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.
On the parlor floor, besides a newly enlarged large kitchen at the front, a dining room in the middle, and a living room with a coffered ceiling at the rear of the house, Ensemble carved out space for a new entry vestibule, elevator and powder room.
“We created a lot of new trim and dressed openings to make it seem like this was the original arrangement, but it wasn’t,” Roberts said.
They rethought the original switchback staircase that once served three apartments. “They’re unusual stairs, set pretty far back in the house,” Roberts said. “That informed our decision to make the stair feel like the center of the home, instead of an awkward connection between spaces.” A new, wider opening to the dining room at the base of the stair helped achieve that.
Whether to leave the kitchen in its original position at the front of the parlor floor was, at first, a thorny problem. The clients — a jewelry designer and a real estate professional who is also a ceramicist, with young children — “had a hard time with the kitchen right at the entry,” Roberts said. “It’s not very formal. We considered flipping the stair, moving the stair, moving the kitchen.”
In the end, the kitchen remained at the front of the house, with pocket doors installed to enable it to be closed off if desired. “It works well for them,” Roberts said.
On the second floor, there’s a large playroom, a central music room and a library at the rear. The master suite with bath, closet hall and laundry, plus an additional bedroom, are on the third floor, while the top floor has three bedrooms, a home office and a bathroom (with adjacent urinal).
New windows, new ironwork, removing paint from exterior brickwork and repointing it, rewiring the house in its entirety, a new split-system AC, and a new heating system, with ductwork and radiators hidden behind existing woodwork, were all part of the project.
The general contractor was Queens-based New Wave Contracting.
Ensemble Architecture stripped and restored original woodwork in the parlor-floor living room and added an upholstered window seat. The chandelier in the coffered-ceiling living room is by David Weeks.
A new Lacanche range was located in front of an expanse of exposed brick. High-gloss black cabinets have soapstone countertops; the custom island is made of solid walnut. A salvaged farmhouse sink sits beneath a newly enlarged window.
The wooden kayak on the ceiling is the handiwork of one of the homeowners.
The original staircase became a focal point on the parlor floor. Widening the opening from the dining room to the stair hall emphasized its importance.
Extensive new millwork in the children’s playroom on the third floor hides radiators and provides storage.
A series of rooms on the second floor ends with a library wallpapered in red.
Green tile original to the house, in a bathroom on the playroom/library level, was removed, restored and laid out according to a new design.
The urinal room, behind saloon-style doors, is on the top floor, adjacent to the children’s bathroom.
[Photos by Sean Slattery]
The Insider is Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design/renovation project, by design journalist Cara Greenberg. The stories are original to Brownstoner; the photos may have been published before. Got a project to propose for The Insider? Please contact Cara at caramia447 at gmail dot com.
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