The phrase “old bones” can be a divisive one for those on the hunt for a new home. On one hand, it can send a shiver down the spine of those looking for modern amenities like insulation, fresh appliances, and giant glass windows. On the other, it can be a must-have for those with a love for prewar charm and an affinity for home renovation. Wendy J. Li and her husband Brendan fall into the latter camp, their newly-purchased Brooklyn apartment a testament to how old world charm can live harmoniously with modern design. “We both are a bit obsessed with prewar apartments,” Wendy says, “so we were thrilled to see that our apartment had a lot of original details, beautiful moldings, and interesting hardware throughout.” After three months of intensive renovations, the couple ended up with a space that would be the envy of pre-war aficionados and modernists alike. From a light-filled living room brimming with mid-century style to an up-to-date subway-tiled kitchen, the look is one that is at once modern and classic. Check out all of the photos below!

“The living room is our gathering space when we have guests,” Wendy says, “but we actually don’t use it very often at home by ourselves. Even so, I especially wanted to create a space filled with textures and warmth so when we do have guests, it feels cozy and inviting. The lack of guests does not bother our cat who just loves napping on our radiator cover in the living room!”

West Elm - Modern Brooklyn Apartment

“One of my favorite details around the apartment are all the 3D porcelain scans my husband made of our cat napping everywhere. There are two on the coffee table, and one on the bookcase (in addition to a 3D scanned vase and 3D scans of of Brendan and me!). Another fun fact: everything in our apartment is wifi enabled (lights, ceiling fans, humidifiers, AC units etc). While we love all the quirks of living in a prewar apartment, we also love modern technology and what it can do for us.”

West Elm - Modern Brooklyn Dining Room

“We probably spend most of our time in the dining room area given its central location in the apartment,” Wendy says. “What I love most about this room is the tone set by the incredible paintings from Osamu Kobayashi (he also painted the yellow one in our living room)—there is so much contrast and incredible texture, it really draws the eye in. Other than artwork, we try to keep our furniture and decor pretty minimal so that there isn’t too much happening all at once.”

West Elm - Monochrome Bookshelf Styling

West Elm - Modern Dining Room

West Elm - Modern Dining Room

West Elm - Bright White Prewar Bathroom

West Elm - Modern Subway Tile Kitchen

“Our kitchen is the standard cliche bright white kitchen,” Wendy jokes, “but given the small space, I think it just makes sense to keep everything bright. I have a very minimalist side to me which inspired our black and white gallery wall. Most of these prints are from this incredible shop in the UK called Love Cult Studio.”

West Elm - Monochrome Gallery Wall

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November 19, 2015

Love this space. Wondering where the living room coffee table is from?


November 20, 2015

Your space is beautiful and cohesive! I love how you use just the right amount of pieces in the right colors to make each room pop.


November 20, 2015

P.S. What color are you walls? I’ve been looking for the perfect shade of white but I’m coming up short.

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