recombine into a single-family house or that came with tenants. “My husband is handy,” she said. “But our being the super would be a joke.”
This is where Ms. Anderson’s father came in. He had a vision for his daughter, she said, and it included this house: “One day he called and said, ‘I found your house, go take a look.’ ” That it was $2.695 million, well beyond their budget, did not concern him. He gave them more than a quarter of the price, pulling money out of his I.R.A. When he died suddenly in 2012, the house became more than just a gift. It became part of his legacy.
Ms. Anderson is much like her father: comfortable with risk, calculatingly impulsive. Her decorating inspiration, she said, was “a bit Tori and Dean,” referring to the stars of the reality-television show “Home Sweet Hollywood”: “I love wallpaper, tufted furniture, nail heads, chandeliers, all that Hollywood glamour. We had a very modern house in Manhattan Beach, and the question was how to fit our mod stuff into a Victorian house.”
She knew she had a collaborator in Tamara Eaton, a 29-year-old interior designer, when Ms. Eaton brought over Mylar wallpaper printed with a fuchsia phoenix. “I was like, ‘You get it, you’re hired,’ ” Ms. Anderson said.
The two worked efficiently, mixing the Andersons’ furniture with new pieces and flea-market finds, although there were some blowouts. One came after a trip to the Paris flea market with her mother and sister. Ms. Anderson picked up a pair of gigantic steel chairs by Timothy Oulton and two chandeliers, one the size of a small asteroid.
“Pour le disco?” said the person packing it up. “Don’t you want to call Simon?” asked her mother and sister.
He recalled the day it arrived. “I had just said, ‘We’ve got to watch the pennies.’ And she says, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’ Then this huge crate arrives. And all I can think is the chandelier is so big it’s going to be dangling on the floor.”
On a recent morning, it floated safely above the dining room table, a tribute to Ms. Anderson’s keen eye. The way Mr. Anderson sees it, every relationship has an architect and a builder. “There’s always the creative one and the more practical one,” he said. “Christina has all the creativity, and I try to make it work.”