The Insider: Spectacular Staircase and Unusual Layout Distinguish Cobble Hill Townhouse Gut

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Sometimes a gut is really a gut. This one saw a typical vintage townhouse reduced to a shell before being rebuilt as a one-family residence by Manhattan-based PACS Architecture.

“There were multiple apartments, the ground floor was being used as a day care center, and the building hadn’t been taken care of,” said architect Alex Shkreli, who spearheaded the massive project. “We stripped the building down to the joists, replacing the rotten ones, and fixed structural problems. One of the alarming things we discovered was that the mortar binding the bricks had turned to dust, so we had to repoint and strap the façade with steel.”

Even the staircase, which is frequently salvageable at least in part, is brand new. “The stair was located too far in the back, narrow and steep and not to code. We moved it to the middle of the building to make more gracious spaces both in front and back,” and make it more comfortable to use, Shkreli said.

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Add in all new windows and mechanicals, new baths and kitchen, including new HVAC and a humidification system,  and all new wainscoting and moldings “made to feel like they were always there,” Shkreli said, and you have a project that’s not for the faint-hearted.

In a house just over 16 feet wide, the architects had to make the best possible use of space. They located the kitchen on the garden level, with a walk-out to the newly hardscaped and landscaped backyard. The front parlor/living room is at the rear of the house (top photo), with a fireplace created anew from marble and millwork.

Furnishings and lighting were chosen by the homeowners.

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The parlor floor ceilings are “lowish but original,” Shkreli said. The living room is at the rear.

The house’s highest ceilings are on the second floor, where the master suite is located.

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PACS took down the wall separating the front room from the entry hall “to make it like a gallery, if you will,” the architect said. It’s used as a sort of reception area/music room.

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Off the front hall is a powder room with wallpaper from Brooklyn’s own Flavor Paper.

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The kitchen has a vast amount of counter space at the clients’ request, including a center island with a stone slab for the serious bakers they are.

The extensive cabinetry is all custom millwork. The hardworking center island contains a microwave and wine fridge.

French doors open to a walk-out backyard.

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A spectacular skylit landing on the second floor separates the master suite from the rest of the building and shows off the curved staircase and stair rail.

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The luxurious master bath, with Carrara marble walls and a freestanding tub, is at the rear of the house.

The vanity is custom, designed by the architects.

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More family bedrooms are on the top floor.

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PACS excavated a portion of the back garden nearer the house and worked with structural engineers to design retaining walls.

Bluestone pavers and a fence of cedar siding painted gray create a classic setting for evergreen plantings.

[Photos by Alex Shkreli]

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The Insider is Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design/renovation project, by design journalist Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday morning.

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