The Insider is our weekly, in-depth look at what’s happening on Brooklyn’s interior design and renovation front, written and produced by journalist/blogger Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday at 11:30AM.
TWELVE FEET SIX INCHES, to be exact. The narrow townhouse on the fringe of Park Slope stands alone, sole survivor of an original pair. “They were probably built in the 1880s or ‘90s by a developer who wanted to maximize income on a 25-foot lot,” says Manhattan-based architect Tim Rasic, who bought the skinny singleton in 2005 and made it work for himself, his wife Lisa, and the two little ones who arrived soon after.
It was a full-on interior and exterior renovation. “There had been only two owners before us, each of whom had the house for about fifty years,” Rasic says. “And they hadn’t done any work in the last fifty.” The big job included a new brownstone façade, all-new electric (the existing wiring was the very old braided type), removal of an outside toilet in a lean-to off the back wall, and chipping away concrete in the backyard to reveal old bluestone.
The serene, sun-filled interior plays off opposites — traditional and modern, rough and refined. Furnishings are a down-to-earth mix of passed-down family pieces, locally sourced vintage items, modern Italian lighting, and good old IKEA.
Photos: House/Alick Crossley Garden/Elizabeth Dooley
Much more, including the lush garden and a complete list of contractors, after the jump.
To the right of the house, where its identical next-door neighbor once stood, is a 12-1/2-foot wide driveway with a new metal gate, used by the Rasics for outdoor dining as well as parking. The front of the house was re-faced, the stoop re-sculpted, and metal handrails restored. There’s a new cornice above, and all-new Marvin windows. Using the original interior vestibule doors as a template, Rasic had a new arched front door custom-made to replace an inappropriate later addition.
The 45′ long parlor floor had been carved up into a vestibule, a hall, and two small rooms. Rasic left the vestibule but removed the other walls (all non-structural in such a narrow house) to create an open, loft-like space. When they removed layers of wall-to-wall carpet and “awful strip flooring,” they found old heart pine underneath. They sanded it and put down liming wax “to lighten in the look,” Rasic says. They also sanded down the staircase, which had been painted over many times, and left it natural. The front parlor is used as a library/home office, and sometimes for dining. The walnut bookcase unit in the right foreground was custom-made by a local supplier, Atlas Industries. The mid-century console at left came from Time Galleries in Park Slope.
The living room at the rear of the parlor floor is furnished mostly with flea market finds and family pieces. The sofa is Crate & Barrel (discontinued).
In the garden-level kitchen, Rasic used IKEA’s Akurum cabinets to save money on built-ins, but splurged on commercial-grade appliances from the GE Monogram line. “I wanted no upper cabinets so the room would feel as wide as possible,” Rasic says. The opposite wall has lower cabinets only, also Akurum.
The dining room is at the front of the house, on the garden level. Walls throughout the house are new. Rasic laminated sheetrock to all the walls to help with insulation and in order to put electrical boxes in the baseboard and not have to chop into old plaster walls. “I like the smoothness of the new drywall versus the roughness of the floors and stripped doors,” he says. The ’70s table and chairs, made by the Lane furniture company, came from Time Galleries in Park Slope. The rug is IKEA.
The second floor master bedroom features a Spanish hutch passed down by family members. “Some of the inspiration for the distressed wood throughout the house came from this piece,” Rasic says.
The larger, sunnier room on the second floor became the nursery.
In a 3′x7′ space off the second floor stair landing, where there had been two back-to-back closets, Rasic created a bathroom with a shower stall, sink, and toilet. Walls, ceiling, and floor are lined with sheets of low-maintenance Corian. The sink, faucet, and mirror are all from Vola.
On the top floor are two more bedrooms, one used as a dressing room. The upholstered bench is from White Trash.
The bluestone patio is new. Salvaged pieces dug from the backyard were used to build raised planting beds at the rear of the garden.
Lisa Rasic designed the north-facing garden, with planting beds at the rear to escape the house’s tall shadow. Her starting point was “whatever survived there before,” including hosta, hydrangea, and spirea. They improved the compacted soil, “did a lot of re-positioning” of existing plants, and added more, including clematis, climbing hydrangea, containers of boxwood “for structure,” and herbs in terracotta pots.
The neighborhood is busy, says Lisa Rasic, “but you wouldn’t know it, sitting back there. It’s a walled garden, basically.”
| RESOURCES |
Exterior Restoration Valaroso Contracting Corp.
Driveway Gate & Iron Stair Railings Vinnie’s Italian Art Iron Works
New entry doors Designer Doors & Home Decor
Marvin Windows Bay Ridge Windows & Doors
Bluestone Patio Stone & Garden
Interior Renovation Pat O’Brien, Leeside Clan Inc.
Corian Bathroom Sterling Surfaces