In just five months, architect Alexandra Barker of Barker Freeman gut-renovated a petite (16 feet wide by 35 feet deep) four-story brick row house. She turned it into a sweet triplex for a family of five, plus a garden rental — and she did it while saving money wherever possible.
The owners of this late-19th-century two-story wood-frame were ready to abandon their dream of adding square footage, after the first architect they consulted produced a design that would have been way beyond their budget.
But then they were introduced to Thomas Warnke, whose pared-down philosophy enabled the job to go forward at a price the couple could swallow. “I prefer clean and simple lines, not too many competing ideas in one project,” said Warnke, originally from Germany, who established his Brooklyn-based design practice, space4a, in 2007.
This recently gut-renovated 1860s townhouse in the lower Slope has some trademark signifiers — besides the generally thoughtful and sensitive design — that Elizabeth Roberts and her team at Gowanus-based Ensemble Architecture were here.
If you’ve ever renovated an old house, chances are there are some things you wish you’d done differently. Here are the top 10 things to know before you start — all from hard-won experience.
10. Do everything at once up front.
It will seem more expensive, but we promise you will save money and mental trauma in the long run. You only want to open and close the walls once. Plastering, painting and floor refinishing should all be done before you move in.
“Modern but warm” is how the new homeowners described their vision to Park Slope-based architect Jeff Etelamaki as they embarked on the gut renovation of a stoop-less, early-20th-century row house on an eclectic, non-landmarked block in Prospect Heights.
This month marks Brownstoner’s Steel Anniversary. We’re taking some time to look back at our past, even as we design a new future.
A sunken living room with a fireplace. A bathtub with a view. A secret garden. Balconies and roof decks. Even a 40-foot-tall fluorescent light installation running from basement to roof.
In designing his home in Red Hook, a circa-1900 brick row house on a cobbled street one block from the water, and carrying out a near-total renovation of what was little more than a shell, Thomas Warnke put in pretty much everything he ever wanted.
Though currently a hot commodity, brownstones aren’t known for their energy efficiency.
“It’s amazing how much money is spent just heating building materials,” Michael Ingui, Partner at Baxt Ingui Architects, recently told Brownstoner. But that’s no longer the case in at least one newly renovated townhouse — the first passive-certified, landmarked home in Brooklyn.
An extravagant but dilapidated Brooklyn brownstone famed as the family home in Spike Lee’s Crooklyn made headlines when it sold for $1,700,000 in 2013. Now newly restored and decorated, the home debuted Saturday as a bed and breakfast.
Built in 1887 in the Renaissance Revival style, the house was designed by one of the borough’s finest 19th century architects, George P. Chappell. It is full of his signature original touches, such as as custom woodwork with foliate motifs you won’t find in any other row of brownstones.
Photo by Steve Chan
It’s the thing in Brooklyn these days to convert chopped-up brownstones back into single-family homes. Rarer is the instance when a homeowner beautifully transforms a single-family brownstone into condos.
But that is exactly what Amy Werba, a French-Italian former actress, did with the Halsey Street brownstone she purchased in 2012. When Werba acquired the 19th-century Italianate home, it was not aging gracefully.
“The brownstone property was in terrible shape,” Werba told Brownstoner. “The home was squatted in with everything becoming rotten. Not a single original detail could be saved.”
A year ago, our bathrooms — with plumbing ranging in age from 65 to 100 years old — were demolished to make way for all the new “guts” of the home: you know, trivial stuff like plumbing, electric and heating.
I was horrified by the thought of contributing otherwise useful materials to a landfill, so (in addition to sinks, mirrors and tubs) I asked our contractors to carefully salvage as many of the 1950s pink tiles as they could. We got a nice haul — about 750 four-inch squares.
Fast forward to now, and they’ve sat moldering away in our basement with zero game plan. Maybe I could sell them to a purveyor of all things retro? Maybe a neighbor or a reader would want them? I had no clue what their final destination would be, I was just happy to have saved them from the dumpster. And finally, like a bolt of lightning from Poseidon himself, their purpose became crystal-clear: I can actually reuse them again in this house!