When Porter and Hollister Hovey first walked into the Romanesque Revival townhome at 857 Carroll Street in Park Slope—which they were getting ready for sale as part of their work with Hovey Designs, the staging company they co-founded—they fell in love. Not only was the home vacant, which the sisters almost never see, but the turn-of-the-century details were original—another rarity. "To decorate the whole home was such an incredible opportunity," says Porter. "And that started the idea of wanting to do something fun." The sisters came up with the concept for a pop-up shop in the for-sale mansion, and quickly pitched it to Ari Harkov, the listing agent on the $4.695 millionn property. While he wasn't sure if the price or the dead real estate period—winter—would require an extra something special, he jumped at the chance, as did the seller.
And so the Townhouse, a "retail experience" within the vacant house, was born. According to the Hoveys, both their personal and professional aesthetic includes a mix of organic touches and naturalism, incorporating furniture and home decor that showcases styles as diverse as Scandinavian, European mid-century, and Art Deco. (They even use a few choice pieces from Target.) "Staging involves curation and thought about the neighborhood, the size of the apartment—both in terms of what will physically fit inside and what kind of person or family would want to live there—and the architectural details," explains Hollister. "The pop-up was a perfect extension of that process. We thought about the food, accessories, and art that this imaginary family would like."
With that in mind, the Hoveys hit the auction circuit and picked up new items to help fill the three-story, 4,300-square-foot brownstone. Hollister was most excited for the chance to give the home both sales appeal and a lived-in feeling, two things that often seem separate in the world of home decor. "With real estate, it's all about the space and the wide angles, whereas with shelter magazines you're allowed to focus on the architectural details and the overall mood," says Hollister. With 857 Carroll, she was able to do both.
Once those details were set, the Hoveys began to put feelers out to retailers, and found that filling the three-floor brownstone was easy. "Most of these people are living in Brooklyn and doing amazing things, and even our food scene [in] Brooklyn has gone so far beyond Manhattan," says Porter. Instead of just propping up one or two examples of their wares, the Hoveys asked artisans to come with a wide variety of items, along with the promise that they could keep every dollar they made from their sales. The list of Brooklyn-based vendors includes Bellocq Tea Atelier, Sweet Saba Candy, and Shigouri Woodworking; the idea is that guests can buy a trinket, a canister of tea, a painting or—if they're incredibly wealthy—maybe the whole house.
"It's funny that this hasn't happened before," Porter says. "At the end of the day you're making a home for someone, and they're going to need the tea, olive oil and furniture." And while the townhouse's multi-million dollar price point may be out of range for most people who'll visit the pop-up this weekend, this form of retail therapy also allows for many New Yorkers' favorite pastime: gawking at pricey real estate. "Here, they'll get an opportunity to experience a $5 million dollar house—and take something away with them," explains Porter.
UPDATE: Due to the winter storm, this event has been postponed. Check for updates on Hovey Design's Facebook page.
The Townhouse pop-up happens on Saturday, January 23 from noon to 7 p.m. at 857 Carroll Street in Park Slope.—Larissa Zimberoff