The Insider: New-Construction Townhouse in Boerum Hill

WELCOME to The Insider, a weekly interior design/renovation series by Cara Greenberg. Find it on Brownstoner every Thursday at 11:30; and don’t forget The Outsider, our new garden series, every Sunday morning at 8.

This post is sponsored by Open Air Modern.

Open Air Modern offers authentic mid-century furniture along with out-of-print design, photography, and art books.

THIS SUPER-MODERN TAKE on the Brooklyn row house archetype is one of eight unique places on the 25th BOERUM HILL HOUSE TOUR, happening this Sunday, June 3, from 1-5PM. On a State Street lot many will remember as the site of a tragic gas explosion that reduced a brownstone to rubble, the lot remained vacant for years until Ben and Christine Hansen, both architects, acquired it in 2009 and designed a replacement.

Outside the boundaries of the Boerum Hill Historic District, the Hansens were free to design a strikingly modernist home for themselves and their two children. With a zinc-clad front bay and large steel-framed windows, the house stands out visually among other townhouses on the block, relating to them with its familiar high stoop and placement of the front door.

All-steel construction allows for flowing spaces inside, with large openings between rooms, 11-foot ceilings, and different-size footprints from floor to floor. On the 20’x40′ garden level, there’s a family/play room, plus guest room and bath. The 20’x50′ parlor level has a living room in front and kitchen/dining in back. On the 20’x40′ second floor are two children’s bedrooms with a bath in between. The master suite is on the 20’x32′ top floor.

Above: Rear view of the townhouse, with its cantilevered kitchen extension.

More photos and details, including a list of major suppliers, after the jump.

Photos: Francis Dzikowski

Concrete block on the facade is aligned with the building on the right. The zinc-clad bay extends three feet to align cleanly with the building on the left.

A hanging light fixture by David Trubridge in the living room glows visibly through the front window at night. The sectional couch is by Natuzzi. The factory-fabricated fireplace has a custom steel surround. The photograph above is by local artist Marina Berio. Flooring throughout the house is rift and quartered white oak.


Side chairs in a TV area at the front of the parlor floor are vintage Jens Risom. The windows have roller shades by Mecho. The large plate-glass windows are fixed, with an operable casement on the side.


The kitchen/dining area are in an extension at the rear of the house. Glossy IKEA cabinets were dressed up with Luce di Luna quartzite counters and special stainless steel hardware. The fixtures over the kitchen island are Verner Panton Pantop lights; over the dining tabl hangs a vintage Holmegaard hand-blown glass pendant.


On the ground level, there’s a family/playroom with radiant heat under quartzite floors. Visible beyond the glass sliders is a circular exterior stair leading to a landing at the kitchen level.


On the second floor, two children’s bedrooms share a “Jack and Jill” bath that can be entered directly from either bedroom.


The freestanding tub is from Bello Bagno.

There’s a 7-foot-deep terrace off the master bedroom, which is open and loft-like. Stairs lead to a larger roof deck.


The central staircase, with open risers, has a steel structure. The solid railing is lacquered wood. Treads are made of rift and quartered wood with Bolon, a synthetic sisal, on top.


The master bath has a custom-designed sink of honed Bleu de Savoie marble that pitches to a drain beneath the moveable center section, and a tub from Bello Bagno.


On the roof deck are galvanized troughs for growing vegetables.







Fulton General Contractor, Inc.
139 Fulton Street
Suite 807
New York, NY 10038

Zinc Panels:
CCR Sheet Metal
513 Porter Avenue
Brooklyn, NY  11222

Steel Windows:
Bliss Nor-Am
6679 Palladino Road
Jamesville, NY  13078

Wood Windows:
Loewen Windows and Doors
The Standard Group
100 Park Road
Tinton Falls, NJ  07724

Ground Face Block:
Westbrook Concrete Block Company
439 Spencer Plains Road
Westbrook, CT  06498

Stone Source
215 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003

Wood Floors:
Packard Flooring Company
2020 Broadhollow Road
Farmingdale, NY  11735

Missed any installments of The Insider?  You can find the whole archive right here.

25 Comment

  • I love the interior of this space. Especially the center staircase when viewed from the side. Stunning. The exterior…not sure why but I don’t think I like that part.

    • What I think is excellent is the design on the front to align the right side with the townhouse and aligning the left side to the apartment building with the zinc bay structure. (Is that really a bay? I thought bays were exposed on all sides.)

      This is the opposite of the poorly designed condo building further up State near Hoyt Street where they replaced the old single story garage. There, the bay is on the right side and does not align with the house on the right side, but extends past it and partially blocks an existing bay window on the neighboring house. Also, that has the not quite Juliet balconies on the front — yuck.

  • I love the interior of this space. Especially the center staircase when viewed from the side. Stunning. The exterior…not sure why but I don’t think I like that part.

  • I like it. Just how do you clean the windows from the outside. Not sure I like the way they open, but I have a window fixation.

    but I like this house, a lot.

    Now the windows that I see in the back yard, they belong to another house?

  • Very creative! I have a question for the architects. Is this house in a neighborhood zoned for R6B structures? The reason I am asking is that I thought that if one is doing an extension on an R6B lot a side yard is not required. However if you do include a side yard it has to be at least 8 ft. Does this extension on the house comply with this requirement because there is technically no extension on the ground floor? Does the second floor have to comply with this requirement? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

  • Gorgeous! Could the price to build from scratch be revealed?

  • Jonathan Lopes ( has made a lego model of this house, which is currently on display at Boerum Hill Dry Cleaners (Pacific & Bond). It is very cool.

  • Love the staircase and the roof deck. Stunning. I am also curious about the price — or at least a ballpark.

  • The Hansens are selfish people. They built this house far back into the lot, blocking the light and air that their neighbors had formerly enjoyed. They were unconcerned about doing this to people they have to see every day.

    The last I checked Mrs. Hansen is not licensed to practice architecture in NY State.

    The house looks like a dental clinic.

    • As far as anyone can tell from the plans, I’d say that this is a standard 20′ x 40′ house with the bump-out rear extension in which the kitchen exists being less than 8′ deep. That’s not “far back into the lot” and certainly within line of many brownstoner neighborhoods.

      And it’s especially rich for a resident in an apartment building that divides the entire block into two by extending all the way back to rear lot line to complain that a code-compliant structure obscures the light and views of residents looking out at the rear doughnut.

      I have to assume you consulted with an attorney who presumeably told you that you did not have any easement as of right to the light/views (as limited as they are given the location of 422 vis a vis the Ex Lax building), and you did not want to spend the money to purchase such an easement from the owners.

      And I don’t know the Hansens, but I don’t see what her current licensure status has to do with anything — the link is to the husband’s firm.

  • Gorgeous! This is modern done right.

    • The house is beautiful. Once again I realize how people just cannot be happy for someone else. If the people who are so rudely commenting, are neighbors of the Hansens then all I can say is I am glad I don’t live on their street. Seems you people go to a lot of trouble poking into other people’s business. And you don’t even get your facts straight. To my knowledge, Mrs. Hansen does have a license in NY but i question why this makes a difference!!!

  • I think it’s integrated rather nicely into the block. Just wondering who’s going to lug all that dirt up to the roof to fill those seven horse troughs?

    • It will be a lot easier than lugging that free-standing bathtub. These troughs look to be about 5 x 2 x 2, so maybe 35 cu ft of rooflite and 70 cu ft of gardening soil would do nicely. You just need enough friends who like to exercise.

  • On my block, (Bergen between Hoyt and Bond) someone built a massive four story extension with the ugly concrete block unfinished on the sides. It’s probably legal but what an eyesore for their adjoining neighbors. However, it is way beyond 50 feet which is a normal footprint for a brownstone. This one is done tastefully and in the picture of the backyard doesn’t appear to impact the neighbors in a negative way.

    I think it is a really nice layout. I’m not in love with the windows but then I’m not living there and they sure allow in a l,ot of light!

  • doesn’t the building step back on the 3rd floor–a benefit to some at the neighboring building I would think

  • Hold the tomatoes!
    I’m thinking seven close friends… Roof top bubble bathing races, al fresco

  • Beautiful home (except the vanity in the master bedroom)
    i wish for a better angle picture of the front facade (it looks flat although it’s not.)

    Giyora Tsafrir