It seems that every time a brownstone is listed as a House of the Day, the debate begins. How much will it cost to renovate and decorate? Estimates of $500,000 and over a million are common numbers thrown around. But what about those of us who want to renovate a brownstone and aren’t sitting on $2,000,000?

The naysayers will say if you don’t spend several hundred thousand dollars, then you’ll be living in a Home Depot special. I will say that renovating and decorating a brownstone can be done nicely and on budget with a lot of research and patience.

I also understand that having this entire debate is from a position of privilege — if you’re in the market for a brownstone in Brooklyn these days, whether your renovation budget is $50,000 or $2,000,000, you’re doing fine. But with that being said, here are some tips to help with renovating and decorating. (more…)


The restored facade of the long-suffering wood frame house at 580 Carlton Avenue, one of the oldest in the Prospect Heights, can now be seen above the construction fence. “580 Carlton has a new facade! And dare I say, it looks pretty nice!” said Cara Greenberg of CasaCARA, who sent us this photo.

Longtime readers may recall the ups and downs at this landmarked property, whose renovation caused the partial collapse of the landmarked twin house next door. By the end of 2012, No. 580 had been reduced to merely a facade, like a movie set. At some point, architect Rachel Frankel, known her ability to create historically correct looking new buildings, got on board, and is now handling the Landmarks-approved restoration of both properties.

Way back when 580 Carlton was for sale in 2011, Cara toured the open house, and had to sign a waiver before entering. It had beautiful mantels and original windows and doors. You can see all the details on her blog here. Let’s hope the owners were able to salvage something to use in the rebuild.

How do you like the way the facade is looking so far?

580 Carlton Avenue Coverage [Brownstoner]
Photo by Cara Greenberg

147 prince street downtown brooklyn 22015

The two-story addition to Green Desk coworking space has most of its windows at 147 Prince Street in Downtown Brooklyn. The company run by landlord Jack Guttman is doubling the size of its two-story building, for a total of four stories and 52,694 square feet, per alteration permits.

Besides the corner of Prince and Fleet Streets, Green Desk has locations in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, as well as three different buildings in Dumbo. How do you like the look here?

Greendesk Coworking Space Gets an Addition in Downtown Brooklyn [Brownstoner] GMAP


New York YIMBY found two so-far-unpublished renderings for 247 Bedford, perhaps best known as the future home of Apple’s first Brooklyn store. The renderings shows an additional story at the north end and, notably, big square windows. The building previously had distinctive arched windows. These also appear in a previously published rendering.

It’s not clear which of the designs will actually be built — or if both sets of renderings are obsolete. BTW, Apple will occupy the southern corner of the building, closest to Metropolitan Avenue, at one time home to a bagel store. The late, lamented mom and pop shop Kings Pharmacy until recently occupied a large space on the northern end of the building.

Marin Architects is the designer. The firm has designed Duane Reade pharmacies and a Muji store, among other retail projects.

When we stopped by the construction site in late December, the unoccupied southern part of the building had been completely demolished. The part of the building that houses a Corcoran real estate office and former apartments above was still standing. A green construction fence and scaffolding covered the building.

Click through to see more renderings as well as a photo of the property we took in December.

First Look: Williamsurg Apple Store, 247 Bedford Avenue [NYY]
241 Bedford Coverage [Brownstoner]
First two renderings by Marin Architects via NYY; third rendering via The Real Deal

Update: We’re thinking the two new renderings may actually show the North 4th Street side of the building. That would explain why the smokestack is missing.


187 7th avenue park slope rendering

Plans and renderings have been revealed for the conversion of the dilapidated 19th-century apartment building on a prominent Park Slope corner across from P.S. 321. The Times reported that developer Sugar Hill Capital Partners will spend $6,000,000 revamping the five-story building at 187 7th Avenue into four condos and hopes to finish construction in the fall.

Two of the three-bedroom, two-bath condos at “2ND7th” hit the market last week for $3,198,000 and $3,500,000 respectively. Both of the pricey pads are just over 2,000 square feet, and the more expensive one is a penthouse with a private roof deck. The building will also have a common roof deck with cabanas and a communal kitchen for grilling, according to the listings.

While we’re happy the building is being revamped, we think it’s unfortunate the pressed-metal turret and its older-style windows will be lost. (Click through to see an old photo of the building.) It looks like they plan to match the old brick and keep the cornice.

What do you think of the rendering?

Restoring a Park Slope Wreck [NYT]
187 7th Avenue Listings [Corcoran]
187 7th Avenue Coverage [Brownstoner]
Rendering by New Amsterdam Design Associates via NY Times



The Brooklyn Army Terminal has announced plans to renovate another building in its massive, formerly abandoned complex in Sunset Park, the Times reported. The NYC Economic Development Corporation, which runs the terminal, is going to rehabilitate 500,000 square feet on seven floors in Building A, which stretches between 58th and 63rd streets along the waterfront.

Revamping the building, which has been abandoned since the ’60s, is expected to cost $100,000,000. The EDC plans to remove asbestos and install new freight and passenger elevators, electric service, life-safety systems, plumbing, heating and windows.

The terminal is also in the middle of renovating its former administration building, a 55,000 square-foot structure located just north of Building A along 58th Street. The military officially closed the terminal in 1966, transferring 3,200 civilian and military jobs to Bayonne, N.J., according to the Times.

Next Phase of Renovation to Begin at a Vast Military Remnant in Brooklyn [NYT]
Brooklyn Army Terminal Coverage [Brownstoner]
Photo by Nicholas Lemery Nantel

lewis steel exterior williamsburg 12015

Developer Jacob Toll gave us a tour of the nearly complete rentals at the Lewis Steel Building, which stretches a full block on North 4th Street between Wythe and Berry in Williamsburg. Construction at the former steel mill at 76 North 4th Street is 95 percent done, he said, and he expects the 83 luxury rentals, ranging from studios to three bedrooms, to hit the market in May. Asking rents for the Hustvedt Cutler-designed apartments will start around $3,000 for one-bedrooms, $3,500 for studios and $4,500 for two-bedrooms, according to Toll.

You can glimpse the building’s industrial past in the lobby and amenity areas, which still sport original brick, and the parking garage, which was one of the factory’s loading bays. Wood joists salvaged from the floor line the hallway ceilings every few feet, and several apartments feature original brick. The elevator shafts were converted to three one-bedrooms, and the elevator doors and brick were preserved in those units. Many apartments also have private terraces or roof access, and some of the ones on the top two floors have gas fireplaces. The largest (and priciest) unit is a 1,300-square-foot three-bedroom, two-bath duplex with a gas fireplace and roof access.

There will also be some nice retail: Blue Bottle Coffee, Steven Alan Home and bookseller McNally Jackson have all signed leases for ground floor retail in the building, as we reported earlier this month.

Click through to see the apartments!

Lewis Steel Building [MNS]
Lewis Steel Coverage [Brownstoner]
Steelworks Loft Coverage [Brownstoner]



The Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved the proposed renovation plans for the historically significant 1839 Greek Revival house at 70 Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights, we hear from readers who attended the hearing this morning. Two caveats: The LPC asked the owners, Grand Theft auto creator Dan Houser and his wife Krystyna, to retain the existing ironwork and the front door, shown in the recently revised and approved front and side elevations, above. The rear porch, however, is history.

70 Willow Street Coverage [Brownstoner]
Rendering by Bories & Shearron


At the last minute, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission prepares to hear more testimony about the proposed alterations at historic Heights’ home 70 Willow this morning, more information has come to light about the history of the highly contested porch on the rear of the building, which the current owners would like to remove.

Last night we received documents and an email exchange between preservationists about the porch. The most important of these is the 1887 Sanborn map, above, which appears to show the porch is much earlier — or much later, depending on your view — than previously thought. (On these old fire insurance maps, pink indicates brick and yellow shows wood — in this case, the porch.) An earlier map, the 1855 Perris map, does not show a porch, according to the historic consultant for the renovation, Patrick W. Ciccone.

Ciccone had previously thought the porch dated from about 1900 — and it was replaced entirely in the early 2010s, he told us last week. (Click through to see the porch in 1958 – with Truman Capote leaning against it.)

This new information doesn’t affect the proposed renovation, Ciccone told us. The design “is based on the historic signficance of the 1839 Greek Revival design as the basis of restoration. It didn’t have the porch according to the 1855 map — and we argued that alteration, including those in the 19th century, lacked signficance on their own.”

The Historic Districts Council, a coalition of community groups from designated historic districts, feels otherwise. The group received documents about the porch from an anonymous source and forwarded the information to Landmarks yesterday with a strongly worded email arguing the porch should remain.

“A glaring omission in the applicant’s original presentation was the absence of the rear ‘tea porch’ in the 19th century. For this reason, the applicant purported that the current porch has no historic value, and therefore lending a green light for demolition. The attached packet provides documentation of an extant rear porch in 1887 via a Sanborn map (the earliest map the applicant provided of an extant porch was 1922) and also photographs of the porch throughout the years, showing a consistent and historic configuration that remains today. One final consideration is that this house’s porch is visible from the street, as there is a wide driveway. In short, the demolition of the porch would be a crucial loss.”

Owners Plan to Restore Historic Heights Home 70 Willow Inside and Out [Brownstoner]
Landmarks Sends 70 Willow Reno Plans Back to Drawing Board [Brownstoner]
Landmarks to Consider Alterations to Truman Capote’s Old Brooklyn Heights House [Brownstoner]
Image above via Historic Districts Council; image below via New York Magazine



The massive, neighborhood-transforming conversion of the 150-year-old landmarked coffee warehouse Empire Stores in Dumbo should be ready in about six months, according to a story in Crain’s. After signing high-profile tenant West Elm in 2013, the leasing team at Jones Lang LaSalle is now looking to fill 250,000 square feet of offices and retail. Prices range from $65 to $85 per square foot, and firms who move to the borough are eligible for city subsidies of as much as a $15 per square foot discount.

To drum up buzz, Jones Lang LaSalle has been sending out “handsome coffee-table books detailing the project along with bottles of Brooklyn-distilled whiskey,” said the story.

Separately, Jones Lang LaSalle released a slew of new renderings today and also has a website where they can be seen in their entirety, along with historic photos of Empire Stores. Above is a revised and current rendering showing the outside of the building, which was released in 2013. Click through for the new renderings of the rooftop, interior and courtyard spaces.

Dumbo-born and based tech company Etsy was rumored to be looking at the space, but last year announced it will anchor another high profile Dumbo conversion, the Watchtower printing plant properties, as we reported at the time. In 2013, Brooklyn Bridge Park said construction would wrap in third quarter of 2015.

Drumbeating Begins for Empire Stores [Crain's]
Empire Stores [Official]
Empire Stores Coverage [Brownstoner]
Rendering above via Brooklyn Bridge Park, renderings below via Jones Lang LaSalle



The Landmarks Preservation Commission has rejected plans to alter one of Brooklyn’s most important historic homes, 70 Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights, where Truman Capote once lived. The house’s new owners, Grand Theft auto creator Dan Houser and his wife Krystyna, who purchased the Greek Revival mansion for a record breaking $12,500,000 in 2012, proposed an extensive remaking, billed as a “restoration,” Curbed reported.

The plans would have replaced much of the existing fabric of the 1839 house, including the iconic double-decker porch in back, where Capote wrote and entertained. (And which he wrote about, in his essay “A House on the Heights.”) Click through to Curbed to see the dramatic difference between the existing porch, which is curved, like the house’s famous round interior staircase and skylight, and the proposed deck, which would be modern and rectangular.

Other plans included changing the color of the house from yellow to red, which the owners said was its original shade, replacing the front entryway, adding shutters, replacing the rear verandah with a two-story deck, replacing the existing driveway gate with a solid one, changing the windows, adding onto the house and extending the base of it, and adding a shed and a pool in the backyard. The commissioners were not pleased, said Curbed:

Commissioner Michael Devonshire, who is an experienced preservation architect, called it “replicating” rather than “restoring,” going on to say that the situation presented an “amazing conundrum.” Still, he called the proposal “perfectly period appropriate.”

The couple also plans an extensive interior renovation, a gut, according to plans filed with the DOB — which they are free to carry out, since the LPC regulates only exteriors. What do you think of their proposal and the LPC response?

Capote House Alterations Do Not Sit Well with Landmarks [Curbed]
Landmarks to Consider Alterations to Truman Capote’s Old Brooklyn Heights House [Brownstoner]
Photo above by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

Update: We just received an email from Patrick W. Ciccone, the historic preservation consultant and real estate development adviser who is the co-author of the most recent edition of Charles Lockwood’s classic brownstoner bible, “Bricks and Brownstone,” which we believe contains interior photos of the house in question. Please click through for his comments and our response.

Second update, 4:46 pm: We have just learned, from his comment below, that Mr. Ciccone is the historic consultant on this renovation project. We have asked him for more information about the house and the restoration plans, and will update when we hear back.



What would one of Brooklyn’s leading architects do with a Warren Place Mews townhouse, those iconic but small Gothic workingmen’s cottages built by Alfred Tredway White in 1879? Three stories high but narrow and only two rooms deep, the houses challenge any designer to find space for an adequate number of bathrooms without sacrificing bedrooms or parlors. We’ve also never seen one with any original finishes or even a mantel.

Everyone wants one but no one can figure out what to do with them.

Architect Elizabeth Roberts is known for her modern-meets-traditional renovations of Brooklyn brownstones. In this case, documented in a New York Times story, she restored some of the historic charm with an old-fashioned wood staircase with turned spindles and two salvage marble mantels.

She squeezed in two bedrooms and two bathrooms, although we’re not quite sure how since the article doesn’t include a floor plan.

Most remarkable — and something for other homeowners to consider — is the trick of turning a powder room, big enough for only sink and toilet, into a shower with full-room waterproofing and shower apparatus on the wall and overhead.

She also maximized storage with built-in bookcases big enough to hold the owners’ record collection and record player.

We’re guessing room for a full size bathroom on the top floor was carved out of the second bedroom and the top of the stair.

The renovation cost $550,000. Click through to the New York Times story for photos. What do you think of the design? Would you adapt any of these ideas in your own space?

Spies Like Us [NY Times]
Photo by Corcoran