written by:
photos by:
January 18, 2009
Originally published in Radical Ideas in Architecture

While most people living in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn didn’t see much to love about an abandoned, weedy lot squeezed between two old town houses, one couple couldn’t help but see it as an opportunity to finally build their own home

living room Brooklyn family home
Darcy Miro and her son, Lucien, enjoy a moment in their new double-height living room. The Charlotte Perriand wall sconces are vintage finds.
Photo by 
1 / 5
Even the family dogs have a comfortable resting spot just off the kitchen and dining room on the second floor of the house.
Photo by 
2 / 5
Though the couple’s house is much younger than its immediate neighbors, it manages to fit right in—adding to, rather than detracting from, the neighborhood’s historic character.
Photo by 
3 / 5
By leaving the exterior walls of the neighboring structures exposed on their interior, Miro and Weiss guaranteed that the neighborhood’s history would be a part of their new home. Raw plywood and industrial-strength steel railings are balanced with custom finishes and signs of domesticity.
Photo by 
4 / 5
In the family room, Lucien gets an early start on his music career with his father’s help. The space, technically the third floor of the structure, overlooks the central living area below.
Photo by 
5 / 5
living room Brooklyn family home
Darcy Miro and her son, Lucien, enjoy a moment in their new double-height living room. The Charlotte Perriand wall sconces are vintage finds.
Miro/Weiss House

While most people living in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn didn’t see much to love about an abandoned, weedy lot squeezed between two old town houses, one couple couldn’t help but see it as an opportunity to finally build their own home. “I used to walk the dogs around here all the time,” says Darcy Miro, relaxing in the airy living room of the four-story town house she and her husband, Lars Weiss, have since built on the site. “I kept walking by this empty lot that had a little wooden ‘for sale’ sign. And I thought, How amazing would it be to actually build a house?”

Miro, a 32-year-old jewelry designer, and Weiss, a 35-year-old music producer who runs the record label Home Style Cooking, had fallen for the neighborhood long before. They already owned a one-bedroom apartment nearby, and rented a studio on the same block as the empty lot. “I came to this neighborhood and fell in love with how real it felt,” says Miro. “It was so incredible because it was Brooklyn—very urban—but it had trees and was still amazingly diverse.”

After eyeing the 20-by-80-foot lot for more than a year, the couple finally decided to make some inquiries. They learned that the city had demolished the old town house occupying the site in 1993, and that the owner of the remaining land was eager to sell. They bought the lot soon after for $180,000.

The next step—finding an architect—was easy. Miro had collaborated on the bronze façade of the American Folk Art Museum in New York with architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, so she asked them for a recommendation. They put her in touch with a former employee, Martin Finio, who had since launched his own practice, Christoff:Finio Architecture, with his wife, Taryn Christoff.

But even before meeting the architects, Miro and Weiss had specific ideas about what they wanted: The house would have to include studios for both of their businesses. They also wanted to preserve the exterior walls of the adjoining buildings as their own interior walls by hanging floors between them. “Those two walls felt like they had so much history,” Miro explains. And to keep costs down and give the house a personal touch, they decided they would complete the vast majority of interior work—tiling, painting, and even framing some of the bedroom walls—themselves.

When construction began in early 2002, Miro and Weiss were so optimistic that the house would be completed before the end of the year that they invited their families to have Thanksgiving dinner there. But they had to cancel those plans when construction dragged on, then had to do the same in 2003. It wasn’t until 2004 that the house was finally ready for guests.    

Still, they were well rewarded for their perseverance.  The resulting 4,200-square-foot town house gives them an extraordinary space in which to live, work, and raise their one-year-old son, Lucien. The ground floor and basement are dedicated to a jewelry workshop and a recording studio, and the living quarters begin on the second floor with a dining area, kitchen, and high-ceilinged living room. The third floor is a loftlike reading room that overlooks the living and dining areas, and the fourth floor has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a laundry room.

Throughout the house, Miro and Weiss selected commercial products like metal railings, boxy industrial baseboard heaters, and a mix of concrete and wood-plank flooring. They also left many ducts, pipes, and electrical conduits exposed because there were few interior walls in which to hide them. But in the end, they warmed up the overall feel of the space with their own labor-intensive finishes and a collection of mid-century-modern furniture. Miro cast the bronze handles for the vanity in the master bathroom herself. They sanded and sealed the construction-grade floorboards and painted the bedroom walls a comforting off-white (Benjamin Moore’s Limestone). Downstairs, they equipped the dining table with a slightly mismatched collection of chairs by Norman Cherner, and anchored the living room around a long, low coffee table topped with a piece of antique wood recovered from a 15th-century Italian monastery.

“It’s a lot of love,” says Miro, summing up the many years of work the couple poured into the house. “You can continually throw a lot of money at a house, or you can put in more love and really get something out of it.” With total construction costs running around $500,000, Miro and Weiss were able to build their own house in an area where similar town houses sell for well over a million dollars. Love, it seems, has given them not only a very personal home, but one that might otherwise have been out of reach.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016
the blue lagoon iceland geothermal spa hotel water visitors
The famed geothermal spa outside Reykjavík, Iceland, is entering a major new phase—paving the way for the area’s first five-star hotel.
June 19, 2016
heaven on earth maya lin topography what is missing california academy sciences wood video
A new monograph by Rizzoli explores the memorial project by the renowned artist.
June 19, 2016
gable game austin texas cantilevered home facade windows upper level car port
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to indoor/outdoor living. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
June 18, 2016
Modern prefab lakeside home in Bloomingdale, New Jersey
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
June 18, 2016
Rectangular bento glass table with compartments.
These top-notch projects by design students earned a spot on our honor roll.
June 18, 2016
bozley all
Jory Brigham picks up his family’s trade and takes it in unexpected directions.
June 17, 2016
The outlandish Belgian fashion designer, a member of the iconic Antwerp Six, creates a quirky pattern-filled capsule collection for the Swedish mega-retailer—with a high-tech twist.
June 17, 2016
2016 Triumph Pavilion
A creative take on the classic children's toy.
June 17, 2016
planar and simple chicago farmhouse addition kitchen mutina cabinets tiles pella window kohler faucet
A relaxed interior and radical roof make a home more sociable and energy-efficient.
June 17, 2016
up and away renovation san francisco family room richard wright painting sofa
A couple bring cohesion to an architectural mishmash in San Francisco.
June 17, 2016
new head of its class connecticut renovation summer home facade bleached cedar siding volumes glass bridge
A Connecticut home with a notable architectural legacy gets an expansive update for a family of six.
June 17, 2016
Rockefeller Center filled with cactus during the month of June.
To welcome summer, the plaza at Rockefeller Center transforms into a desert landscape.
June 16, 2016