Photos by Helena Palazzi
Fashion-stylist-turned-interior designer Nicole Fisher saw her family’s future in an 1882 brownstone that was once a YMCA. Behold the jaw-dropping transformation that happened in less than a year.
For an up-and-coming fashion stylist, life doesn’t get more exciting than working on Lady Gaga’s music videos and creating editorial spreads for Vogue and Vanity Fair. Still, Nicole Fisher just couldn’t say no when family and friends appealed for her help with decorating their homes. It soon became apparent that adapting her fashion aesthetic to designing interior spaces wasn’t much of a stretch.
During a stint as lead designer for luxury home retailer One Kings Lane, Fisher worked with actor Lucy Liu on her New York City apartment and makeup maven Bobbi Brown on her Montclair, New Jersey, hotel venture, The George. The net of these creative experiences resulted in her founding BNR Interiors, a full-service interior design firm.
Like many New Yorkers over the past couple of years, Fisher and her husband Lee decided to roll the dice and move upstate fulltime, confident it was the best choice for their growing family. They wanted more than the weekend home they’d had for years.
“Initially we were looking in Dutchess County so we could be a bit closer to the city,” says Fisher. “But our broker convinced us we were made to be in Hudson.” While she scoured MLS listings for over six months, the brownstone never popped up because it was listed as a multifamily home—it was only after Fisher removed all her filters that she stumbled upon the property. Then they almost blew off an appointment to see the space because they were busy looking at a different possibility nearby. When they got to the building, Fisher knew immediately it was something special.
“Pre-pandemic, my dream had always been to own a brownstone in Brooklyn,” says Fisher. She realized that with some reimagining and reconfiguring, this could feel exactly like that. “We’re not conventional people, so I didn’t need the traditional home set up,” she says.
Over the years, the brownstone had been zoned for commercial and residential mixed use. At street level, there was a retail store called Antiques by Candlelight, where the owner refused to use overhead lighting and instead had customers shop solely by candlelight. “Most of the inventory had been cleared out by the time we moved in, but we did negotiate for several overhead fixtures that still had their price tags dangling,” says Fisher.
The residential space was on the second and third floors, with the kitchen and main living space on the third floor. So, the biggest structural change was to relocate the kitchen to the first floor and change the existing kitchen into the new primary bathroom.
ON THE FAST TRACK
From working with clients during the pandemic, Fisher knew timelines were long and unpredictable. To try to move things along as quickly as possible, she bought her appliances and plumbing supplies, designed the kitchen, hired a contractor, and started ordering furniture before she and her husband even closed on the home. These were bold moves, given the risk that a deal can fall through, but Fisher felt she had no choice. “It was worth the gamble to me,” she says.
Fisher designed and drew up plans for the project, and hired Hudson Valley pro Chad Williams, owner of CWilliams Contractors in East Chatham. “Chad and his team were able to accommodate our expedited timeline because we had everything ready,” says Fisher. They also provided all necessary expertise to navigate Hudson’s strict rules on plumbers and electricians.
HOME AT LAST
Naturally, given the scope of work, the brownstone was uninhabitable throughout construction. Running water was a rarity. Even if it hadn’t been, living there with their curious two-year-old son Sebastian was not an option. “We lived in local Airbnbs during it all,” says Fisher.
Though they had only closed in April 2021, the reinvented brownstone was move-in ready just six months later. On the plus side, the project was still shorter than it would take for a client job, because Fisher’s expertise spurred her to be very strategic about brand selection, ordering, and timing.
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“Making decisions was the easiest part because I knew exactly what I wanted,” says Fisher. “The challenge was the ever-growing budget and unexpected expenses. It’s always going to take longer than you expect, and cost more than you anticipate.”
But the result was well worth all the angst and inconvenience. The completely revamped home provides the perfect platform for Fisher to curate her signature style mix of custom pieces, vintage finds, and unexpected high and low accents.
With her own passion project in the rear-view, Fisher is full steam ahead on client work. Currently she has a dozen jobs in progress, a mix of some still in the planning stages, others mid-construction, and a few wrapping up. Geographically they span Manhattan, the Hamptons, and of course, the Hudson Valley.
The more time passes, the more Hudson has Fisher’s heart. “As we grow, I’m excited to continue to build business close to home where I can take full advantage of the design community I live in and love,” she says.
The playroom is our place to read books, build train tracks, and play with cars. Sebastian is a big fan of all things that move.