The Insider: Letting in Light in Prospect Heights

The Insider is Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a recent renovation/interior design project here in the borough of Brooklyn. It’s written and produced by design writer and blogger Cara Greenberg. You’ll find it here every Thursday at 11:30AM.


IT’S NOT AN UNCOMMON COMPLAINT among owners of Brooklyn row houses, especially narrow ones like this 16-footer that hadn’t been renovated “in a million years.” “The clients’ main concern was how dark it was,” says architectural designer Elizabeth Roberts, who re-thought the 1890s building — an owners’ triplex with a rental apartment below — in its entirety. “We spent a lot of time figuring out how to lighten up and open up the space.”

“The house was just dripping with detailed woodwork and it wasn’t the clients’ taste,” Roberts says. “We made careful choices of what would stay and what would be removed.”

Among the major changes: taking down walls on the parlor floor to create one flowing space; replacing damaged wood flooring on the parlor level with poured concrete plaster; an all-new kitchen incorporating original detail; and a new ‘bathing room’ that doubles as creative workspace for one of the homeowners, who is a sculptor and textile designer.

The renovation budget of $750,000 also included all new mechanicals, central air, a high-efficiency gas boiler, and a revamped cellar with an art studio, cedar-lined closet, and wine cellar. On the garden level, there’s a one-bedroom rental apartment, plus a powder room accessible only to the owners.

Read on after the jump…

Photos: Sean Slattery

Because the parlor floor is long (40′) and narrow, Roberts opened up the space by taking down walls between the staircase and front parlor, as well as between the front and back parlors. A long, low walnut shelf holds books and media equipment. As it runs through the space, it becomes seating for a dining area in the center. During parties, the entire thing becomes seating. The sofa is from West Elm.


Removing walls resulted in “a lot of wood flooring that would have needed to be re-worked,” says Roberts. The clients chose instead to pour a new concrete plaster floor. “It lightens up the space a lot and makes the wood design features show up more,” Roberts points out, referring to both the modern kitchen island and a section of the house’s original woodwork retrofitted to contain a Blue Star stove, Liebherr fridge, and china cabinet. “That’s basic to the way I design – I like to leave enough space around beautiful objects so they can really be seen.” The original kitchen mantel was removed and replaced with a minimalist fireplace. The countertop is a honed marble slab.


Above, an oversized carved wood mantel from an upper floor being carted away. “Everything removed was salvaged and sent to Olde Good Things,” says Roberts. In exchange, simpler mantels from an earlier era were brought in from the same source.


The second floor was completely gutted to provide an open master suite with a bathing area/study and new bamboo strip floors, dyed ebony. Two very plain marble mantels from Olde Good Things in Scranton, PA replaced the ornate Victorian ones.

 

A tub by Sir Norman Foster for Hoesch is the central feature of the second room on the master bedroom floor. There’s a sink in a private, well-lit corner near a window, with a toilet and shower tucked away behind the wall, as well as a workspace with a desk and yarn storage in an opposite corner. A bank of closets runs along either side of the passageway between the master bedroom and bathing room.

 

On the top floor are two bedrooms, a laundry area, and a children’s bath wrapped in glazed ceramic tile.

The Insider recently covered a Brooklyn Heights loft by the same designer, Elizabeth Roberts. To catch up with the complete archive of “The Insider,” head on over here.

82 Comment

  • expert_textpert

    ““The house was just dripping with detailed woodwork and it wasn’t the clients’ taste,” Roberts says. “We made careful choices of what would stay and what would be removed.”

    uh oh. I predict lots and lots of comments today.

  • USGrant

    Hhhahahahah…. funny – that was the first line that caught my eye,e_t – my initial reaction? Well, if a brownstone is not your taste, then why….? Anyway, ughhh…to each his own, right? :) That aside, I didn’t find much in the house to get excited about. The kitchen looked OK, the kid’s play area worked. The parlor looked like one of those parlors that you see in unrenovated homes that make you cringe but then you think how nice it will look some day when it is renovated. I can’t help thinking how I have seen so many renovations that have tried to do a good mix of detail and modern. This reno, I think I would give poor mark for that. Overall, looks like the builders did quality work, but it wasn’t “this” client’s taste. :)

    • no-permits

      “Well, if a brownstone is not your taste, then why….?”

      i second that. i mean, it’s their place and they can do whatever they want but whyyyyy remove detail. just buy a place without any.

    • hancock1

      Exactly. When I read that line my heart sank. I too, thought “if you want a modernist slab constructed home why take another vintage brownstone off the map?” The resulting stark white open space could exist in any highrise, loft space or factory building. I am quietly mourning for all the period detail that once graced this house. When they removed all of that from the house they also removed its soul.

  • USGrant

    are those folks carting away the mantelpiece crying or laughing?

  • daveinbedstuy

    This should put to rest the notion that a high end gut rehab with all new mechanicals for a building this size will cost well in excess of $1 Million. Minard???

    Did the parlour floor need to be reinforced for the concrete??? And, what is “concrete plaster?”

    I like it.

  • daveinbedstuy

    This should put to rest the notion that a high end gut rehab with all new mechanicals for a building this size will cost well in excess of $1 Million. Minard???

    Did the parlour floor need to be reinforced for the concrete??? And, what is “concrete plaster?”

    I like it.

  • USGrant

    I just friggin realized what the parlor reminded me of – a Soviet hotel lobby. Not that that’s bad. That may be the style they were going for – but then they would want more curtains and less light.

  • daveinbedstuy

    Maybe , like the story says, they didn’t like the detail.

    • expert_textpert

      yeah, traditional detailing is not for everyone.
      I can understand that some people want to live in certain neighborhood, in a house, and loves contemporary design. Finding a contemporary house (inside and out) in prospect heights, park slope and any of the other “brownstone” nabes that so many people want to live in is near impossible.
      So what should one do? Buy a house in a nabe you love but live with an interior you hate?

  • BrownstoneDuplex

    What a poor use of available space. Not for me. Hope the owners feel their $750k was well spent.

    Obviously the owners and the designer don’t cook. Can’t imagine using a stove inside a closet without adjacent counter space. It just feels cramped and looks like a fire hazard. I also predict that the soaking tub will eventually be covered with a top to serve as a second workspace. Half a floor for a bathroom? I’ve seen it before but just think it’s a waste of space.

  • expert_textpert

    LOL to “Soviet” and “curtains”

  • I was skeptical about the “carting away” line too, but the results are very nice. I don’t like Victorian era style either, I live in a Federal style house from the 1840s, which is much less ornate. the question is, why would they by this era of house to begin with. It’s one thing to gut a house because it is a wreck and the details are mostly gone, but to buy it pristine, and rip it out; that is hard to understand. At least it will go to someone who appreciates it, and needs it.

    This is a good design solution for a narrow building, I love it, especially the master bedroom suite on an entire floor.

  • I was skeptical about the “carting away” line too, but the results are very nice. I don’t like Victorian era style either, I live in a Federal style house from the 1840s, which is much less ornate. the question is, why would they by this era of house to begin with. It’s one thing to gut a house because it is a wreck and the details are mostly gone, but to buy it pristine, and rip it out; that is hard to understand. At least it will go to someone who appreciates it, and needs it.

    This is a good design solution for a narrow building, I love it, especially the master bedroom suite on an entire floor.

  • stuyheightsarch

    This place is a bit to stark for me but that said it is a very bright townhouse. I think the owners should have purchased a house without details.

  • The living room looks like waiting room for a doctor. Could it be any narrorer. Not loving the book shelves all the way thru.
    I am hating the open shelves in what looks to me as a childs room. Awful
    Not loving this reno at all, doesn’t look to me that anything from an old brownstone stayed.

    I agree with another poster, Isn’t part of living in a brownstone, loving the brownstone features, not to rip them out. It seems almost criminal.

    I give this whole entire reno a thumbs down. I hate it. No, seriously, I really hate this one.

    The decor has about as much personality as a suction cup.

  • expert_textpert

    I personally love a historic house with period details and contemporary furniture and accessories.

    It’s hard to do a house (and an apt) in a contemporary style and make it look great. Many times it ends up looking like plain white walls. People try to spruce it up with furniture and accessories but what should stand out is the architectural contemporary details.

    Either this house wasn’t photographed well or it really is very bland.
    The living room looks like a waiting area at a doctor’s office and everytime I look at it I expect to see the doctor’s appointments written on that white board in the front right corner of the photo.

    The kitchen I don’t think works. Someone mentioned the stove and not having counter space next to it. I agree.

    I’m tired of the bathtub in the middle of the room look. How often and long does one bathe (see MM’s post on the bathroom) and do you need that much space around you.

    I love dark wood floors but with kids it’s a big no no. That train is going to derail off the tracks and scratch up the floor.

    And I HATE the beige bathroom….so institutional.

  • Yeah, I’m enjoying this feature a lot, but not so much this house. I get lots of ideas about layout from them. The ones I don’t like so much are useful, I think, as instructive to me about things NOT to do.

    Poured concrete has its places as a flooring, but I think this shows me that those places don’t include brownstones, at least not parlor floor and above. I like bathing and a nice room to do so in, but I surely don’t want my workspace, even a reading nook, in the bathing room. I’d have split that half of the floor into separate work and bath rooms, as there was plenty of room for both.

    I agree about not wanting a stove in an alcove with no counter space on either side. I like original woodwork as on this parlor floor, so I probably wouldn’t ever remove it (much as I wouldn’t remove original mantels, much as I like the ones they replaced them with). But I wouldn’t compromise good cooking design for the woodwork. Which is why I’d likely put the kitchen appliance wall on the other side of the room, and use the woodwork wall for closets, pantries, and/or extra dishes storage.

    Some of these things seem to be trends of various architects/designers that they work into every project, so I’ve learned it is important to look at the previous projects of anyone I might hire….to see if there are similarities in them, and if so, if they are ones I like.

  • daveinbedstuy

    Wow, so much hate. And i thought Minard was bad!!!!

  • srsqualms

    Dislike! I don’t hate modern, but this is neither here nor there. Why put concrete floors in a Brownstone parlor but then leave the dark brown wooden shutters in the same room? That particularly makes no sense. Also, if you don’t want an ornate mantel, you could do much better than one made out of discolored slabs.

  • expert_textpert

    I went back and looked at the photos again.

    I really think this house wasn’t photographed well. There’s too much sunshine coming in thru the windows and washing everything out in the immediate area.
    there isn’t a crispiness of the architectural details (window casings, built-ins under the windows, etc.). Everything is a big white blob.
    I’m sure that living room seating area is beautiful with the contemporary sofa and the shutters and window casings but all you see is the mass of concrete flooring in the foreground.

    I’m not going to hate on this house as much cause I think it’s the photography that’s hurting it and not the actual design.

  • expert_textpert

    I went back and looked at the photos again.

    I really think this house wasn’t photographed well. There’s too much sunshine coming in thru the windows and washing everything out in the immediate area.
    there isn’t a crispiness of the architectural details (window casings, built-ins under the windows, etc.). Everything is a big white blob.
    I’m sure that living room seating area is beautiful with the contemporary sofa and the shutters and window casings but all you see is the mass of concrete flooring in the foreground.

    I’m not going to hate on this house as much cause I think it’s the photography that’s hurting it and not the actual design.

  • slopemope

    Thanks for sharing Cara.

    OK, so this is the owners triplex reno only? The bathing / creative room is unusual, wonder if they’ll get sick of it – and i’m guessing the powder room on the garden level “accessible only to the owners” is for when they are in the backyard / entertaining in the garden? I don’t get why people with money want rentals. Maybe its an in-law unit. Anyhoo….

    They definitely did the “give me a loft in soho” thing, which of course i can completely appreciate, but if we are talking almost $400/sf for a reno with one kitchen (16x40x3 floors), with an open minimalist feel, that’s sounds like still a splurge (i.e. a lot of architect / designer fees for open space). P.S. i would hate cooking in that kitchen.

    Overall i wouldn’t mind living here, but i wouldn’t be my dream house the way it probably functions. I like a little more privacy, a little beefier cooking kitchen. I hope the owners love it though!

  • slopemope

    Thanks for sharing Cara.

    OK, so this is the owners triplex reno only? The bathing / creative room is unusual, wonder if they’ll get sick of it – and i’m guessing the powder room on the garden level “accessible only to the owners” is for when they are in the backyard / entertaining in the garden? I don’t get why people with money want rentals. Maybe its an in-law unit. Anyhoo….

    They definitely did the “give me a loft in soho” thing, which of course i can completely appreciate, but if we are talking almost $400/sf for a reno with one kitchen (16x40x3 floors), with an open minimalist feel, that’s sounds like still a splurge (i.e. a lot of architect / designer fees for open space). P.S. i would hate cooking in that kitchen.

    Overall i wouldn’t mind living here, but i wouldn’t be my dream house the way it probably functions. I like a little more privacy, a little beefier cooking kitchen. I hope the owners love it though!

  • I would have sold the house and bought one that was in bad shape and fixed that. Why destroy a pretty house with beautiful woodwork?

    On another end, I haven’t been on here in a while, but it seems like so much has changed. DIBS and 11217 messing around, the open thread, all that stuff seems like from a bygone era (just a few years ago). What happened? Did I miss something?

  • I would have sold the house and bought one that was in bad shape and fixed that. Why destroy a pretty house with beautiful woodwork?

    On another end, I haven’t been on here in a while, but it seems like so much has changed. DIBS and 11217 messing around, the open thread, all that stuff seems like from a bygone era (just a few years ago). What happened? Did I miss something?

  • Wow, the choices made are also not for me. For $750k, the main living area seems strangely laid out, with the couch crammed up in the corner in front of the tv. I would also think they would have moved the bathrooms to the center of the floors on the upper two to allow for larger bedrooms on the ends.

    I think kitchen needs more countertop space, might as well have ripped out the detail and made functional if they were going to remove all the rest anyway.

    Some nice light fixtures on the ceiling vs. the track lighting would also be nice.

  • cls2000

    Knife in my heart once again. Why not buy a wreck for much less and renovate to your heart’s content. Many people will pay a premium for original detail. It just pains me that this craftsmanship that has withstood a century, is ripped out never to be seen again and in its place an interior that already looks oddly outdated. Also, that stove in the closet business looks horrible and is most definitely a fire hazard.

  • I hate to be negative, but I really don’t like this place either. If they had $750,000 to spend on a renovation, perhaps they could have afforded a wider house. Overall,the place seems cold and uninviting. The living room is awful and I really don’t like the concrete floor on the parlor floor. It adds to the coldness of the place. The stove and the refrigerator seem really far away. I think they should have removed the built in so that they could arrange the kitchen is a way that makes sense with more countertop near the stove and with overhead cabinets. I honestly wonder how the architects could have let them build such a functionless kitchen. I don’t mind the upper floors (though the bathroom is way too big), but the parlor floor really doesn’t work for me.

  • cara greenberg

    OK… I feel I should point out that these photos were taken to document the architectural changes and not the furnishings (which, especially on the parlor floor, are obviously minimal). Often, architects will go in and take photos of their contributions BEFORE the homeowners have fully decorated (as in this case), because they may have no control over that side of things. I agree the parlor looks barren, and poured concrete on the parlor level wouldn’t be my choice either. I’m more sympathetic to the replacement of the wood Victorian mantels, however original, with the Federal style (?) ones. If I were the owner of this house and had inherited those mantels, I would desperately want to paint them white, at the least. All that said, I love the look of the 2nd floor, where the homeowners evidently furnished the master bedroom to their own (good) taste. I think the ebony floors are fabulous (keep a Swiffer handy). As for the ‘bathing room,’ it’s definitely a luxury, along with the dressing rooms we’ve seen in other installments of this column — a way to use that other room on the second floor when the kids have their own floor upstairs. It’s another advantage to old houses as opposed to apartments, for those who can make it work financially: extra rooms for frivolous activities.

  • Reminds me of a Prospect Heights duplex I sold a few years ago. The house was full of mahogany detailing and doors (the inspector used the term “museum quality”). The buyers (represented by their own brokers, thank goodness) brought their parents and their decorator in, and all they talked about was bleaching that mahogany (because it was “too dark”) and knocking down the wall between the double parlors on the parlor floor and the supporting wall between the hallway and the rooms (the house was 22′ wide). The decorator actually said to the seller, “I’m sure you just never use that room,” referring to the front parlor. When the seller replied to the contrary the decorator smiled, and said, “Well my clients need to install several flat screen TVs and there just isn’t room with that wall between the two rooms.” The actually had to install steel beams in the basement to support the house after knocking out the supporting wall. Took nearly a year. Ouch!

  • Reminds me of a Prospect Heights duplex I sold a few years ago. The house was full of mahogany detailing and doors (the inspector used the term “museum quality”). The buyers (represented by their own brokers, thank goodness) brought their parents and their decorator in, and all they talked about was bleaching that mahogany (because it was “too dark”) and knocking down the wall between the double parlors on the parlor floor and the supporting wall between the hallway and the rooms (the house was 22′ wide). The decorator actually said to the seller, “I’m sure you just never use that room,” referring to the front parlor. When the seller replied to the contrary the decorator smiled, and said, “Well my clients need to install several flat screen TVs and there just isn’t room with that wall between the two rooms.” The actually had to install steel beams in the basement to support the house after knocking out the supporting wall. Took nearly a year. Ouch!

  • Geez — what a bunch of negative people. I love what they did with the space. Times change — people’s tastes change. Maybe lots of you readers need to be more accepting of things that arent your taste.

    • I think it is ugly and most of it looks like a dentist’s office in a strip mall.

      Why do people buy intact houses with beatiful detail and prceed to
      destroy the house. There are plenty of houses in brownstone areas that have already been compromised – why not mess up and suburbanize one of those? There are lots of fedder condo’s that have more character than this mess.

    • Well, this is Brownstoner and not something like Modern Loft, so it’s going to represent a particular cross section of tastes. Actually the comments have been less vitriolic than I would have expected. I don’t necessarily think that taking out the hall/parlor wall is always a bad thing, especially in a narrow house. I recall one of the Insiders a few weeks ago where they did the same thing with a 12′ foot house and it really looked beautiful. I don’t think the results here are terrible, but certainly not to my taste. I do have to question the concrete floors. I would think they be awfully cold unless there’s radiant heat under them.

  • CGmodern

    jeez i usually love modern and minimal but not this….just awkward!

    seems like they should’ve bought one of those modern state street townhouses or something similar.

  • NeoGrec

    Thanks for all the negativity, guys. Now if I ask these folks to be on the Prospect Heights House Tour they are pretty much guaranteed to say no! Personally, I think they made some good decisions about what to keep and what to lose. Removing a couple of fussy old wood mantelpieces (and recyling them, please note) is hardly the end of the world. And I love the slate bench/hearth in front of the kitchen fireplace. Maybe a stainless steel cart to the left of the stove would make it more functional?

  • NeoGrec

    Thanks for all the negativity, guys. Now if I ask these folks to be on the Prospect Heights House Tour they are pretty much guaranteed to say no! Personally, I think they made some good decisions about what to keep and what to lose. Removing a couple of fussy old wood mantelpieces (and recyling them, please note) is hardly the end of the world. And I love the slate bench/hearth in front of the kitchen fireplace. Maybe a stainless steel cart to the left of the stove would make it more functional?

  • Havemeyer

    There are so many houses that have already been gutted, doing something like this to one of them would be fine. However, at this point in the game original floorplans are worth their weight in gold and taking one out makes me want to puke. Look, if you can spend $750,000 on your RENOVATION to live in Prospect Heights, I suspect you are immune to our criticism, and your design choices aren’t awful… they’re just, “generic rich person room & board.” That’s not bad, it’s just predictable. And sad, about the floor plan.

    I have to say, I think I do not trust people who spend this much to get so little, also. You couldn’t have left the fireplaces? The look is like “high Ikea.” It’s not terrible, it’s just… you know.

  • USGrant

    I think there is a huge difference between being negative-snarky and negative-disgusted/unimpressed/having different aesthetic tastes/&c. The first usually involves a holier-than-thou attitude mixed with passive-aggressive and/or angry comments. The second, which it appears has come from the majority of commenters on this post, simply involves a true expression of their taste (which is just as valid as that “imagined” by the designer, by the way). I, actually, was expecting to see a lot of the former, but was happy to see that this was not the case – although I am sure many folks have held their tongues when they saw these pictures. I think this “re-design” was just an unfortunate mis-calculation on the part of the designer in partnership with the owner. Another poster made a similar comment about the designer and the owner not synching and this being the outcome. Anyhow, simply way, way, way too much money for the end result achieved. Reminds me of the type of restaurants that some folks go to because they want to be seen there, and don’t care so much whether they are full when they leave. But, as many others (mysef included) have pointed out, that is their taste and not mine.

  • USGrant

    I think there is a huge difference between being negative-snarky and negative-disgusted/unimpressed/having different aesthetic tastes/&c. The first usually involves a holier-than-thou attitude mixed with passive-aggressive and/or angry comments. The second, which it appears has come from the majority of commenters on this post, simply involves a true expression of their taste (which is just as valid as that “imagined” by the designer, by the way). I, actually, was expecting to see a lot of the former, but was happy to see that this was not the case – although I am sure many folks have held their tongues when they saw these pictures. I think this “re-design” was just an unfortunate mis-calculation on the part of the designer in partnership with the owner. Another poster made a similar comment about the designer and the owner not synching and this being the outcome. Anyhow, simply way, way, way too much money for the end result achieved. Reminds me of the type of restaurants that some folks go to because they want to be seen there, and don’t care so much whether they are full when they leave. But, as many others (mysef included) have pointed out, that is their taste and not mine.

  • daveinbedstuy

    lincolnsloper, the OT was wiped out when blankslate took over and redid the site here, allowing fewer people to log in from corporate firewalls. In essence the site has been gentrified in the worst sense.

    I think a lot of the negativity voiced here today is really rude. Most of you can’t afford a place 1/10th what this is worth let alone what the renovation cost. yes, I’m being a j a c k a s s yet again but seward I don’t think you are right. These negative and yes, passive aggressive comments go well beyond expressions of taste.

    • USGrant

      Hi Dave, You are certainly welcome to your views on this home. They are valid and everyone has their own viewpoints that are just as valid. But I don’t feel I – or most folks on here – was being negative. My initial response (before writing anything) was a sort of shock at what I saw. Almost like it was a joke played by the designer on the owner. I used to live in Eastern Europe and when I saw that parlor I had to re-read everything to be sure that what I saw was a house that was finished and redone in a futuristic style. I, too, like a lot of folks on here, like the older details and would prefer to keep them, but at the same time cannot appreciate how that was done here. I don’t feel any negativity or say this in any mean-spirited passive-aggressive way. I am simply offering my honest feelings on the result of a re-design. If you cannot appreciate or accept that I have a different taste or think that I’ve gone beyond an expression of taste, then again, that is your right, but I disagree with you.

  • wait a minute, those are concrete floors on the parlour floor?

    huh??, I thought it was gray carpeting.?????

    are you kidding????

  • minard

    I appreciate that they kept the old windows and the stained glass transoms I don’t know why they removed the original mantles and put in others from a different period, but whatever.
    I do like that the house looks like it is lived in by a real family.
    Lastly, while the renovation budget was 750,000, I doubt that was the true bottom line after adding architects and engineer’s fees (that tub has to be supported by something other than the old joists) as well as permits and other soft costs.

  • A really charmless house. Many motel lobbies I’ve seen are homier. The kitchen seems like a wonderful space for someone who brings in food, not someone who likes to prepare fresh food at home.I do like the look of the master bedroom, even if I would never choose to decorate this way myself, but I guess I grew up too many years ago to want to bathe in what has the feel of a large public space.

    As far as I’m concerned, a huge waste of $750G … if that’s how the owners choose to spend their money, I guess it’s their choice. But do you think that they may want to change the look come 2020?

  • blowfish

    i disagree, i dig this house. i like a mix of modern of old, heavier on the modern. Not so much into the Victorian ornate– those details were salvaged though, and could end up in another Victorian era home previosuly stripped, so all’s well that ends well.

  • The kitchen is beautiful. Everything else is nice enough, but not $750k on a renovation nice. I don’t get the 2nd picture at all, and I’m not a fan of the new fireplaces, but to each her own.

  • minard

    It’s funny that readers seem to be reacting more to this house than to the one shown a few weeks ago in Carroll Gardens where the architect ripped out every inch of molding every shred of historic material, put in single pane windows, no mantles, and basically stripped the house to down to zero. Here they worked with the house and achieved something much better.

    • USGrant

      Hey Minard, I must have missed that one. I took a look, though, and that one is not my preferred style, either. Comparing the two sets of photos, though, you see a stark contrast. One seems like you would enjoy living there – like living in a first rate boutique hotel (which it looks like to me). The other one (maybe because of how the pics were taken, as another commenter noted) makes me feel as though I would be depressed in it until I left (esp. if I paid for it ;). I also think that the guy/gal that runs this site might have caused a good deal of the comments on here by mischievously including a picture of the fireplace mantel being removed. I don’t understand why he/she would have done that unless it were to generate more posts (or traffic to the site, however that computer stuff works). It was an odd picture inclusion that seemed like it didn’t fit with all of the other end results pics. SWR

    • I think the big difference is that with the earlier house it was at least implied that most of the detailing was either gone or in poor condition. Based on what’s still left in this house, it looks like the details were very much intact and in good condition.

    • I think the big difference is that with the earlier house it was at least implied that most of the detailing was either gone or in poor condition. Based on what’s still left in this house, it looks like the details were very much intact and in good condition.

  • Here’s what I don’t like:

    *the concrete floors. i have kids too so I can imagine the broken dishes and the broken teeth.
    *the white, the white, the white
    *the long, open storage on the first and third floors. make narrow spaces even narrower. you know you’re in trouble when you can’t fit a bench on both sides of a dining table.
    *the price. I dont see why this is so much OR why the other duplex this same designer did was just half the price when it seemed to be 1/10 of the job.

    ALL THAT SAID, if I walked in here I bet I’d be wowed.

  • Havemeyer

    I will add, in defense of this house:

    1.) at least they have books.

    2.) I could quite happily live in that bathroom forever.

    However, and I know my tastes are not standard (I thought Agnes Deyn’s loft that was ridiculed on Curbed was fantastic, for one), it’s like, geez, so much money and “it’s not even lea-thah.”

    (Joan Cusak, Working Girl)

  • daveinbedstuy

    Welcome back, Minard. Have you been on holiday???

  • dnk

    Weird: that kitchen set-up would better suit a 200 sq-ft studio.

    I’ve read through the comments; a lot of people aren’t into it, but I don’t think people are being rude.

    And let it be said, $750K is a lot of coin to drop on a renovation.

  • daveinbedstuy

    LOL, seward, yes, that photo was baiting in its highest form. Well done.

  • daveinbedstuy

    LOL, seward, yes, that photo was baiting in its highest form. Well done.

  • prospectmonkey

    so what is the all in cost on this puppy… figure 1.5M for the building and 750K in reno… a cool 2.25M … what kind of business is this guy in?

  • East New York

    “what kind of business is this guy in?”

    I don’t know, but it’s the right one.

  • cara greenberg

    All in the name of reportage, Seward… and perhaps a touch of mischief on my part. Yes, I knew that including that image of the original mantel being carted away would generate comment, but as soon as the designer told me such a photo existed, I knew I wanted to include it for history’s (and curiosity’s) sake. I knew the removal of woodwork and the insertion of concrete floors would not be a hit with this group, but so be it…it’s still a project worthy of inclusion, IMO.

  • callalily

    Well, I am loving the forthright explanation of the redesign and the budget in the writeup. Can’t comment on the result until late tonight since I’m on mobile. But don’t worry. I’m sure you already know what I would say.

  • I don’t think it’s so bad, but for $750,000 in should be MUCH nicer. That being said, I really don’t like the parlor floor. I don’t think I’m being passive aggressive. I just think the parlor floor looks cold and univiting. The concrete floors are AWFUL. I saw concrete floors in a townhouse on the Fort Greene House Tour a few years ago and it didn’t look so bad – but they had also blown out the entire back wall and replaced it with glass. It felt okay there, here it just seems weird when juxtaposed with the remaining woodwork, etc. I also really dislike the integration of the refrigerator and the stove into the existing builtin. While, I know I am being negative, I am being honest and sharing an opinion. If the owners can’t handle that, they shouldn’t agree to have their home written about. I could pretend that I love it, but what’s the point in that.

  • daveinbedstuy

    I never commented on the black stained floors. I did them in a kitchen in my first house and loved them.

  • slopemope

    cara knows how to generate some traffic! up next week – - a house with its own bike lane!!

  • It’s been said … Soviet Union hotel, doctor’s waiting room, motel, dentist’s office, unfortunate miscalculation, awful kitchen good for people who do all takeout. Let me add parlor floor bowling alley layout. What a waste of $750,000 and what a waste of detail.

  • should have paid 745k for the reno and gotten a nicer sofa.

  • callalily

    Not sure what I think. The open parlor floor is not working for me. Much of the rest of it I like.

  • Johanna

    Very nice high end work but I don’t see how you can call it a brownstone now.

  • Hmm, they were concerned about “how dark it was,” hence the dark floors juxtaposed with the bone white walls?

    It’s hard to judge without seeing the “before” pics.

    There is nothing “minimalist-”ic about those god-awful marble fireplaces.

    The “concrete” looks bland and cold.

    Overall, it’s their right to do as they please – not terrible, I can see they were going for a clean, uncluttered, post boroque look. I give them credit for their boldness. Hopefully, the mechanicals got most of that 750K.

  • callalily

    Crownlfc, it’s a little hard to make out the details in the photos, but I am pretty sure those are slate mantles from the last quarter of the 19th century. By the 1890s, these types of mantles would have been installed in lower-middle class and multi-family dwellings, while the rich enjoyed the giant wood mantles you see being carted out of this house. Typically the slate is incised with geometric patterns, and they were faux painted to resemble marble in the factory in Italy before they were shipped over in pieces and assembled on site. We have them in our place, and the funny thing is, I also prefer them to the wood mantles!

    (But I wouldn’t rip out original mantles. Luckily our house already had these. It was one of my favorite things about the house. Also, ours have not been stripped.)

    • Mopar – as per the description under the second picture – “Two very plain marble mantels from Olde Good Things in Scranton, PA replaced the ornate Victorian ones.”

      Considering the work they did, they had little choice other than taking out mantles – the clash between old and new would have been “wierd” They should have used slate though.

  • oh what a waste! I like many of the individual elements (the tub, the floors, the modern white cabinetry) but the overall finished execution is really lacking warmth and cohesiveness. Seeing those mantles carted away is so sad. The ornate cabinetry in the kitchen with the stainless appliances seemingly jammed in looks awkward and wrong. The whole thing is a feng shui nightmare. Aren’t those pots hanging over the stove below the exhaust going to get filthy? I think they have ruined this house. I think I hear the original owners screaming from beyond the grave!