Passive House Brooklyn Brownstone

Though currently a hot commodity, brownstones aren’t known for their energy efficiency.

“It’s amazing how much money is spent just heating building materials,” Michael Ingui, Partner at Baxt Ingui Architects, recently told Brownstoner. But that’s no longer the case in at least one newly renovated townhouse — the first passive-certified, landmarked home in Brooklyn. (more…)

Brownstone Renovation & Interior Design In Fort Greene Brooklyn

Good thing Park Slope-based designer Jennifer Morris has a background in the hospitality industry. When a couple who’d just bought a four-story, 18-foot-wide brownstone in Fort Greene called her mid-renovation for help “picking out finishes,” she naturally asked, “Where’s your layout?” The reply: “We don’t have one.”

The homeowners had no architect, though demolition and construction were already well under way. The garden floor, where the new kitchen was slated to go, had been gutted, the hallway opened up to the main living space. “They’d never done a renovation before and didn’t know what to ask or anticipate, or what the process should be,” Morris recalled.

Morris enlightened them about design coming before renovation — “not while you’re standing in a gutted space.”

She rolled up her sleeves, cleared her schedule, and created a new layout for all four floors, found a kitchen fabricator, selected materials, finishes, furnishings — “all in lightning speed,” said Morris, a former designer for the Rockwell Group, known for hotels and restaurants worldwide. “Fortunately, my background is ‘We need 500 chairs by tomorrow!’” (more…)


A remarkably high number of Brooklyn brownstone listings this spring and summer may indicate a wave of homeowners cashing in as property values reach new heights, The Observer noted Wednesday.

Without explicitly naming the neighborhoods or data sets that led them to this conclusion, The Observer offered anecdotal firepower to the claim that the current number of on-the-market townhouses in brownstone Brooklyn has increased. The pub counted 91 townhouses for sale in the spring and about 75 in the summer — many of the homes sporting “ridiculous” price tags.

“People have seen prices go up and they’re cashing out — when they see their neighbor sold their place for X, they wonder why they can’t get the same,” Town Residential broker Terry Naini is quoted as saying.



No one in the world has a kitchen like this, except the owners of the wide, five-story brownstone holding these stunning faceted beechwood cabinets. They’re the handiwork of Workstead, a design studio with offices at the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus.

Functional considerations came first — how to create cabinet handles without hardware? — but aesthetics were never far behind. “We got to thinking about carving out material in order to create utility,” said Ryan Mahoney, one of three Rhode Island School of Design architecture school alumni, along with Robert Highsmith and Stefanie Brechbuehler, who comprise the small firm.

“We had the idea that instead of adding something, we would subtract wood to create handles for the cabinetry. Once we had this rule of thumb to go by and began to work with the material, we came up with this wedge-shaped profile for the cabinet faces and started getting interesting forms and patterns,” he said.

The designers lined up the sink countertop against the existing bank of windows at the rear of the house, eliminating the typical backsplash, to maximize the experience of looking out into the garden. The generous light that pours in through those windows makes the carved faces of the cabinets appear ever-changing, Mahoney said. “They can be subtle or dramatic, depending on time of day.”



A pretty little 1880s brownstone with an abundance of intact detail was the object of a scenario like many playing out all over Brooklyn these days. “The young couple buying the house — still with its traditional layout, including an old, walled-off kitchen at the back of the garden floor — wanted to bring it into the 21st century and open it up for contemporary living,” said Kimberly Neuhaus of Neuhaus Design Architecture P.C.

And so the couple hired the Brooklyn-based architect to do just that. “Little” was the operative word here.

At just 17 feet wide and slightly more than twice as deep, “it was a challenge to take this tiny three-story house and make it feel bigger,” Neuhaus said. She took several bold steps to make that happen: (more…)


Artist Steven Weinberg recently painted a fanciful 25-foot mural of Brooklyn brownstones inside a newly renovated Crown Heights home. Weinberg — who moved from Brooklyn last year to open a Catskills inn — popped downstate to complete the entire mural in a single summer day. In a blog post detailing his work, Weinberg writes:

“It’s great working with the source material of my former hometown, Brooklyn. I love drawing mountains and trees now, but it’s something totally different taking in all of the amazing details of Brooklyn’s architecture.”


Lng-02People who love old houses tend to love their quirks, so the couple who bought a mid-19th century brownstone on Joralemon Street were charmed by the fact that the house is not perfectly rectilinear. It’s a rhomboid, or slanted rectangle – that is, the opposite sides are equal in length and parallel to each other, but the corners don’t quite form right angles (as you can see in plan, below).


“It’s a funny little house,” said Erin Fearins, an interior designer at CWB Architects, who headed up the furnishing and decorating of the home’s parlor floor and master bedroom after whole-house renovations were complete. “To make the weird wall condition less noticeable, we created a neutral envelope with simple window treatments, interjecting color and texture.” (more…)


An untouched five-story brownstone that had been owned by the same family for a century provided a blank canvas for CWB Architects, one of Brooklyn’s busiest specialists in high-end townhouse renovation. The 1870s structure was in dire shape when the new homeowners undertook a two-year project to convert the house, which had been chopped up into apartments, to a single-family dwelling for themselves and their two young sons.

“Nearly half the floor structure was cracked,” said Brendan Coburn of CWB. “The only things we kept were the front wall and two side walls.” The back wall and all the interior framing are new.

It was an opportunity to rethink the house from, as it were, the ground up. The 20-foot-wide building “is gigantic for a family of four,” Coburn said, “and that made figuring out how to arrange the program a bit tricky.” (more…)


Facade renovation! One half of the symmetrical row house on the corner of Clinton and Kane Streets is looking a bit bare this week. The stucco has been chipped off, exposing the brick and brownstone underneath.

The building at 303 Clinton Street is one of a series of Italianate row houses featured as Building of the Day a few years ago. Seeing this home beside its still-stuccoed mirror image next door offers a nice comparison. More facade renovation pics after the jump. (more…)

353 Jefferson Avenue2

Sales have started at the brownstone-style new construction condo building at 353 Jefferson Avenue in Bed Stuy. As readers may recall, neighbors and preservationists were alarmed when they first saw the building under construction on the brownstone row, but relieved when they realized the design would fit in among its neighbors. The area is part of the proposed Bed Stuy North Historic District.

The small infill building has four units in total. A 1,056-square-foot two-bedroom unit came on the market in April. It has a living/dining room in the front, an open kitchen in the middle and two bedrooms in the back of the apartment. It also has two bathrooms. It’s asking $899,000. (more…)


The economists have spoken. If you don’t allow your 125-year-old brownstone to be torn down to make room for high-rise apartments, then you hate America.

Or that’s what you might think if you’d read recent stories by New York Magazine, WNYC, and The Real Deal. According to them, a new study by economists Chang-Tai Hsieh of University of Chicago and Enrico Moretti of University of California, Berkeley can be boiled down to one sentence: “Brownstones cost the economy billions.”

The argument is that the entire U.S. economy would be 9.5 percent bigger if just three cities — New York, San Francisco, and San Jose — increased their housing stocks by knocking down their Brooklyn brownstones and historic San Francisco Victorians, and putting up high-rise condos in their places.

Only that’s not at all what the study said. (more…)


The top of the facade on this brownstone at 424 Jefferson Avenue in Bed Stuy collapsed early yesterday evening, a reader let us know. Luckily, no one was hurt, he said. We managed to snap a few pics this morning. The debris was mostly all cleaned up by then.

We’re not sure what caused the collapse — it could have been a falling tree branch — but the owners appear to have been working on adding height to the top floor, from what we can tell from PropertyShark photos from January and earlier. Click through for more photos. The one at the end is from our tipster, and was taken just before the collapse, he said.

Did anyone see this last night or does anyone have more info about what happened?