A Brooklyn Couple Rehabilitate a 19th-Century Duplex

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January 21, 2014
Originally published in 8 Modern Renovations
as
Minimal Interests
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  Alex Gil and Claudia DeSimio created a duplex in an apartment building where they’d been renting for years in Brooklyn, New York, and set to work gutting the interior and adding a new rooftop addition clad in panels of Cor-Ten steel.
    Alex Gil and Claudia DeSimio created a duplex in an apartment building where they’d been renting for years in Brooklyn, New York, and set to work gutting the interior and adding a new rooftop addition clad in panels of Cor-Ten steel.
  • 
  They established that the building was constructed no later than 1887, under the city’s oldest tenement law, and therefore could legally do without an elevator and other modern adjustments.
    They established that the building was constructed no later than 1887, under the city’s oldest tenement law, and therefore could legally do without an elevator and other modern adjustments.
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  The pair reconfigured the space inside the 2,000-square-foot duplex, creating one open area to hold a monolithic “wedge core” to house the staircase, installing a new stainless-steel kitchen, and placing 
a dining table designed by Gil and fabricated by Artistic Wood Crafts.
    The pair reconfigured the space inside the 2,000-square-foot duplex, creating one open area to hold a monolithic “wedge core” to house the staircase, installing a new stainless-steel kitchen, and placing a dining table designed by Gil and fabricated by Artistic Wood Crafts.
  • 
  “The older the building, the more you can adhere to older codes, which gives you more liberty,” says Gil, who heads the architecture firm Spacecutter.
    “The older the building, the more you can adhere to older codes, which gives you more liberty,” says Gil, who heads the architecture firm Spacecutter.
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  The first tenement codes were written in the mid-1800s, and this was one of the original buildings for worker housing,” adds DeSimio, who spent many hours researching the building’s records in the municipal archives. “It’s a neat place,” she says. “In the mid-to late 1930s the city took tax photos of every single building in the city—it’s basically Google Maps from 1935.”
    The first tenement codes were written in the mid-1800s, and this was one of the original buildings for worker housing,” adds DeSimio, who spent many hours researching the building’s records in the municipal archives. “It’s a neat place,” she says. “In the mid-to late 1930s the city took tax photos of every single building in the city—it’s basically Google Maps from 1935.”
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  The bedroom is tucked in the back of the residence and doesn’t receive a lot of natural light. The couple emphasized the coziness of the space by painting the walls in Space Black from Benjamin Moore and selecting an oversize artwork, Flotar, 2011, by Christian Curiel. The bed is a Louis XV–style reproduction, approximately from the 1950s, that Gil and DeSimio found on eBay.
    The bedroom is tucked in the back of the residence and doesn’t receive a lot of natural light. The couple emphasized the coziness of the space by painting the walls in Space Black from Benjamin Moore and selecting an oversize artwork, Flotar, 2011, by Christian Curiel. The bed is a Louis XV–style reproduction, approximately from the 1950s, that Gil and DeSimio found on eBay.
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  “What was interesting for me was the fun artifact stuff, like finding a pair of sewing scissors and buttons and needles in the floor,” says DiSimio.
    “What was interesting for me was the fun artifact stuff, like finding a pair of sewing scissors and buttons and needles in the floor,” says DiSimio.
  • 
  DiSimio spent the entirety of the project’s construction firing tiles at Choplet Ceramics Studio in her free time for the upstairs bathroom. Each one is hand-airbrushed. “I felt like a deranged Martha Stewart.”
    DiSimio spent the entirety of the project’s construction firing tiles at Choplet Ceramics Studio in her free time for the upstairs bathroom. Each one is hand-airbrushed. “I felt like a deranged Martha Stewart.”
  • 
  The residence’s two bathrooms present distinct material identities: In the main bathroom, located on the lower level near the couple’s bedroom, a custom stainless-steel bathtub designed by Gil contrasts with a wall clad in silver travertine.
    The residence’s two bathrooms present distinct material identities: In the main bathroom, located on the lower level near the couple’s bedroom, a custom stainless-steel bathtub designed by Gil contrasts with a wall clad in silver travertine.
  • 
  In the upper-level bathroom, tiles painstakingly fired by DeSimio cover the walls and ceiling.    This originally appeared in How to Design with Blue.
    In the upper-level bathroom, tiles painstakingly fired by DeSimio cover the walls and ceiling.
    This originally appeared in How to Design with Blue.
  • 
  The living room-office, part of the new rooftop addition, has a Forever 715 sofa by Vibieffe and a rug the couple purchased in Morocco. The custom swing double doors feature a thermally broken aluminum frame and insulated glass.
    The living room-office, part of the new rooftop addition, has a Forever 715 sofa by Vibieffe and a rug the couple purchased in Morocco. The custom swing double doors feature a thermally broken aluminum frame and insulated glass.
  • 
  The couple worked with landscape firm Staghorn Design Studio for the plantings on their rooftop terrace, where an Elan dining table from Design Within Reach.
    The couple worked with landscape firm Staghorn Design Studio for the plantings on their rooftop terrace, where an Elan dining table from Design Within Reach.
  • 
  A barbecue from Alabama Joe’s is much used in the warmer months.
    A barbecue from Alabama Joe’s is much used in the warmer months.
  • 
  “People have an immediate reaction to the space,” DeSimio says. “It’s minimal in a lot of ways, and that’s how we like it. But there’s also a function and a simplicity that I think is important to experience. It’s a matter of style; even though the space is very simple, it feels rich to us.” 
    “People have an immediate reaction to the space,” DeSimio says. “It’s minimal in a lot of ways, and that’s how we like it. But there’s also a function and a simplicity that I think is important to experience. It’s a matter of style; even though the space is very simple, it feels rich to us.” 
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