A rare bit of mid-century modern amidst the 19th century rows of Brooklyn Heights, this 1960s Willow Place abode was home to the architects behind its design, Joseph and Mary Merz.
The house, 48 Willow Place, is one of three the couple designed on the block to sympathetically fill the long-vacant lots they purchased on the scenic street. The non-contiguous lots were interrupted by a lone remnant of a Greek Revival colonnade row and a brick row house. In tackling the design of their modern insertions, the couple made them “relate closely to each other and the scale and texture of the houses existing on the street” a 1969 Architectural Record story on the houses noted. The award-winning group has been credited with helping to revitalize the area, known as Willowtown.
Their use of materials and symmetry within the facades was something the couple chose to do, not something that was dictated by being within the Brooklyn Heights Historic District — it did not yet exist. Work on the houses began in 1964, but the New York City Landmarks Law was enacted in 1965 and the Brooklyn Heights Historic District designated in November of 1965. Local advocates had been pushing for protection for the area for years, and they included Joseph and Mary Merz.
Joseph, who died this year, and Mary, who died in 2011, took the choice corner lot at No. 48 for their own. The 8 by 8 inch cement block facade stretches 37 feet wide on Willow Place and is dominated by a “T” configuration of fenestration and a plain cement cornice that is a nod to the surviving dentil cornice of its neighbor. The single-family house wraps around the corner of State Street with vertical fencing hiding a large garden and an entrance to a carport.
The home has remained in the family since its construction and the interior retains its 1960s style with custom built-ins and a mix of modern and natural materials including steel, maple, redwood and tile. The first floor opens up at the rear to a large great room incorporating living, dining and kitchen with expansive windows and access to the large rear garden. There’s a sleek wood burning fireplace, custom cabinetry and open shelving in the kitchen and tile floors throughout. A den off the kitchen boasts more original built-ins and could be used as another dining space.
Upstairs are two floors of bedrooms, with a total of six along with three full baths. According to the listing, the use of floating walls on these two floors has allowed flexibility to the layout over the years as more, or fewer bedrooms, were needed. Photographer Dinandra Nooney captured views of the Merz house in 1978, including one of the bedrooms. The current layout means the largest bedrooms face the rear garden, taking advantage of the light and views.
The couple founded their firm, Merz Architects, in 1960 and used the house’s English basement for their architectural practice. It still has three windowed offices along with two full baths and storage.
The garden has a stone pathway winding through thick plantings of shrubs and perennials towards a wood deck and pergola at the rear. Underneath it sits the carport.
This bit of mid-century history is on the market for $6.95 million with Deborah L. Rieders, Sarah Shuken and Raquel Lomonico of Corcoran. Intrigued?
- Find Your Dream Home in Brooklyn and Beyond With the New Brownstoner Real Estate
- Flatbush Standalone With Parking, Stained Glass, Built-ins Asks $2 Million
- Intact Prospect Heights Brownstone With Mantels, Stained Glass, Marble Sinks Asks $3.595 Million