With the main dwelling set back at the rear of its lot and a hidden courtyard garden, this single-family home has a quirky character that fits into the raffish charm one finds in Gowanus. On a block with a mix of light industrial, commercial and residential, 561 Union Street has an unexpected garden behind its front gate, connecting a one-story studio at the front and a two-story dwelling at the rear.
The one-story studio at the front of the lot is actually the newest part of the property. Designed by SAS\Solomonoff Architecture Studio, it was constructed in 2010 as a photography studio for the present owners. The firm also undertook a renovation of the two-story rear lot house.
According to research for the Gowanus Canal National Register Historic District, which was declared eligible but never actually listed, the stuccoed structure dates to circa 1910. Historic maps show a wood frame building on the site in the late 19th century and a brick structure in place by 1916. The circa 1940 tax photo shows the present brick building with a stepped parapet and clothes lines filling the front yard.
The renovated main house has has a mix of rustic, industrial and modern style throughout, with wide planked floorboards that suggest the house is far older than 1910, wood strip ceilings, exposed beams and ductwork, and all white walls and ceilings. There’s a wood burning stove in the dining room while the U-shaped kitchen just beyond has sleek slab-fronted white cabinets and stainless steel appliances. A full bath and a bedroom round out the first floor. The floor plan seems to indicate a bathtub in the bedroom but there’s no photo of the space to determine how accurate that is. The full bath pictured has all white fixtures, including a clawfoot tub.
Going upstairs leads to a sky-lit landing that is used as the largest of the two bedrooms on the floor. The space includes a windowed nook to fit a desk. Down the hall is a walk-in closet with a bank of built-in storage. The smaller bedroom has built-in bookshelves. There’s another windowed full bath with all white fixtures, this time with a walk-in shower.
The studio at the front of the property is one large room, lit with skylights and glass doors facing the house. A wood deck leads down to the garden between the two buildings. There’s a brick-paved patio with a small tree at the center and a mix of planting beds and planters along the sides.
At the moment, the character of the surrounding block continues to be the low-scale mix of uses that typify Gowanus. On either side of the property are 19th century tenements, at one end of the street is an auto body repair shop and at the other light manufacturing, including the South Brooklyn Casket Company. Some of the properties on the block have recently sold to developers, and across the street at 532-542 Union, Avery Hall and partners plan a mixed-use development next to the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club. Plans for a proposed rezoning of Gowanus have not yet been finalized and the Superfund cleanup is likely to be delayed because of COVID.
This property last sold in 2010 for $749,000. After the renovation and the construction of the studio it’s now listed with Behzad Amiri of Corcoran for $2.695 million. What do you think?
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