Carl Hancock Rux is a man of many talents: poet, dramatist, writer and musician. He explores combinations of poetry, soul, rock, hip-pop, jazz and blues and he also combined luxurious antiques and vintage furniture with a very distinctive style to renovate his four floors brownstone house in Brooklyn.
Built in 1867, the house is located in the neighborhood of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. This area displays many examples of mid-19th century Italianate architecture, which primarily flourished between 1840 and 1870 and which is characterized by full brownstone façades, emphasized by two paneled arched doors, a wide stoop, and cast iron handrails and fences, as well as embellished cornices at the roof line supported by elegantly carved brackets. Now this is the most sought-after neighborhood of Brooklyn, that is undergoing a gentrification process.
Carl moved into the house in 1999, when the area wasn’t so cool: “It was always a neighborhood of artists, but at the time it was quite run down. Some of the proprieties were vacant and I was living in the house by myself. To be honest, I was a little bit scared”.
Sixteen years later, the borough creative class has exquisitely renovated brownstones and created a definable school of art, literature, music and social movement. Brooklyn is now a coveted area for the new-rich, it is the restaurants temple. Brooklyn is a lifestyle. Brooklyn is a brand.
So, for Carl, moving in that house was a gamble, but it was worth it.
Now Carl and his partner Patrick, a lawyer, occupy three levels of the house plus the basement, while they rent out the fourth floor.
During the last century, the house underwent many renovations before Carl and Patrick put their style into it.
Something is still original while other things were lost or modified over the years. These imperfections seduced Carl, as they are part of the essence of his concept of aesthetics.
“I love the idea of history and I liked the fact that some of it had been partially destroyed.”
Carl’s idea of renovation was not to make the house look entirely modern nor to restore it to its original glory, but to embrace its entire history. He was very inspired by the photographs of Roberto Polidori of the ruins of mansion interiors in Havana, Cuba: “Rooms that hinted layers of paints, broken moldings, worn (but opulent) furniture mixed with modern pieces scattered throughout hallways, and left behind in back rooms. For that reason, most of my furniture pieces are antiques, but I enjoy mixing and matching the new with the old. For me, collecting odd pieces of furniture and juxtaposing pieces is another way of creating poetry”.
In the big dining room, which is bright and airy, the original grand alabaster fireplace is still working and an extra large 19th century two-leaf oak dining table is just in front of it. The table was once in a room of the Society of Ethical Culture and served as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ writing table when she was editor at Doubleday.
Carl emphasized the dining table with a mixture of art deco French Club dining chairs with concave backs, padded seats, upholstered in the original brown leather, resting on flared black legs and scrolled front legs (around 1920), and with vintage wood seat folding chairs. The table and chairs are highlighted by an antique hutch and an old two pieces sideboard. In the kitchen, there are a restored 1910 gas stove and an old slop sink from the laundry room of Peggy Guggenheim.
“I certainly renovated a lot of the house, but where I could save something, I did. Partition walls were removed, fireplace opened up and the kitchen and bathroom redefined with smooth slabs of marble, but well-worn floors and visible layers of paint were left untouched in places, leaving a tangible link with the past.”
Every single piece, old, very antique or vintage, coexists in the house in perfect balance, as Carl’s last album ‘Homeostasis’ that is a state of psychological equilibrium obtained when tension is eliminated. It’s an apt title because this theme carries throughout the entire album as each song seems to exhibit a longing for this stability in something: love, knowledge, public acceptance/recognition, understanding of life, of self.