Every home tells a story. And the home of Delia Kenza and Julio Leitao tells a story about this family’s passions. Around every corner of this Brooklyn brownstone that the couple shares with their daughters, Luena and Zeza, are pieces that tell of their passion for dance, design and artisanship. Julio is a world-renowned dancer and the founder of Batoto Yetu, an African dance organization in New York City. Delia is an interior designer for one of the city’s top design firms, Homepolish. Her sought-after aesthetic is present in every room of the home that was a collaboration between the couple.
Their Clinton Hill brownstone had been in Delia’s family. A native New Yorker, she inherited the property, but it was in need of some TLC. The couple took on the project, providing a modern update to a pre-war space. Julio laid the herringbone floors himself. The dark-stained wood a perfect backdrop and contrast to the crisp white walls in so much of the house. The couple kept many of the homes original bones intact, with some historic moulding still present on the ceiling and walls. But they took the home boldly into the 21st century, with spaces like the kitchen that shines with a modern black island and brass fixtures.
The mix of old meets new creates a layered and warm interior. In the dining room, The Drop dining chairs by Fritz Hansen line the large dining table, just beyond an original stone fireplace that heats up the entire room. Following the open plan into the living area, next to the sofa, a set of African masks created by Julio is the only art needed to make a statement on the wall.
Through each room of this interior, visitors happily encounter the unexpected. At the base of the winding stairway, which goes all the way up to a third floor, the couple has created a unique balustrade cap. An African sculpture turns the staircase into a work of art.
Up the stairs, and you enter Luena and Zeza’s room. Full of color and pattern, it’s the perfect space for growing young ladies. Among vibrant framed prints and leopard pillows, the two girls also have on display their awards for gymnastics. Below the awards, a pillow featuring former President Barack Obama is a coveted piece, another reminder of excellence.
Moving from the girls’ room into the master bedroom, a large mural dominates the hallway. The couple went to the artist, MOOSH to commission a modern day family portrait, with mother, father and the two children represented in the eclectic work of art. The mural is a wonderful way to utilize an empty hallway, turning it into an engaging artistic display for the entire family to enjoy.
Enter the master, and the bedroom is one dedicated solely to rest and relaxation. Black walls create an enveloping feel in the space. The furnishings and accessories are minimalist and meaningful to Delia and Julio. A portrait above the bed by Patrick Demarchelier is of Julio’s dance troop. Above the fireplace, Delia found work of art with the words of Harriet Tubman inscribed. A piece she just knew she had to have in her home, it fits perfectly over the bedroom mantel.
Out of the bedroom and up the stairs again, and you enter one of the home’s most colorful spaces – Julio’s office. Originally from Angola, Julio creates pieces for his performances that are works of art in their own right. African masks and costumes adorn the office walls. Each piece handmade for one of the troops many performances in New York and beyond.
Every home tells a story and this interior tells one of culture, artisanship and family. A Brooklyn brownstone that’s been completely renewed into a home where a creative family can grow and flourish.
Photography by Patrick Cline