Introducing Brownstoner’s first-ever reader renovation diary based in Sea Gate. It will document the renovation of a 100-year-old oceanfront home on the edge of Coney Island. Our intrepid blogger can also be found at Brooklyn Beach House.

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A Coney Island beach house. Yes! They exist.

I know, because we bought one a year ago. If you start at Nathan’s in Coney Island and head west toward the baseball stadium (keep the ocean on your left), in about a mile you will find that the boardwalk and Surf Avenue dead end into gates in the water and the street.

This is the beginning of Sea Gate, a 120-year-old gated community that boasts tiny bungalows, apartment buildings, mega-mansions, and everything in between. And the cool part is — despite the gate — anyone can live here!

After spending a delightful four years in a Park Slope brownstone on 6th Street just off the park, followed by an even more delightful seven years raising our new family in a large Queen Anne in Ditmas Park, I can honestly say THIS is Brooklyn’s best kept secret. (more…)

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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…)

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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…)

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Northwest corner from Pierrepont Street

New construction is flourishing in Brooklyn, but developers are also finding value in restoring and converting some of the borough’s historic gems. One such example is the Brooklyn Trust Company Building in Brooklyn Heights. The building’s developer, the Stahl Organization, has nearly completed its residential conversion.

The six-story building at the corner of Pierrepont and Clinton was constructed in 1913 and designed by York and Sawyer in the Italian High Renaissance style. (more…)

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After a winter of renovations, a long-neglected but potentially gracious building at 292 Bedford is showing signs of life.

Elaborate new windows and panelling have replaced graffitied plywood boards, and a couple of boutiques are already moving into the building’s secondary retail spaces.

Originally a bank, the long-shuttered corner space at the intersection of Bedford and Grand will soon open as Witlof, a Flemish brasserie operated by Ivan Kohut — owner of the hugely popular Radagast Hall just a few streets away. (more…)

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The first party guests arrive in the newly finished backyard

Editor’s note: This is the latest in our long-running Bed Stuy Reno, a renovation diary written by a Brownstoner reader about a budget renovation of an Italianate brownstone in Bed Stuy financed with a construction loan.

When I finished most of the house renovations last year, there was no budget left for the backyard. Which in hindsight was a good thing, because I needed to recover from all the ills of going through a gut renovation.

Fast forward nine months later and I had enough saved to start my budget garden renovation. My old contractor offered me a great price to complete the work and as much as I like to save money, I really did not want to work with him on this project. I knew that I needed an expert and I wouldn’t have time to watch the project like a hawk. (more…)

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OUT OF A 1930s WAREHOUSE on a commercial block between Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill, architect Ben Herzog and Brooklyn-based interior designer Kiki Dennis conjured a family home that’s both fun and functional.

The homeowners, a couple with three young kids, had lived in the 25-foot-wide, three-story building for years. However, the “functional lifestyle things were not working for them,” Dennis recalled. The answer was a total renovation. (more…)

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As any Brooklyn homeowner set on a major renovation knows, the City’s Department of Buildings permitting process is expensive, time consuming, and opaque. And it has only gotten worse in the last year or so, as we experience a building boom and the City has increased requirements for such things as sprinklers, according to what we hear from readers on the Forum and elsewhere.

Last month the City’s Department of Buildings announced a major reform initiative. This followed 50 arrests in a massive bribery scandal that erupted earlier this year.

Reform strategies include spending $120 million, eliminating in-person visits with an entirely virtual process, hiring an additional 320 employees over four years, a new fee structure, and creating one building code to speed up the permitting process. (more…)

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Developer Cayuga Capital has removed the spire from the 19th-century church at 626 Bushwick Avenue it is converting into apartments, we noticed on several trips over the past few months. “The steeple had to be brought down for safety reasons and zoning does not allow it to exceed 70 feet,” Cayuga’s Jamie Wiseman told us when we inquired. “It was very old and unstable.”

However, the developer does intend to reconstruct a portion of it, and “we have a surprise in store to ensure the clocktower remains iconic,” he said. (more…)

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This little wood frame house at 1091 Madison Street in Bushwick has had a major overhaul! It now sports a Tetris mural on a stucco facade.

In March, the house was draped in scaffolding. Before that, it was covered in white vinyl siding. Click through to see lots of before and after photos.

Photos by Steve Sherman; “before” photos by Chritopher Bride for PropertyShark (more…)

WELCOME TO THE INSIDER, Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design or renovation project, written and produced by journalist/blogger Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday at 11 am.

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SOMETIMES A GUT JOB is the only answer, as was the case with this 15-by-44-foot four-story row house in Bed Stuy. It had been ripped apart by a developer and then abandoned during the recession, even becoming home to squatters for a time.

“It was a total wreck. There was nothing at all worth saving,” says Gitta Robinson of Brooklyn-based Robinson + Grisaru Architecture, the firm hired by new owners to transform a shell into a home.

Brick party walls and wood joists were practically all that remained. At least the joists were in decent shape.

The architects decided to keep them uncovered on the two lower floors, to add ceiling height, and painted them white. Exposed brick was likewise kept exposed.

“There was a debate on whether it would stay natural or be painted white,” Robinson recalls. Natural won.

Where a chimney breast was removed in the dining area at the rear of the parlor floor, above, the void was patched in with mortar. The homeowners — he is a graphic designer and she a landscape designer — loved the effect and kept it, even matching the mortar treatment on the rear wall of the parlor floor.

In a bold design stroke, the architects removed 2.5 feet of flooring at the rear of the parlor level, creating an open two-story slot that connects the garden and parlor floor acoustically and lets in extra light. Ideally, the architects and homeowners would have liked to replace the whole back wall on the two lower stories with glass, but a tight budget prevented it. (more…)

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We were interested to see this renovation in progress at 66 South 3rd Street in Williamsburg when we passed by a few weeks ago. The Italianate row house has been peeled and stripped back to its elemental parts, revealing layers and the structure underneath.

There is brick (which looks like it might be missing some mortar), brownstone details around the windows, and a carved wood door surround. An addition with a setback is rising on the roof.

Most interesting of all, the back wall was completely gone when we stopped by. You could see straight through the house from the front windows to the yard behind. (more…)