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Name: McKendree Key Location: Brooklyn, New York

Square footage: 2,300 Years lived in: 8

Artist McKendree Key has been fixing up her 100+ year old multi-level Brooklyn home little by little, assisted by friends and with an eye towards showcasing the artwork she and her husband own.

Improvement Center: What was the main goal of your renovation? 

Mckendree Key: The most recent renovations were done in the mid-90s, so things were falling apart and needed to be upgraded.

IC:  How would you describe your style?

MK: Art focused. My husband and I are both artists and we designed everything to maximize and showcase artwork that we own.

IC:  What’s your best advice for homeowners undertaking their own home renovation?

MK: Don't plan it all out, leave space for improvisation.

IC:  Which home features are most important to you and why?

MK: Our walls covered in art, and the surfaces that we keep free of stuff to highlight the art.  Also the backyard and garden which double our living space in the spring and summer.

IC:  What was the biggest challenge you faced?

MK: Working with the ancient structure of the house.  The floors still slant, the stairs creak, and there are leaks. None of these things are going to go away anytime soon!

IC:  What was your favorite part of the project?

Hand-making my own tile backsplash and hearth for the kitchen.

IC:  What took the most time to finish?

MK: We are still exposing the wooden beams in the kitchen and living room.  Removing the ceiling causes so much dust we have to do it little by little.

IC:  Did you use a contractor or undertake the project alone? Why?

MK: We did it ourselves and hired friends for the parts we couldn't do, because as artists we know how to do a lot of useful things, including designing spaces.

IC:  How did you decide where to splurge and where to save?

MK: We scraped together all of our possible resources.  We used recycled (free) wood and made things ourselves whenever we could.  Bathrooms took precedent because an old, poorly constructed bathroom is a disgusting thing to live with.

IC:  Anything you’d do differently if you could do it all again?

MK: I'm sure the next person who owns this house will gut it, so we try to enjoy the over 100 year old history that is literally embedded in the walls.

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