July 24, 2012

Interview with the Mayor

He's been referred to as the unofficial "Mayor" of Park Slope due to his commitment & enthusiasm for our neighborhood. Here's my sit-down with longtime friend, Jason Belz:

View from Jason's brownstone down Berkeley Place

DD: Jason, your home evokes such a calm energy upon entering it - was it love at first sight? What first drew you to it?

JB: It was definitely love at first sight. After an exhaustive, year-long search that included about 45 apartments, I got off the subway and walked up this handsome, tree-lined block. I then entered this tiny, charming space and instantly felt the warmth of the old wood floors, tin ceiling, and the arch into the kitchen. Looking out into the small garden out front was just the icing on the cake - I knew this one was home.

DD: It's hard to believe your apartment is less than 300 sq. ft. How do you make such a small space feel so open and inviting?

JB: I have to give credit where credit is due. The former owners (a couple) built some incredible storage into the apartment including a lofted bed with storage underneath. They took advantage of every nook and cranny, adding shelving, storage boxes and the large unit in the kitchen which holds nearly all of my kitchen wares.

Despite its small size, there are dedicated and functional spaces: a comfortable living area, the queen-sized loft bed creates the feel of a small bedroom, the archway creates and a separate kitchen (well-sized for a studio!) with a full sized refrigerator and plenty of storage. The bathroom is a calming and relaxing space as well. 

Hand drawn floorplan I created for Jason's entry in the Small Cool 2011 Contest

DD: Have you always ascribed to a vintage-infused design aesthetic, or has your style evolved over time?

JB: My personal style has really evolved. I have always had a passion for older things and antiques stemming from my days flea market shopping with my mom as a kid. About five years ago, this really started to blossom. When shopping for my apartment and my wardrobe, I don't ascribe to any specific 'style,' but look for items I love for their beauty or particular uniqueness. Somehow, everything manages to work together. It is a wonderful feeling to come home every day and be surrounded by so many visually delightful objects.

DD: With a garden-level apartment, how important is the communal outdoor space, and do you have a hand in maintaining it? 

JB: Living on the garden level of a brownstone, it is impossible not to be intimately connected to the outdoor space fronting the street. When I met the co-op members for my interview, I made mention of my love for gardening. The board told me they had previously hired a gardener to come a few times each season for the front area, and I wondered aloud whether I might take over instead. They were agreeable, and for the past 5 years, I have taken on the gardening of both the space in front of the building as well as the 20 foot tree garden by the street. We have a beautiful 10 foot tall Japanese maple tree, a Morning Glory along the fence and lush beds of perennials and annuals. Neighbors and passersby regularly start up a conversation about the garden, so it's really been a wonderful way to meet people and feel a part of the community.

Candid shots I started taking in 2008 of Jason's 20-foot street garden - it literally stops traffic!

DD: Rumor has it you love to cook - but your kitchen has minimal counter space. Any recipes you care to share?

JB: I do love to cook, but with limited counter space I try to keep things as simple as possible. One of my favorite things to make is a pan of roasted vegetables with freshly picked rosemary from the garden, a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. It's healthy, easy, and when paired with a chicken breast and my favorite Brooklyn beer, it's the perfect summer meal!

Interested in what Jason cooked up above? Then make sure to join us on Facebook as he shares some of these delicious recipes with us.

More from the Mayor's place tomorrow!

xx JN

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