This may be the only townhouse in Brooklyn with a room dedicated to a urinal, entered via swinging saloon-style doors. “It’s the kind of thing you can do when you have 6,000 square feet,” said Elizabeth Roberts of Ensemble Architecture.

The busy Gowanus-based firm masterminded the transformation of this five-story, 25-foot-wide corner building, taking it from a three-family plus doctor’s office to a four-story home for a single family, with a rental apartment and a professional office on the garden level.


There’s a cautionary tale for prospective homebuyers in the case of this four-story brick house that had lost its neighbor to one side.

“The sellers didn’t allow my clients to do a structural inspection. That signaled something fishy,” said architect Sarah Strauss, AIA, of the Bed Stuy-based design/build company Bigprototype, which was called in after the purchase to do what the new homeowners originally thought would be a relatively modest interior renovation.


Gorgeous tile, stained glass, mahogany and deep claw foot tubs — the typical late-Victorian bathroom was luxurious and large. Common features were porcelain hex-tile floors, a wainscot of white subway tile and, of course, the aforementioned iconic tub.

The wainscot would usually be topped by a border of ornate tile with bas-relief garlands, shells or other motifs and puddling pastel glazes. Stained glass windows often featured aquatic themes, such as fish.

Today such bathrooms, if any of their original features survive, are usually in need of new plumbing and electric. Here are seven examples of updated bathrooms whose owners kept the original look or created a vintage feel.


©2015Francis Dzikowski/OTTO

After a renovation she did appeared on Brownstoner three years ago, local architect Alexandra Barker of Barker Freeman “got a ton of work,” she said. “That was a brick row house in Windsor Terrace where I opened up the rear façade. People began calling and saying, ‘I want to open up the rear wall!'”

Here, for a two-story Sunset Park wood-frame house, built around 1910, she did it again — a little differently this time.


A gut renovation opened up this now loft-like Williamsburg home. Photo by Ensemble Architecture

Renovating a house can be one of those bank-account-draining experiences that make a designer shoe habit or dining in three-star restaurants look cheap in comparison.

But how much does it cost — or should it cost — to renovate a home? Some believe a top-shelf Brooklyn townhouse renovation costs at least $1 million. But there’s also a vocal subset who hold fast to the idea that almost any house can be renovated for $200,000 — or less.

Who’s right? Read on to find out.


The owners of this late-19th-century two-story wood-frame were ready to abandon their dream of adding square footage, after the first architect they consulted produced a design that would have been way beyond their budget.

But then they were introduced to Thomas Warnke, whose pared-down philosophy enabled the job to go forward at a price the couple could swallow. “I prefer clean and simple lines, not too many competing ideas in one project,” said Warnke, originally from Germany, who established his Brooklyn-based design practice, space4a, in 2007.