The Insider: Williamsburg Townhouse Gutted and Rebuilt as Open, Loft-Like Home

A late-19th-century wood-frame house is a rarity in New York City these days, but they do exist. In this case — an extensive renovation involving replacement of every wall, ceiling, stair, floor and window, plus all-new mechanicals — the 25-foot-wide property even retained its original passageway for leading a horse from the street to the rear yard.

Gowanus-based Ensemble Architecture incorporated those few extra feet alongside the house on all three levels, using it for storage in the ground-floor rental unit and to add width to the living space in the owner-occupied duplex above.

“On the upper floors, the added width from the horse pass allowed us to do something unconventional,” said Polly Horne, a designer on the project along with Josh Lekwa. “We rotated the stair, pulled it away from the wall and ran it perpendicular to the typical direction. That really opened up the space.”

The custom steel and wood stair serves to divide the parlor level into a living room at the front and a dining room and kitchen at the rear of the building, with access to the garden through three new doors.

Though at first the building was bedecked with “funky retro linoleum and tiles with swans and flowers,” recalled Horne, Ensemble created a rustic-industrial feel for their clients, who are involved in the music world, chiefly by exposing the existing wood ceiling joists on the parlor level, and laying new reclaimed wood floors throughout.

Williamsburg Brooklyn Townhouse Renovation Ensemble Architecture

Reclaimed wood for floors came from Tall Cotton Supply in Greenpoint.

Considerable ceiling height was gained on the parlor level by removing dropped ceilings.

Williamsburg Brooklyn Townhouse Renovation Ensemble Architecture

Ensemble Architecture, founded in 1998 by Elizabeth Roberts, also provides complete interior design services. Here, simple furnishings in the living area include a pouf upholstered in Moroccan fabric and a vintage Moroccan rug.

Williamsburg Brooklyn Townhouse Renovation Ensemble Architecture

The new custom steel staircase with thick solid-wood treads was fabricated by the general contractor, Tjun Industries. “Their excellent craftsmanship, particularly when it comes to millwork and metalwork, allowed us to use affordable materials,” Horne said. “The attention to detail is what makes it sing.”

The most basic porcelain lights, on dimmers, are tucked between the ceiling joists.

Williamsburg Brooklyn Townhouse Renovation Ensemble Architecture

In the dining area, mid-20th-century teak and woven wicker chairs surround a pedestal table by Eero Saarinen for Knoll.

Williamsburg Brooklyn Townhouse Renovation Ensemble Architecture

Williamsburg Brooklyn Townhouse Renovation Ensemble Architecture

The compact kitchen’s stainless steel Elkay sink and Blanco Meridian faucet came from Ferguson, the Metro subway tile from Nemo Tile, and the pendant lights above the kitchen island from ABC Carpet & Home. The countertop is Caesarstone, the range Wolf.

Williamsburg Brooklyn Townhouse Renovation Ensemble Architecture

A sliding barn door accesses the master bedroom at the top of the stairs.

Williamsburg Brooklyn Townhouse Renovation Ensemble Architecture

Williamsburg Brooklyn Townhouse Renovation Ensemble Architecture

Williamsburg Brooklyn Townhouse Renovation Ensemble Architecture

The general contractor built the bathroom vanity, which is topped with black granite from C&B Marble. The undermount sinks are by Kohler, with circular mirrored medicine cabinets from Home Depot and sconces from Schoolhouse Electric. Wall and floor tile is from Nemo Tile; California Faucets shower fixtures were sourced from Davis & Warshow.

[Photos by Dustin Aksland]

The Insider is Brownstoner’s 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? Contact Cara at caramia447 [at] gmail [dot] com

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