Designed by Joseph G. and Mary L. Merz in 1964 in a mid-century modernist idiom, this townhouse at 44 Willow Place in Brooklyn Heights is one of three on the block by the architects, all of which reinterpret the Greek Revival colonnade row that once stood here as a sort of window-column sentinel.
Carefully designed to fit into the distinctive and historic block, the “materials, fenestration, and overall symmetry of the facades respect the formal rhythm of the older houses,” Architectural Record wrote at the time. Lots of ink was spilled over the couple, actually.
The unusual interior, divided into two duplex units, features an open plan third floor with ten and a half foot high ceilings. The graphic designer Ronald Clyne, who lived in the home with his wife Hortense, took credit for the interiors — where he hung his collection of oceanic and modern art — in an August 2000 issue of Interior Design magazine. Clyne himself is renowned as the designer of many famous album covers for Folkways, including Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads reissue and a volume of Sounds of New Music featured John Cage.
There’s a one car garage at the ground level, which is rare in Brooklyn Heights. A back deck leads down to a large garden area, and there’s central heat and air conditioning, according to the listing.
Both main living areas are quite spacious. The upper duplex has built-in shelves in the space between the living room and the kitchen, along with a walk-in closet. The kitchen in the lower duplex is a galley kitchen, while the one on the upper duplex occupies a front corner and is open to a separate dining area.
While some of the photos and floor plan might lead one to believe the windows are few relative to the voluminous space, they run from floor to ceiling — and there is also a “raised roof light” on the top floor, according to the listing.
According to the Willowtown Association (this section of Brooklyn Heights is known as Willowtown), the Merzs bought the empty lots when they went up for city auction, so no demolition was involved in the making of these buildings. Along with other architects, Joseph Merz was a member of the Brooklyn Heights Association Design Advisory Council and was active in the community.
The listing, from Joan Goldberg of Brown Harris Stevens, says that the lower duplex is rented through the end of August. The home is asking $3.9 million. It may just be a palace of dreams for lovers of mid-century design. Does it work for you?
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