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As their family matured, the owners of this turn-of-the-century bow-front limestone found they rarely used their dark ground floor, which had fine original details in the front and a mishmash of awkward spaces in the back.
They reached out to architect Sonya Lee about renovating the underutilized 850-square-foot area. “They had various possible scenarios in mind,” Lee said, including use as a home office, a guest suite for visiting in-laws, independent living space for their grown daughter, or even, at some future date, an entirely separate rental unit (the building is a legal two-family).
Lee re-thought the space to accommodate all those possible uses and more, producing a clean-lined, airy unit that highlights existing historic detail in front and has a full new kitchen and a convertible bedroom/office in the back.
The task included getting rid of dark, later wall paneling in the front room that overwhelmed the beauty of the original oak woodwork. Lee painted the walls and unusual cornice/picture rail white to emphasize those details.
The rear half had been renovated in “a Home Depot style, with a lot of poky, interconnected rooms,” Lee said. “We gutted the entire back and cleared out strange build-outs without making major structural changes.”
New lighting and refinished floors went a long way toward brightening the space, as did the replacement of some old windows with larger new wood ones.
The front room was stripped of non-original dark wood paneling and painted white to emphasize the beauty of the built-in white oak bookcase and elaborate period mantelpiece.
Existing original pocket doors (the surrounding trim is seen at the extreme left) can remain open to connect the downstairs unit, with the family quarters above or be closed off for complete privacy.
The modern sofa came from Article.
Cabinet boxes from IKEA with fronts from Semi-Handmade, a long expanse of Corian countertop, a narrow fridge and high-end Bertazzoni stainless range combine to make an attractive, efficient kitchen. The backsplash of large glass tiles from Ann Sacks is a luxurious touch.
The flooring in this area needed replacement. For continuity, Lee stained the new wood to match the original parquet in the front.
A painted plywood banquette in the dining area has storage space underneath lift-up seats.
A wood slat screen between the kitchen and the adjacent bedroom/office allows maximum light to penetrate.
A single piece of custom millwork, by Brooklyn’s Jon Cole Studios, has so many different components the architect likens it to a Swiss army knife. There’s a desk with space for a printer and supplies storage, a Murphy bed, a closet, drawers and built-in nightstands. “It all pops out and then neatly tucks away,” she said.
A custom vanity and marble details elevate the bathroom design.
[Photos by Mark Wickens]
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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.