The Insider: Green Agenda in Carroll Gardens

The Insider is Brownstoner’s weekly look at the state of interior design and renovation in the borough of Brooklyn. It’s written by Cara Greenberg, a design journalist who blogs at casaCARA: Old Houses for Fun & Profit. Find The Insider here every Thursday at 11:30AM.


THIS c.1900 ROW HOUSE is about as green as you can get without being LEED-certified. “Our clients had a very strong green agenda, but a normal budget,” says Jeff Sherman of the DUMBO architecture firm Delson or Sherman, which took on the job of converting a three-unit house that had had the same owner for 50 years into a single-family residence for a couple with two kids.

“LEED certification winds up being a surprisingly expensive process,” Sherman explains, citing the paperwork involved in documenting sources and the required follow-up inspections. Instead, Sherman and his partner Perla Delson, who are accredited to do LEED projects, strove for maximum impact at minimum cost. The result is a project that still has “strong green credentials,” as Sherman puts it. The contractor was the Brooklyn-based Square Indigo.

The 20′x44′ four-story building is chock full of sustainable strategies, including radiant heat flooring, solar water heating, spray foam insulation, a high-efficiency boiler, and a whole-house fan (a rainwater collection system and photovoltaic panels are yet to be implemented). Daylight is maximized by enormous skylights, as well as the replacement of one-third of the back wall with expanses of glass. Materials were re-purposed whenever possible, even the little ‘Juliet’ balconies at the rear of the house, which are segments of the original fire escape.

Now sleek and utterly modern, the house had some old doors, mantels, pressed tin, and bathroom fixtures, all of which were salvaged, though not for use in this project. “The owners worked Craigslist and Build It Green to make sure any possible thing that could be used by somebody, was,” Sherman says. “The house was picked clean by the time we started.”

Photos: Seong Kwon

Much more after the jump.

Delson or Sherman built out the living room wall and recessed niches for a bookshelf and a fireplace and wood storage area, the last two lined with soapstone. The wall itself is ‘parged,’ a non-flammable concrete that is troweled on. The wood floors are prefinished engineered FSC-certified walnut flooring from Mountain Lumber.  The triple-glazed tilt and turn windows are from the German company Bieber. The etched-glass front door has a peephole of glass left clear. The sofa and settee are 1980s Knoll designs.


The kitchen at the rear of the parlor floor has cabinets of bamboo plywood and countertops of Caesarstone. The prefinished engineered flooring has radiant heat underneath.

The block of cabinets with the refrigerator and wall oven stops short of the ceiling. “We wanted the whole floor to feel like a single space,” Sherman says. Uplights are imbedded in the top.


A chalkboard wall hides a large pantry closet, a coat closet, a powder room, and some appliances (including a freezer), their doors invisibly integrated into the chalkboard surface.


The master bedroom, on the second floor, is separated from the master bath, below, by a panel of translucent laminated glass (opposite the window wall).


The floor and the vanity top are both slate.


An enormous skylight over the playroom in the middle of the top floor funnels light down the staircase to the floors below. A bank of grills that draw off hot air are tucked into the skylight. The children’s bedrooms, on either side of the playroom, have pocket doors that slide open to make the entire floor one big play space.  The floor is plywood, painted with low V.O.C. paint.


The vanity in the children’s bath is inexpensive prefinished maple veneer plywood, with a Corian top. The top four inches were sandblasted off the mirror, with lights hidden behind. There’s also a slot of skylight above.


Ladders were removed from the existing fire escape to create small balconies off the back wall (fire escapes are not required on houses with fewer than three units).  The big windows are a combination of fixed and operable panes.


Steps at the rear of the backyard are concrete with wood planks on top. The steps, walk, fence, and patio are made of ipe, a Brazilian hardwood. The homeowners were hands-on when it came to landscaping, creating raised beds for vegetables and flowers. The fig tree in the middle is a relic of the house’s previous incarnation.

To catch up with previous installments of The Insider, go right here.

254 Comment

  • yeah, it isn’t that green !!!

    Looking at the back yard I see a clothesline ladder way in the back, yet there are no clotheslines attached to it.

    If the house is supposed to be so “green” there should be a clothesline from the window to the ladder…..there is no such thing as an energy efficient “green” dryer..

    so much for green

    • No one wants to see your “dainties” hanging in a yard, stargazer!!!!

      • It is so funny how when ever a “clothesline” is mentioned , people always go to ” I don’t wanna see your dainties”. or bloomers or whatever you want to call underware.

        towels, sheets, pants, shirts……there are other items that hang on a clothesline.

        it is only laundry, geez, you would think like what you were asked to see…..

        besides, if you are offended by seeing someones underware, then you have problems

        You would think that if you are living or want to live in a green house you would also contribute ti the greeness, and not use a dryer……

      • It is so funny how when ever a “clothesline” is mentioned , people always go to ” I don’t wanna see your dainties”. or bloomers or whatever you want to call underware.

        towels, sheets, pants, shirts……there are other items that hang on a clothesline.

        it is only laundry, geez, you would think like what you were asked to see…..

        besides, if you are offended by seeing someones underware, then you have problems

        You would think that if you are living or want to live in a green house you would also contribute ti the greeness, and not use a dryer……

    • Whaddya want ‘em to do? Bike over to the river, beat their clothes against the rocks, pedal back home and hang the clothes on the line??? Green doesn’t have to mean going back to the stone ages! If semantics are the issue, then we can call this ‘greener’ than your average home instead of just ‘green.’

  • Great usage of the fire escape!!! Kitchen and bathrooms are very nicely done. I always like the look of the original banister and spindles with a modern renovation.

  • Wonderfully done. Just gorgeous. And the backyard is so simple, yet elegant. I’m a sucker for a private expanse of grass. I suspect some will poo-poo the engineered flooring, but I love that too. Great job all around.

  • Eco-pimp.

    “Normal” budget my ass – but very nice.

  • I love what has been done! Also love the settee in the master bedroom – can tell more about it , where purchased, etc.
    Thanks,

  • Those single-pane casement windows are energy efficient but they look terrible on historic facades. Maybe that is why they are not showing the front of the house?
    I wonder why this young couple bought this antique house in the first place? It must have cost a fortune to rip out every shred of old material and replace it all, or at least 95% of it.
    I like these fancy renovations better when there is more of a balance between old and new. This sort of thing makes me think the owners were allergic to anything reminding them that the house is historic. For example, they rather their historic trim and other features be recycled in someone else’s house (?!)
    Sorry, I find that a little hard to understand.

  • LOOOOOVE IT!

    The chalk board wall in the kitchen is great. Love the glass panel and door in the master bedroom/bath. Love the glass metal back wall from kitchen to garden.

    I agree, with Snappy, these engineered wood floors look great.

  • Oh and, Mr. B must be having a heat attack that a house with engineered wood flooring, downlights and no period details is being swooned over.

  • Oh and, Mr. B must be having a heat attack that a house with engineered wood flooring, downlights and no period details is being swooned over.

  • German “Bieber” windows. Of course,
    You know importing ordinary building features from half way around the world is very green. These came over by sailboat.
    Ugh.
    The fireplace: ugh!
    The ceilings: double Ugh.

  • German “Bieber” windows. Of course,
    You know importing ordinary building features from half way around the world is very green. These came over by sailboat.
    Ugh.
    The fireplace: ugh!
    The ceilings: double Ugh.

  • What is the children’s bathroom flooring? Rubber?
    Looks great.

  • What is the children’s bathroom flooring? Rubber?
    Looks great.

  • I think it is ugly, has zero personality. The bathrooms look like they belong in a hotel.

    The windows are Horrible, I hate hate hate single pane windows…….

    Love the back yard. The layout is Ok, not terrible.
    but the decor is awful

  • would love to see a parallel thread akin to what we see with some of those fashion segments on TV – ie here is J Lo with her $3k dress, $500 shoes, $2k handbag, $1k sunglasses,….. Now, here is how you can have a similar designer look for a lot less, $75 dress from Target, $50 shoes from ……

    unless every reader here is minting money, I would think such a parallel thread for this house/aptmt renovations would be appealling

  • I’d like to see Minard and stargazer post pics of their homes in support of the criticism they are lobbing here.

    • I can do that, and the first picture will be my clothesline out my kitchen window.
      Oh, and I don’t have curtains tied in knots either, my windows are spotless, and I have a real EIK, with a table and 4 chairs.

      actually that would be a fun idea to share pictures.

  • Dave, that makes a lot of sense everyone needs to post pictures of their house before they are allowed to express an opinion -?

  • All I see when I look at these pictures is the architect’s ego.
    There is no trace of an actual family living there. I am tired of hearing the term “green” used as an excuse to slash and burn historic buildings.
    The thing that is most green about this project is the money it cost, which I’m sure was astronomical.

  • All I see when I look at these pictures is the architect’s ego.
    There is no trace of an actual family living there. I am tired of hearing the term “green” used as an excuse to slash and burn historic buildings.
    The thing that is most green about this project is the money it cost, which I’m sure was astronomical.

    • Minard, you know I love you, but c’mon! No trace of an actual family? You know they cleaned up the house before the pics were taken! If toys were all over the floor and graham cracker crumbs were on the counter along with a few dirty pots, would you still say that? Come on over to my apartment and have a glass of wine with me. Once you see the mess going on in here due to my back issues and inability to bend over and pick things up, you’ll be more than glad to stare at these pics :-)

    • Minard, you know I love you, but c’mon! No trace of an actual family? You know they cleaned up the house before the pics were taken! If toys were all over the floor and graham cracker crumbs were on the counter along with a few dirty pots, would you still say that? Come on over to my apartment and have a glass of wine with me. Once you see the mess going on in here due to my back issues and inability to bend over and pick things up, you’ll be more than glad to stare at these pics :-)

  • “All I see when I look at these pictures is the architect’s ego.
    There is no trace of an actual family living there.”

    What an asinine statement.

  • Minard, is this the typical brownstoner “at least $100k per flr” renovation??

  • If I win the lotto and buy a cute Greenwood Heights frame house and gut it, I know not to have Cara feature the reno here….you all would tar and feather me for sure!

  • There are three color-coordinated toys, German I’m sure, personally selected and positioned by the architect -and you think that makes it look like human beings inhabit here? Look at the bookshelves, they look like a West Elm display.
    Snappy, I loves you more than diet soda, but you don’t want to do this to your house no matter how many lotto millions you win!

  • There are three color-coordinated toys, German I’m sure, personally selected and positioned by the architect -and you think that makes it look like human beings inhabit here? Look at the bookshelves, they look like a West Elm display.
    Snappy, I loves you more than diet soda, but you don’t want to do this to your house no matter how many lotto millions you win!

  • “There are three color-coordinated toys, German I’m sure, personally selected and positioned by the architect”

    More asinine statements.

    Did they also rent the kid walking up the back stairs????

  • “There are three color-coordinated toys, German I’m sure, personally selected and positioned by the architect”

    More asinine statements.

    Did they also rent the kid walking up the back stairs????

  • Minard has started on the HOTD already^^^^^^^^

  • Dave, stop being such a jackass. You are such an attention-hound. My goodness, can’t you find a massage parlor nearby?

  • Minard, you fancy yourself arbiter of all taste. it’s really getting old and I suspect merely a desire on your part to criticize what you yourself can’t attain.

    I’m sure if we took a vote here today, you’d get the jackass award

  • Minard, you fancy yourself arbiter of all taste. it’s really getting old and I suspect merely a desire on your part to criticize what you yourself can’t attain.

    I’m sure if we took a vote here today, you’d get the jackass award

  • Snappy, I’m not the one here making all sorts of asinine and condescending statements. If I’m getting the jackass award then Minard gets the a s s hole award.

  • Dave, you’re being particularly toxic today and not amusing.
    Shut up.

  • Dave, you’re being particularly toxic today and not amusing.
    Shut up.

  • I think it was you who started with the condescending and basically nasty remarks, Minard. I think it’s time for you to shut the hell up

  • It seems there are more and more people who do not want to live the “historic home” type of life style.

    Is it possible that the people who are seemingly always bashing modern renovations are becoming bitter that their “historic home” with all its original detail is becoming less and less desirable?

  • It seems there are more and more people who do not want to live the “historic home” type of life style.

    Is it possible that the people who are seemingly always bashing modern renovations are becoming bitter that their “historic home” with all its original detail is becoming less and less desirable?

  • >Our clients had a very strong green agenda, but a normal budget,

    It does have many energy efficient features, but otherwise,

  • Dave, you’re losing it.
    You’re acting a little scary today.

  • Dave, you’re losing it.
    You’re acting a little scary today.

  • …[lost my comment!!!]…

    otherwise, what rubbish. Thr architects should be ashamed of that quote.

    This is a very expensive gut job with style (love that fan!) … oh but let’s feel bad for the kids who have to make do with a plywood floor… windows from Gemany at 10k a pop, acres of ipe which is so expensive to buy and install, a glass wall/door which is probably more than many bath renos, etc etc.

    While it has many energy efficient features, being green also means understanding greater concepts and not spending at the top level.

  • “normal budget” is code for “under $1M”

  • I completely agree with Minard. I find this interior decor very attractive, but not in this house. It’s wrong for this house. It looks wrong, it doesn’t look good here. Quite possibly in another ten years future visitors will wonder “what were they thinking?” My sister has a beautiful house almost exactly like this in another state. The envelope of the house is completely modern and appropriate to the interior (as well as to the street), although technically it’s built partly on top of another building, part of which dates from the 1980s and part of which dates from the 1920s. Whether you live in a 1990s McMansion, a 1950s ranch house, a 1920s apartment, or an 1870s brownstone, they are all beautiful in their way, but changes should be in keeping with the proportions and original style of the house, and should be of the same quality or higher. Maybe they should alter the facade to complete this absurdity.

    • They’re triple glazed. Few US companies do triple glaze windows

      Which is good, because so many of these double glazed windows get the condensation in between the glass, making them impossible to clean. Thus you have to replace the whole sash.

      So many of the apartment buildings must really buy crap windows because so many of them have the steam inbetween the glass.

    • They’re triple glazed. Few US companies do triple glaze windows

      Which is good, because so many of these double glazed windows get the condensation in between the glass, making them impossible to clean. Thus you have to replace the whole sash.

      So many of the apartment buildings must really buy crap windows because so many of them have the steam inbetween the glass.

  • I completely agree with Minard. I find this interior decor very attractive, but not in this house. It’s wrong for this house. It looks wrong, it doesn’t look good here. Quite possibly in another ten years future visitors will wonder “what were they thinking?” My sister has a beautiful house almost exactly like this in another state. The envelope of the house is completely modern and appropriate to the interior (as well as to the street), although technically it’s built partly on top of another building, part of which dates from the 1980s and part of which dates from the 1920s. Whether you live in a 1990s McMansion, a 1950s ranch house, a 1920s apartment, or an 1870s brownstone, they are all beautiful in their way, but changes should be in keeping with the proportions and original style of the house, and should be of the same quality or higher. Maybe they should alter the facade to complete this absurdity.

  • Doesn’t exactly meet my personal tastes, but still very nice. It does resemble a high-end hotel more than a home. As other have pointed out, this renovation had to cost a grip.

  • Expert, given most of Minard’s comments I bet he’s never done a rehab in his life.

    “ten thousand each” You’re just full of asinine comments today, Minard.

  • mopar, you’ve had too much Kool Aid.

  • m4l, that comment was supposed to be for the HOTD. I deleted it here.

    This is brooklyn.

  • exp_tex “triple glazed” etc. No. There’s no way in this climate you’d recoup the way more expensive triple-glazed cost. What is much more important in windows is air sealing, which good windows will do well (and cheap ones like mine won’t). I may exagerrated with the 10k, but believe me these are at least twice as expensive as high-end US windows.

    stargz: condensation: If you have that, they’re cheap windows, nothing to do with the number of glazings (?). Any well sealed window will not have condensation.

    • stargz: condensation: If you have that, they’re cheap windows, nothing to do with the number of glazings (?). Any well sealed window will not have condensation.

      OMG, trust me, I know all about CHEAP windows. I have had mine replaced with new glass when I first moved in, all the windows were badly stained with condensation 9 sashes in all.
      I had a 10 year guarantee, so of course on year 11, 3 more sashes started again.Then I noticed 2 more sashes this past fall…..ugh, so I used windowfix, they were much better than the first glass company I used. Oh BTW, the window company was called thermolator, I believe, long out of business………………..

      give me wooden windows, with storm windows, never had a problem…..

  • These architects actually do a range of projects. Sherman’s own house was featured in the Times (?) recently. Prospect Heights, big copper wall. I wanted to use them for my current project, but alas it was too small for them (i.e. their percentage on such a small project wouldn’t have made sense). But I plan to go through this and other “insider” posts to show my architects what I like and don’t like.

  • These architects actually do a range of projects. Sherman’s own house was featured in the Times (?) recently. Prospect Heights, big copper wall. I wanted to use them for my current project, but alas it was too small for them (i.e. their percentage on such a small project wouldn’t have made sense). But I plan to go through this and other “insider” posts to show my architects what I like and don’t like.

  • I certainly do know about those windows. Those are the units that are used on the passive aggressive houses. They are ten thou each. look it up.

  • cmu is right about the windows. I have never had a condensation issue with ANY double glazed windows I have in 4 houses. You buy cheap, you get cheap.

  • are you recovered now Dave?
    Why the off-the-wall personal attacks against me today?
    Honestly, you sound like a crazy person.

  • From the article on triple glazed windows…….

    “A while back, Sam Bargetz of LoadingDock5 Architecture in Brooklyn shared the bids he received on 12 casement windows. Serious Windows came in at $46 a square foot; Fibertec at $49; Thermotech at $66; and Bieber (a European manufacturer) at $196 a square foot. (Bargetz reports that Serious has since raised their prices.)”

    If they are about 2.5′ x 6′ that makes them $3,000 at $200 psf

  • Minard, you are nothing but a condescending nasty commenter in both this thread and the HOTD.

    Grow up.

  • Dave, do you really need me to point out that you are not one to judge others about nasty and condescending comments?
    You, my friend, are the world champion of incredibly nasty and extremely condescending comments. Your whole 1% act for instance.
    So can it.

  • I didn’t make any nasty or condescending remarks about this house on this thread. You did. They were uncalled for. Do I need to point them out agian??

    And you you continue to pursue this to the detriment of the thread. You act like a child. Grow up.

  • Dave,
    There you go again, sucking all the oxygen out of the room.
    you are off your meds today. And I am not letting you off the hook for your ridiculous, egomaniacal diatribes.

    .

  • Dave,
    There you go again, sucking all the oxygen out of the room.
    you are off your meds today. And I am not letting you off the hook for your ridiculous, egomaniacal diatribes.

    .

  • Minard’s comments:

    The fireplace: ugh!
    The ceilings: double Ugh.

    All I see when I look at these pictures is the architect’s ego.
    There is no trace of an actual family living there. I

    There are three color-coordinated toys, German I’m sure, personally selected and positioned by the architect -and you think that makes it look like human beings inhabit here? Look at the bookshelves, they look like a West Elm display.

    Nasty and condescending and frankly bitchy; like you’re some sort of design diva.

    From now on I’m calling you the Carson Kressley of brownstoner.

  • Minard’s comments:

    The fireplace: ugh!
    The ceilings: double Ugh.

    All I see when I look at these pictures is the architect’s ego.
    There is no trace of an actual family living there. I

    There are three color-coordinated toys, German I’m sure, personally selected and positioned by the architect -and you think that makes it look like human beings inhabit here? Look at the bookshelves, they look like a West Elm display.

    Nasty and condescending and frankly bitchy; like you’re some sort of design diva.

    From now on I’m calling you the Carson Kressley of brownstoner.

  • Apologies to Cara and the owners of this house for that exchange with minard. But i just find those sort of comments below this sort of thread and his sour attitude needed to be adjusted. this is an extremely nice house. I think that the single pane casements actually look great on a lot of Victorian facades. What you did with all the glass in the rear and the yard is spectacular.

    Like the post said, it’s “sleek and utterly modern” and what you achieved is a tribute to that. What the building may have originally been is a moot point. It’s your building. there’s not one person here who wouldn’t kill for it.

  • That backyard is fantastic! So clean and zen.
    But WTF is up with daveinbedstuy’s nonsense? What an unpleasant little man!

    • Hi all. I am the mom who lives in this home. We love living here and are very pleased with the outcome of our renovation. I’m glad some of you appreciate the hard work that went into building a home that is both fun and happy to live in and tries to lessen in a small way the impact our living has on the environment.
      Let me put to rest the concerns of those who assume every 1900s brownstone is worth preserving every detail. There were no details in this home, except the staircase that were original or worth preserving. There was no detail at all by way of moldings, mirrors or otherwise. Floors were lineoleum (and there were no beautiful hard woods floors to discover underneath), tin ceilings were dropped low and in any case had to be removed because electrical and plumbing was shot and needed to be replaced, mantlepieces were ordinary and cracked beyond repair. We did our best to preserve whatever was salvageable for other uses.
      As for green factors, we proudly display our clean laundry on our laundry line in warm months–you simply can’t see the line in the photos. The roof is outfitted with solar thermal panels that provide ample hot water so that we did not need to turn on our boiler for at least 4 months this past year. The cost of those panels will be paid off shortly. And the windows are triple glazed and did not come near the costs some have assumed–if US companies would make energy efficient building materials in the size we needed, we would have happily have considered them. Toilets by the way are also foreign because dual flush was virtually impossible to find in the US when we did the renovation. Happily, they have become more accessible here.
      Finally, we did indeed clean our home before the photographers came. No surprise there. It does not look like that everyday, but our architects wanted to photograph the architrecture, not a life in the day of my family, which we prefer to keep private. I will note that the toys in the playroom are a john deere truck and a local store’s toy truck–not “german toys” that some have presumed, though my in-laws are german and so I take personal offense at any suggestion that german toys are either somehow elitist or inferior–I really couldn’t tell the point of that silly comment.
      I would love to see a discussion about how using foam insulation saves immensely on winter heating bills and using renewable woods like bamboo for kitchen cabinets make good economic and environmental sense But alas, I guess it wouldn’t be brownstoner without the catty comments. I’m glad my home served as entertainment for some.

      • Cgmom, thank you for presenting your home. I and many others love it, some do not. But, that’s neither here nor there. What is important is that you and your family live and love there comfortably. You are a brave soul for allowing your home to be featured on this site (I certainly lack suck courage!) and we all appreciate your willingness to do so. Enjoy your home!

      • Thanks cgmom for coming on here.
        I love your house; as I stated previously. So many wonderful contemporary elements and well executed.Your architect and contractor did a great job.

        Thanks for stating that there weren’t architectural details to salvage. It’s so easy for many people to come on here when they see an old townhouse in a contemporary style and castigate the owner for stripping it of it’s details, when the reality is they don’t know the back story.

        Your house may not be in a style liked by some but what people forget is that there are many people that DO like contemporary design. And that this house is well done.

        You have made sound design (green) decisions for your family and house. Enjoy your home.

        And LOL to the ‘German toys’

      • Thanks cgmom for coming on here.
        I love your house; as I stated previously. So many wonderful contemporary elements and well executed.Your architect and contractor did a great job.

        Thanks for stating that there weren’t architectural details to salvage. It’s so easy for many people to come on here when they see an old townhouse in a contemporary style and castigate the owner for stripping it of it’s details, when the reality is they don’t know the back story.

        Your house may not be in a style liked by some but what people forget is that there are many people that DO like contemporary design. And that this house is well done.

        You have made sound design (green) decisions for your family and house. Enjoy your home.

        And LOL to the ‘German toys’

  • pana..read Minard’s comments and tell me why i shouldn’t be unpleasant to him. He’s a pompous condescending little man himself. I’ve met him. I suspect you are too.

  • Minard has perfect taste (it agrees with my own). ;)

    What is wrong with the rest of you?

  • Minard has perfect taste (it agrees with my own). ;)

    What is wrong with the rest of you?

  • Why don’t you guys just pick a place to meet and have your fistfight already?

    **

    “changes should be in keeping with the proportions and original style of the house, and should be of the same quality or higher.”

    Why, exactly?

    • EastNewYork, re proportions and style in keeping, I find it so ugly when people put, say, 1950s renovations on, say, an 1860s house. Or ridiculous when people add heavy crown moldings to a 1950s ranch house. It’s just ugly. And the worst is when they tear out something really expensive and of fine quality for no reason and replace it with the cheapest particle board and sheet rock. That just makes me sad.

  • mopar, here’s what you wrote:

    “I find this interior decor very attractive, but not in this house. It’s wrong for this house.”

    1. Minard doesn’t think it’s attractive. He said so numerous times.

    2. All you really talked about was how inappropriate the modern interior was given the age of the house.

    Typically I prefer a restored period interior but that’s just my taste. What anyone does with their interior (and for that matter their exterior if not landmarked) is their own business. This is a very nice modern interior.

    I’d like to see the facade. i bet it looks fantastic. Like I said, most people here would kill for this house.

  • mopar, here’s what you wrote:

    “I find this interior decor very attractive, but not in this house. It’s wrong for this house.”

    1. Minard doesn’t think it’s attractive. He said so numerous times.

    2. All you really talked about was how inappropriate the modern interior was given the age of the house.

    Typically I prefer a restored period interior but that’s just my taste. What anyone does with their interior (and for that matter their exterior if not landmarked) is their own business. This is a very nice modern interior.

    I’d like to see the facade. i bet it looks fantastic. Like I said, most people here would kill for this house.

  • I do like that yard. Very green.

    M4L, there was a renovation on the Bed Stuy house tour three years ago that used white lacquer Ikea cabinets and white marble beautifully in a kitchen. One of the owners is an architect. I couldn’t tell the cabinets weren’t custom built for the space. No ugly soffits.

  • changes should be in keeping with the proportions and original style of the house, and should be of the same quality or higher.”

    Why, exactly?

    EXACTLY!!!!!

  • Yes, mopar, but that’s not what they did here so your comments, at least here today are irrelevant and off base.

  • In other words, your assertion is based purely on your personal taste. Which is OK. However tastes vary. One man’s (or woman’s) art is another’s trash.I am not (like Dave) saying your comments are irrelevant (they’re not), but they reflect your own style and preferences, nothing more.

  • I think we can agree that they are irrelevant to this particular renovation, no?

  • So, for example, if you have a 1950s modern ranch house, I don’t see anything wrong with putting in a completely new and contemporary modern kitchen. It doesn’t have to look like the 1950s.

    If you have an 1890s house, I don’t think you have to have a precise copy of an 1890s kitchen. Just something generally in keeping with the house and its quality. So maybe some subway tile and some flush inset cupboards. You don’t have to fool people that the kitchen isn’t new.

    OTOH I certainly wouldn’t rip out any original feature, ever.

    Here’s a good example: My mom has a modern redwood California house from 1970. She decided to upgrade the kitchen. The quality is beautiful, but she chose French country style cabinets and green and black granite counters with, I forget, a bullnose edge or something. I think that is a poor choice for that particular house, although I like the kitchen a lot. I would have gone with something ultra modern in natural materials, such as slab wood cabinet doors and honed granite.

    Best to leave the original envelope of the house intact, create fun and jarring combinations of contrasts with the furniture, and if you have to change the kitchens and baths, try to do something that looks like it’s always been there. Otherwise you gotta tear it out in ten years because it’s going to look out of date.

    Exceptions made for millionaires, who will tear everything out in ten years anyway, as long as they don’t mess up the historical buildings for the rest of us.

    • “My mom has a modern redwood California house from 1970……I would have gone with something ultra modern in natural materials, such as slab wood cabinet doors and honed granite.”

      Don’t you mean you would have done light heavily grained oak cabinets, plastic laminate countertop and linoleum flooring. That fits the 1970′s period

      • Textpert, I’m not saying every room must slavishly imitate the period in which it originated. I’m saying keep it generally in the same vein. A modern kitchen in a modern house. What my mother did was insert a traditional French country kitchen into a modern organic 1970s house. That is a nightmare. It’s a beautiful kitchen, really, and I love it, but it doesn’t relate to the rest of the house. The same kitchen would be much more at home in one of those English style Tudors from the 1930s, or a traditional contemporary McMansion.

        If I personally were planning to live in the house and designing it for my own specific tastes, I might have kept the cabinets and the counter, but changed the floors and walls. Or I might have updated the whole thing with more expensive materials in the same vein. The kitchen was originally dark wood plain slab cabinets, white Formica, heavily patterned vinyl flooring, and psychedelic wallpaper. I actually think Formica is really cool, but the average buyer would freak out if they saw it. “Oh my god, what is that, FORMICA!? EEEEK!”

        • “A modern kitchen in a modern house.”

          Mopar, a house built in 1890 was ‘modern’ then.
          And there’s a difference between 1970′s ‘modern’ and 2012 ‘modern’
          We throw the word modern around to generalize a style that isn’t ‘old’, ‘classical’, ‘period’, etc.

          • Expert, I am keenly aware that anything built now is by definition contemporary. I’m not saying your 2012 modern-style kitchen needs to look like it was built in 1970. I’m saying keep it generally in the same vein. Remember Cara’s column about the house that had been remodeled twice and had the dug-out rear area to allow light into the basement? All three periods in the house were clearly of their time (not faking another time) yet they all related. The last two were both neoclassical. That is what I am advocating.

          • Expert, I am keenly aware that anything built now is by definition contemporary. I’m not saying your 2012 modern-style kitchen needs to look like it was built in 1970. I’m saying keep it generally in the same vein. Remember Cara’s column about the house that had been remodeled twice and had the dug-out rear area to allow light into the basement? All three periods in the house were clearly of their time (not faking another time) yet they all related. The last two were both neoclassical. That is what I am advocating.

        • “A modern kitchen in a modern house.”

          Mopar, a house built in 1890 was ‘modern’ then.
          And there’s a difference between 1970′s ‘modern’ and 2012 ‘modern’
          We throw the word modern around to generalize a style that isn’t ‘old’, ‘classical’, ‘period’, etc.

        • “If I personally were planning to live in the house and designing it for my own specific tastes”

          Well, I guess your mom designed it to her own specific tastes.

          While I generally agree with you that people make bad design decisions that are out of character for the home. I care more when they do it on the exterior than I do the interior.

          • Expert, the style of my mom’s house demands some kind of “modern style” kitchen. I only mentioned the particular type of modern I might do because you asked me what I would do.

            A traditional contemporary kitchen makes the rest of the house look dated. Some kind of modern kitchen would make the entire house look attractive and well designed (which it is). It is not a tract home. It is an architect-designed custom kit house. I wouldn’t put a traditional-style contemporary kitchen in an Eichler or a Philip Johnson or a Nuetra house — would you? This has nothing to do with my personal taste.

            Here’s another example: I personally hate Rococo. But if I lived in a Rococo house, you can be damn sure I wouldn’t start making alterations in some other style. This has nothing to do with my personal taste.

          • Ugh and Double Ugh.

            My kid is gonna wake up soon and I’m going out into the world to look at all the hideously remodeled houses that aren’t keeping in their true original style.

          • I know, it’s a great burden for me too, to walk through this world full of SO MANY bad renovations. Especially in New York.

        • oh and you were quick to call out the design of this house’s interior as being ‘wrong’.
          Knowing now there weren’t architectural details to be salvaged would you still say the design is ‘wrong’?

          I think it looks great….but to each their own.

          • I don’t blame the owner for jettisoning architectural materials that didn’t exist. I think “organic modern” looks out of keeping in an Italianate row house. By my logic, and perhaps I am straining logic, this house would be improved if they completely redid the facade — either to match the new interior or the original exterior. Faced with a similar situation, a house that had been stripped, I honestly have no idea what I would do. I applaud them for keeping the staircase.

          • LOL at redoing the facade of this house to match the interior.

            Mopar, when your house is done will you please ask Insider to feature it. I’m dying to see it.

          • Why is keeping a staircase so important? Most townhouse stairs are crap. The Newel in the photo looks rather common and the rail and spindles are nothing special. That looks out of character to the reno to me.

  • I think your mom should be able to do whatever kitchen style pleases her in her own house.

    First they came for the kitchens and I said nothing.

  • EastNewYork, I don’t think these comments reflect my particular taste. I think they are a general guideline that can allow any taste. Tall, narrow, Victorian proportions don’t go with horizontal proportions. Neoclassical ornament doesn’t go with Eastlake doesn’t go with Rococo. It should look natural and believable. I’m talking about the building and its permanent features, not furniture and decorative objects.

  • I get it mopar. It wasn’t necessary for you to write a short story. That’s all true, but inspired creativity often results from a willingness to break the so-called “rules” and mix mediums, materials, periods, etc.

    I’m not saying it always works, but sometimes it does. And it certainly cannot work when one insists on adherence to rigid mores about what “can” and “can’t” be done.

    I think that’s true for almost any creative endeavor.

  • “EastNewYork, I don’t think these comments reflect my particular taste.”

    Yeah, well I do.

  • “I will note that the toys in the playroom are a john deere truck and a local store’s toy truck–not “german toys” that some have presumed, though my in-laws are german and so I take personal offense at any suggestion that german toys are either somehow elitist or inferior–I really couldn’t tell the point of that silly comment.”

    ROTFLMMFAO

    I too am 25% German. I took no offense at the German part, just the ridiculous statement itself!!!!

    You have a great house

  • “I will note that the toys in the playroom are a john deere truck and a local store’s toy truck–not “german toys” that some have presumed, though my in-laws are german and so I take personal offense at any suggestion that german toys are either somehow elitist or inferior–I really couldn’t tell the point of that silly comment.”

    ROTFLMMFAO

    I too am 25% German. I took no offense at the German part, just the ridiculous statement itself!!!!

    You have a great house

  • I used spray foam insulation in my PA house and find it an incredible insulator.

  • “Tall, narrow, Victorian proportions don’t go with horizontal proportions. Neoclassical ornament doesn’t go with Eastlake doesn’t go with Rococo. It should look natural and believable. I’m talking about the building and its permanent features, not furniture and decorative objects.”

    Hasn’t at least some of that happened with this home? Hence your objections? And it turns out, not surprisingly, that some folks like it and some don’t. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, indeed.

    • EastNewYork, I think the subjectivity of aesthetics is an interesting question. Many architects believe that contemporary styles are always preferable to historic ones. I think any style can be beautiful and that some alterations and fusions are more appropriate than others.

  • I’m sure I could post a number of pics of Upper East Side townhouses that look fantastic with single pane casement windows. They are truly a very high end look in the right stone buildings.

  • Thanks, cgmom. As I suspected, the facade is quite tastefully done.

  • Thanks, cgmom. As I suspected, the facade is quite tastefully done.

  • this discussion speaks to one of the hardest aspects of my current renovation project. my house is somewhere between 100 to 150 yrs old (conflicting evidence about this), but suffered a fire in the mid-90′s followed by a characterless partial renovation before I got ahold of it. there are no details to salvage. while I’m doing my best to nod to the building’s history here and there, it just makes more sense in terms of budget and lifestyle to take a relatively modern approach to my layout and finishes. the house featured here is more consistently modern than what I am doing, but there is a fair amount of overlap in our choices. I completely understand why they would choose to do things this way. I think they did a great job with realizing this particular aesthetic. mixing eras on a blank slate is very risky–my house has the potential to be a very successful blend of new and old or, if I fail, then it could look like a contrived mess. either way I’m sure some of you would slay it here ; )

    • Lamb, you pose an interesting question — as does this Carroll Gardens house. Lamb, did the previous renovation change the layout? I’m currently renovating an old house with most of the details intact. Obviously my situation is different from both of yours. I’m just trying to restore it to more or less what it would have been, but that’s not what I would do if I were in your situation. As it is, sometimes I feel pretty silly putting in salvage items that are missing, such as salvage doors and toilets. It feels as if I am making a fake Victorian. But the alternative, to put in new old-style fixtures or new new-style fixtures, seems even worse.

      • hey mopar… the previous renovation was never completed (one small bathroom was the only finished room), but the layout was almost certainly not what it would have been originally. if I had details to work with I would be sensitive to them, so I completely understand that impulse. I don’t think it’s silly to put in salvage items alongside genuine artifacts. my dilemma now is whether to add back a few elements that aren’t original, but at least acknowledge the past. for instance, I might put tin in the parlor but I don’t want it to look forced above very modern kitchen millwork. even if it all turns out to be folly at least it will be mine! good luck!

  • this discussion speaks to one of the hardest aspects of my current renovation project. my house is somewhere between 100 to 150 yrs old (conflicting evidence about this), but suffered a fire in the mid-90′s followed by a characterless partial renovation before I got ahold of it. there are no details to salvage. while I’m doing my best to nod to the building’s history here and there, it just makes more sense in terms of budget and lifestyle to take a relatively modern approach to my layout and finishes. the house featured here is more consistently modern than what I am doing, but there is a fair amount of overlap in our choices. I completely understand why they would choose to do things this way. I think they did a great job with realizing this particular aesthetic. mixing eras on a blank slate is very risky–my house has the potential to be a very successful blend of new and old or, if I fail, then it could look like a contrived mess. either way I’m sure some of you would slay it here ; )

  • lamb..look at other pics on the delson sherman website.

  • lamb..look at other pics on the delson sherman website.

  • Yeah, lamb, I’m headed to Sparks. email me or CGAR…I’m having a retirement party

  • Yeah, lamb, I’m headed to Sparks. email me or CGAR…I’m having a retirement party

  • A question for the owner.

    First, I would like to say I’m behind your choice to do a modern renovation.

    Was the installation cost vs energy savings part of your decision making in regards to your solar system?

    How many years will it take to break even?

    and was geothermal ever a consideration?

  • sorry, one more. do you burn wood for supplemental heat? or is it just on special occasion?

  • I both understand the criticism of the renovation, and agree it’s too personal. I think it’s very emotional for some people, and I’m one of them, to see historic homes stripped of their charm and history and altered to a sleek glass/concrete/bamboo shrine to modernism. Yes- people can do whatever they want in their homes. Like some, I wonder, “why they’d buy a townhouse in the first place if they want to live in a Soho loft?” Even if it’s not my house- and nobody is forcing me to live in it, it just seems a collective loss. BUT- the owner has graciously explained there was little to save. Once gone, you might as well re-work the configuration for today’s living.

    I think the floorplan is thoughtful. Especially the parlor. I like how the kitchen is open to the dining in a way- but not to the degree everyone can see all your mess from the dining and LR. Both the center refrigerator/stove partition and the side wall of storage/closet/bath seem a clever and good use of space.

    I’m very curious, and would have really liked to see better pics of how the original stairs interact (visually) w/ the new, modern environment. There’s just a peek in two of the photos, but I would love to see a better view of that.

  • On my peeking-into-windows strolls around the nabe (thank you all so much for not having closed curtains, blinds or shutters on the parlor floor) I am seeing more and more of this sleek, modern, recessed lighting, gut job eco-friendly look. Personal taste time: I don’t like the single pane window look from the outside–can really wreck the look of a row of historic houses. The number of total-gut-job renovations (simultaneously turning multi-apartment buildings back into one-family ones) within a few blocks has me floored–where are all these rich people coming from?

  • “GREEN” – because they used photoshop airbrush to make the grass that way… pfft

  • Thank you CGmom. Something weird happened today on this thread. I love your house and hope to, er, “reference” it in my own renovation.

  • Thank you CGmom. Something weird happened today on this thread. I love your house and hope to, er, “reference” it in my own renovation.

  • Yikes, Putnamdenizen. You ain’t kidding.

    What I love about this feature is that it is like walking around after dark and peeking into the windows (I admit to that as well) without having to actually do it–and, at the same time, getting a much better view. Even when the featured place overall is not one I can imagine myself living in, I still always find some interesting ideas worth copying in my own way or just admiring. And as any renovator knows, these jobs are taxing: blood, sweat and tears, literally. I admire everyone who makes it through the process unscathed enough to call their house “happy” when it’s finished.

    • Pig-Three, In answer to your questions. costs versus energy savings was at the heart of our decision-making on a number of technologies we used. For example, it’s the reason we did solar thermal instead of PV panels, which were just too expensive at the time and probably still are but hopefully will come down in price over time. I’m not sure exactly how long the solar thermal panels will take to pay off–I think another couple of years, but that’s my husband’s department. We did research geo-thermal but cost and water table issues precluded it. And finally, the fire place is constructed out of soap stone which retains heat long after the fire is out. So while it wasn’t meant to be a significant supplement to the radiant floor system, in fact, it does offer remarkable heat for a fire place when we use it.

      And to the writer who asked about the bathroom floor, it’s a 2×2 orange ceramic tile.

      Last point–the article is in error on one point–our floors are FSC certified but they are solid wood, not engineered. We had some concerns using wide planked solid wood floors over radiant hear, but it has worked out fine.

      • Thanks. I do fine your answers a little too “green” vague.

        You are not saving on any heating/mechanical system until it’s costs are paid for in savings.
        Then the life and maintenance of the system also are factors.

        I know you were starting from scratch, so any system would have had a “pay off” period.

        And I do think solar is a good way to go. But it is not really about savings as much as it is about energy independence. If we use less energy(electric, gas,…) we are paying less for the moment. When the providers see shortfalls in their balance sheets, they will raise the cost of those services, not scale back to meet demand. So, in the end, we are using less but paying the same or more.

        I love to wood burning fireplace, but the stone retaining heat is also “green” vague or green washing.
        The amount of heat sucked out of the room with the open flue will more than cancel out what is provided.
        If it is for ambiance and close proximity heat during special occasions, then great – I’m all for it.
        But, a high efficiency cast iron wood burner is a real “green” alternative. Produces more heat (could even have your soap stone surround) and burns off smoke and particulate matter. Those qualities make it equal to solar and for heating a better choice for energy independence. Wood is a cheaper fuel source and renewable – unlike gas and oil and ultimately electric for that matter.

        These days, almost anything done can be slotted into the “green” category if you choose the words wisely. I think that is why so many people knock it in these situations.

        I do really applaud your efforts. Your design choices are yours and should be. Really want to barf when people say they are too taste specific. Its your house and family. Chances are, there are plenty of new families down the road that would jump at the chance to buy it (if you decided to sell) over an old, stuffy, dark, historic cave.

  • I’m late to the party (or brawl!) but kudos to cgmom for putting her house out there. I think it’s both thoughtful and beautiful, and thanks for sharing all the green aspects. Plus it seems clear that given the the existing conditions, a gut reno made sense.

    I’m always taken aback by the nasty comments on a green house–like it’s all hogwash. The owners made a lot of smart choices (like solar thermal and and efficient layout), and I hope they will be enjoying big energy savings as most people pay more and more in fuel costs (and add more CO2 to the atmosphere) in the coming years.

    LEED for Homes (and Passive House) is becoming easier every day; more folks should take a look. And not that they’re easy to navigate, but there’s still a number of state and federal incentives for energy efficiency improvements:

    http://tinyurl.com/6wjyxwz

    Congrats cgmom and thank you Cara!

  • As for green factors, we proudly display our clean laundry on our laundry line in warm months–you simply can’t see the line in the photos.

    Thank you, I do appreciate it. I just like to see clothes blowing in the breeze.

    I do love your backyard, very much !!!

  • sorry about the way this thread evolved. I was merely stating my opinions, which I believe I’m entitled to. I do not like the renovation. I think the front parlor looks like a waiting room at a fancy clinic and I hate those windows in historic houses, but to each their own.
    I have been jousting verbally with Dave for years now. I have never known him to be as obnoxious as on this thread. It may be due to the fact he is retiring or, that he has some disorder that allows him to be perfectly charming and chatty most days and then suddenly turn into this oxygen consuming bully monster.
    This is a blog about houses, not a fight to the bitter end with an acquaintance. I am very troubled by the way this thread played out.
    I sense a very strong anti-preservation feeling here, as I often do, but today it seemed particularly vicious and mean-spirited. For no reason that I could discern. It is troubling.

  • LOVE this house!!! It would be my dream house.

    I think its amusing how someone has to apologize for a fantastic thoughtful modern reno.

  • LOVE this house!!! It would be my dream house.

    I think its amusing how someone has to apologize for a fantastic thoughtful modern reno.

  • Minard, your psychological assessment was a thoughtful one. Try looking in the mirror some day and asking yourself why you need to be so catty and critical for the sake of being critical. Disorders come in all flavors.

  • Minard, your psychological assessment was a thoughtful one. Try looking in the mirror some day and asking yourself why you need to be so catty and critical for the sake of being critical. Disorders come in all flavors.

  • Why are you now “Guest” and no longer “Minard?”

  • Why are you now “Guest” and no longer “Minard?”

  • Pig…have you investigated any geothermal systems? I assume the yard area of a brownstone is adequate for laying the tubes. I should investigate it for another property???

    • The yard is not adequate for a horizontal system unless they are layered deeper that typical (which is an option I have not considered) A vertical closed loop system would be the way to go, but drilling is the consideration. Equipment, the city, become feasibility and cost factors. You know the city does not want to loose the payment for water and sewer. Imagine if you do not use the cities water ;). The sewer charge is base on water consumption. A good start would be a rain collection system to use for grey water usage & plant irrigation.
      I’m not sure what the OP meant by water tables? Unless they were considering an open system, which is an inferior idea under optimal conditions.
      I’m gonna look into the layering idea.

    • The yard is not adequate for a horizontal system unless they are layered deeper that typical (which is an option I have not considered) A vertical closed loop system would be the way to go, but drilling is the consideration. Equipment, the city, become feasibility and cost factors. You know the city does not want to loose the payment for water and sewer. Imagine if you do not use the cities water ;). The sewer charge is base on water consumption. A good start would be a rain collection system to use for grey water usage & plant irrigation.
      I’m not sure what the OP meant by water tables? Unless they were considering an open system, which is an inferior idea under optimal conditions.
      I’m gonna look into the layering idea.

  • Pig…have you investigated any geothermal systems? I assume the yard area of a brownstone is adequate for laying the tubes. I should investigate it for another property???

  • all said, who would NOT want to live in this place and be happy – ie if one can rent or buy this at an affordable level???

    I would!!!!!!!!!!!

  • all said, who would NOT want to live in this place and be happy – ie if one can rent or buy this at an affordable level???

    I would!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Pig, it was my understanding that the PEX loops need only be buried below the frost line, maybe 4 feet for the horizontal system. At least that’s what I’ve seen on TV

    I am certainly not talking about a system that uses well water in and then a second well for out.

    • I gotcha. There is not enough surface area to lay the tubes horizontally in a 20 x 50 (typical townhouse back yard). So, it would be a matter of doing enough “layers”. Seem possible tho!
      If cost were no object for me, I would be enjoying it now! And enjoying giving the middle finger the con ed and nat’l grid even more.

  • Pig, it was my understanding that the PEX loops need only be buried below the frost line, maybe 4 feet for the horizontal system. At least that’s what I’ve seen on TV

    I am certainly not talking about a system that uses well water in and then a second well for out.

  • cgmom if you are still monitoring this thread can you please reach out to me: heat@moltenmechanical.com I have a couple of questions.

    BTW- beautiful home…..

  • Yes, I understand what you are saying.

  • In fact, the modern building period started in 1890, as far as I am concerned. The Victorians were modernists. But we don’t call Victorian style “modern.”

  • In fact, the modern building period started in 1890, as far as I am concerned. The Victorians were modernists. But we don’t call Victorian style “modern.”

  • Does everyone love the Victorian houses in Brooklyn with the cheap mid-century doors? (This is what my house has.) Or do you think the original doors look better? Or perhaps you prefer a total modern makeover of the facade?

  • Can we bring back the Garden threads?????????????

  • this is why those pricey modern/contemporary houses sell so freaking fast and at big ASK in these primo hoods – ie there’s lots of demand for such style and supply is tight. These primo hoods have lots of attractions beyond just nice old homes with fancy detailed interiors.

  • So you’re all saying that anything goes as long as it’s less than ten years old and it costs a relative shitload of money? I think that is poor criteria for good design.

  • So you’re all saying that anything goes as long as it’s less than ten years old and it costs a relative shitload of money? I think that is poor criteria for good design.

  • Would you put a Tudor style kitchen in an Eichler or a Philip Johnson or a Nuetra house — would you? Would you install heavy Victorian cornices and moldings in an Eichler or a Philip Johnson or a Nuetra house? Is that a matter of “personal taste”?

  • I want to comment again on the restoration/renovation tossup. Even though I prefer a restoration of period details, the kitchen is always something that needs to be modernized, for obvious reasons. Although I might have done a more traditional look (subway tiles, panelled cabinets, blah, blah), I really LOVE the glass wall looking out into the yard.

  • How am I advocating my own personal taste?

    * By my logic, and perhaps I am straining logic, this house would be improved if they completely redid the facade — either to match the new interior or the original exterior.

    * I wouldn’t put a traditional-style contemporary kitchen in an Eichler or a Philip Johnson or a Nuetra house — would you?

    * I’m not saying your 2012 modern-style kitchen needs to look like it was built in 1970. I’m saying keep it generally in the same vein.

  • “Would you put a Tudor style kitchen in an Eichler or a Philip Johnson or a Nuetra house — would you?”

    SOMEONE might. It’s a matter of personal taste.

  • Pig-three, keeping the staircase is not important. However, this particular one is handmade and of good quality. Putting in a new, pre-fab metal staircase that doesn’t fit correctly into the opening would not be an improvement, but I don’t see anything wrong with replacing it with a design of equal or better quality — in this instance, I mean, since the rest of the house is modern. I don’t see anything wrong with keeping it either. It’s certainly more “green” to keep it.

    • I’m not seeing the photo that reveals the quality of the stairs. I see painted simple spindles, a painted handrail (probably mahogany) and what appears to be a painted Newel post (probably not mahogany)
      My guess, painted pine steps that were wedge construction and make lots of noise when used. Unless they reset the wedges in all the steps and risers.

      I’m not a fan of metal and glass stairs either. I think the modern steps in the Nakashima house are amazing though and something along those lines would have been nice in this house. Maybe a leather covered handrail for code ;)

    • I’m not seeing the photo that reveals the quality of the stairs. I see painted simple spindles, a painted handrail (probably mahogany) and what appears to be a painted Newel post (probably not mahogany)
      My guess, painted pine steps that were wedge construction and make lots of noise when used. Unless they reset the wedges in all the steps and risers.

      I’m not a fan of metal and glass stairs either. I think the modern steps in the Nakashima house are amazing though and something along those lines would have been nice in this house. Maybe a leather covered handrail for code ;)

  • So you all agree that absolutely anything goes, as long as it costs a lot of money and has been done within the last ten years? Because I notice you don’t like cheap renovations and you don’t like things that are no longer trendy.

  • What my mother has done is called “remuddling.” It does not enhance the overall house or its value.

  • Mopar, I will say that I do believe ‘anything goes.’ Not ‘as long as it costs a lot of money and has been done within the last ten years,’ but as long as you like it. Anything goes when it’s your money and your house.

  • “Those would be inappropriate design decisions for me. But I’m sure there are some that wouldn’t agree and if they wanted an English kitchen in a Modern house they’d do it. Call your Mom. ”

    OK, fine, I will call my mom ;)

  • from owner perspective, anything goes as he/she paid for it, own the place, and lives in it

    from our outsider perspective, anything goes as long as it looks nice. consistency with facade, neighbor house, etc is irrelevant

  • And the idea that a reno/resto has to enhance a home’s value is pure b.s. to me. A house is nothing more than a place you like to call home in a neighborhood you like to live in. It is not an investment vehicle. It is not fine wine that simply must appreciate over time. You do what you like to your home because you like it…not because someone 15-20 years from now may pay you for because they like it.

  • “Bottom line, a 20 x 45 box lends itself to almost any style design on the interior.
    And, in my opinion, roughly 25% of the townhouses in brooklyn have interior architectural detail worth keeping.”

    If you mean only rich people’s mansions are worth preserving, I disagree.

    “If everyone could see whats behind the walls and above the ceilings, more people would gut.”

    I have seen what’s behind my walls. There is nothing wrong with them. On the other hand, the ceilings are full of possum droppings, which is disgusting.

    • i did not say rich peoples mansions. In old wealthy neighborhoods the average goes up, and neglected neighborhoods (don’t forget Park Slope & Ft Greene were neglected for a long time), the average goes down. But given the vast number of townhouses in Brooklyn, 25% worth keeping is a safe bet.

      I think I am less impressed with the more common elements from 1850 – 1920. Not every home form that period had amazing wood work. Some was just regular and cost savings type – but trying to look like the “rich” peoples stuff.

      I mean what I said.

    • i did not say rich peoples mansions. In old wealthy neighborhoods the average goes up, and neglected neighborhoods (don’t forget Park Slope & Ft Greene were neglected for a long time), the average goes down. But given the vast number of townhouses in Brooklyn, 25% worth keeping is a safe bet.

      I think I am less impressed with the more common elements from 1850 – 1920. Not every home form that period had amazing wood work. Some was just regular and cost savings type – but trying to look like the “rich” peoples stuff.

      I mean what I said.

  • Well, Snappy, you are consistent and you are democratic.

  • Well, Snappy, you are consistent and you are democratic.

  • “consistency with facade, neighbor house, etc is irrelevant.” Oh, you anti-preservationist hooligans.

  • “consistency with facade, neighbor house, etc is irrelevant.” Oh, you anti-preservationist hooligans.

  • I’m not totally anti-preservation – I must admit that while taking one of MM’s walking tours in Bed Stuy, I saw a new construction building that immediately made me say “Gah! How the eff was that allowed to happen?”. But, I wanna ask the die-hard preservationists who believe that homes should/must be in keeping with others in the nabe – what say you about suburban enclaves where all the houses look essentially the same? Do you dismiss it as ‘cookie-cutter’ or is that ‘in keeping with the style of the nabe?’ Is it the fact that the house is super old that makes you believe it should stay pretty much as-is? I really don’t intend any snark, I’m just trying to get an understanding here.

  • I’m not totally anti-preservation – I must admit that while taking one of MM’s walking tours in Bed Stuy, I saw a new construction building that immediately made me say “Gah! How the eff was that allowed to happen?”. But, I wanna ask the die-hard preservationists who believe that homes should/must be in keeping with others in the nabe – what say you about suburban enclaves where all the houses look essentially the same? Do you dismiss it as ‘cookie-cutter’ or is that ‘in keeping with the style of the nabe?’ Is it the fact that the house is super old that makes you believe it should stay pretty much as-is? I really don’t intend any snark, I’m just trying to get an understanding here.

  • “And the idea that a reno/resto has to enhance a home’s value is pure b.s. to me. A house is nothing more than a place you like to call home in a neighborhood you like to live in. It is not an investment vehicle. It is not fine wine that simply must appreciate over time. You do what you like to your home because you like it…not because someone 15-20 years from now may pay you for because they like it.”

    Worth repeating.

  • “And the idea that a reno/resto has to enhance a home’s value is pure b.s. to me. A house is nothing more than a place you like to call home in a neighborhood you like to live in. It is not an investment vehicle. It is not fine wine that simply must appreciate over time. You do what you like to your home because you like it…not because someone 15-20 years from now may pay you for because they like it.”

    Worth repeating.

  • I’m not anti-preservation at all. I love and appreciate historic homes. I live in one myself, and am doing what I can to make it period-correct in many aspects. But I also appreciate other types of architecture and design, and think the tremendous variety of styles in themselves allow us to appreciate (or dislike) each one based on its own merits. I appreciate the “rules” of architecure and design, but once those rules are understood there’s no reason anyone shouldn’t challenge them based on personal insight. That’s where innovation comes from.

  • I’m not anti-preservation at all. I love and appreciate historic homes. I live in one myself, and am doing what I can to make it period-correct in many aspects. But I also appreciate other types of architecture and design, and think the tremendous variety of styles in themselves allow us to appreciate (or dislike) each one based on its own merits. I appreciate the “rules” of architecure and design, but once those rules are understood there’s no reason anyone shouldn’t challenge them based on personal insight. That’s where innovation comes from.

  • Yeah, pig, like the decision to strip paint off of casings and doors. Mine are poplar, so they don’t look so great stripped.

  • “They seem to be doing pretty good to me for the most part, and there are a lot bigger problems around.”

    Agreed.

    Pig-three, the style of staircase is roughly 1850s-1870s, so probably mostly handmade and I bet it curves in the back and has a coffin niche. I have no idea what wood it’s made of.

    Snappy, the brownstones of Brooklyn are cookie cutter. I have no issue with cookie cutter or suburbs or modern or a mix. I do regret the occasional loss of older buildings to modern infill that is cheaply built/badly designed with setbacks and heights inconsistent with its surroundings. Ex: Banks and chains in old pedestrian neighborhoods should be required to build to the lot line with the same height and parking in the back. The Rite Aid on Halsey and Broadway does this well. The bank on Metropolitan and the BQE is awful. Re suburban developments, mixed use and pedestrian friendly would improve them. I don’t care what style the homes are. (Though PERSONALLY I prefer high ceilings and windows.)

  • good god, what is wrong with you mopar?

  • good god, what is wrong with you mopar?

  • I’m surprised my home continues to generate so much disucssion, but I’m happy to try to respond to thoughtful questions and comments.
    Pig-three, you are right about the fireplace–it was intended for ambiance and special occasions. I meant only that the heat genrated from the soap stone was a nice surpise. As for the cost/savings analysis, I think of our choices as saving money over time because we have no intention of moving any time soon. So while the costs have not yet been paid off, we spend far less on our regular monthly bills than we used to in a smaller home. Much of that is attributable to excellent insulation by way of the foam insulation and high quality sealed windows and efficient heating in winter, and our whole house fan in summer which works wonders and I highly recommend it as a relatvely inexpensive alternative to central air (as well as LED lighting, induction cooktop in lieu of gas and other details to a lesser degree).
    We like the low key character of our neighborhood and the simple brownstone facades that are a feature of it, and we had no interest in redoing the facade. In my view, the style inside is quite consistent with the very clean lines of the exterior. This is not park slope by the park and there are no fancy limestone carved facades (which are lovely but might be incongruous with the design choices we made.)
    Finally, many of you have asked about the staircase. It is quite common and not made of any special woods with any niches or nice curves. We kept it because it was in good condition structurally and we liked the idea of putting our budget elsewhere. No creaks when you walk and it remains quite even and straight. It had been painted several times or was patched with ply wood, so we chose to give it a fresh coat of paint and install a runner (for kid safety issues).
    What has been lost in all the comments here is that the bulk of our construction budget actually went to what I call “stuff behind the walls”–we spent our budget primarily on high efficiency heating, electrical, plumbing systems, etc. The couches commentors ripped into are vintage as is much of the furniture in the house, and by vintage, I mean used, not not historic or worth preserving. My husband built most of the back yard himself over two summers. What we wanted from our architects and contractor was a solid and well-built efficient home that reflects our lifestyle, and we are quite pleased with what we accomplished together.
    Thanks for the nice comments on the house. Signing off now.