An 11-Foot-Wide Row House in Brooklyn Grows Up to Make Room For a Young Family

By Kathryn M. / Published by Dwell

Architect Aniket Shahane of Office of Architecture recasts his two-story home as a four-story scheme to keep up with the family’s two growing children.

When living in a city as densely populated as New York, families often face the same dilemma: whether to sacrifice location for space. Just ask Aniket Shahane, founder of Brooklyn–based firm Office of Architecture. After living in his 1,000-square-foot row house for eight years with his wife, jewelry designer Blanca Monros Gomez, the couple chose to confront the common conundrum with another solution. 

Spanning a mere 11 feet, this Brooklyn row house known as Little House, Big City has been strategically transformed to accommodate the needs of a young family of four. 

Photo: Rafael Gamo

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Instead of moving away from the neighborhood they had come to admire, the duo decided to expand their narrow, two-story home in order to make room for their two growing children. "We were very much motivated to find a way to stay in this neighborhood," explains Shahane. "Our goal was to stay in this city for the long haul, so we wanted to create a house that not only enabled our kids to grow up in New York, but would be one that they would simply love to grow up in." 

To maximize functionality in the original two-story home, Office of Architecture treated the residence to a complete gut renovation, which allowed for the new four-level layout. 

Photo: Matthew Williams

Having only an 11-foot width to work with, Shahane reimagined the skinny residence—dubbed Little House, Big City—by renovating the existing interior and digging out a basement to make way for two additional levels. 

The home is fitted with modest materials throughout, including a crisp white color scheme.

Photo: Matthew Williams

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"Working with a house that's just 11.5-feet wide on the interior posed one of the biggest challenges of the renovation," says the architect. "To create space for a family of four meant we had to find ways to make every square inch useful—wastefulness wasn't an option."

Honed Carrara marble lines the kitchen countertops as well as the backsplash. 

Photo: Matthew Williams

Through careful consideration of every window, wall, and fixture, the firm has maximized space, comfort, and functionality on all four levels, proving that a home's small footprint and slender dimensions don't have to equate a cramped lifestyle.

"The narrowness of the house required the design to make effective yet frugal uses of space," explains the firm. "Precise positioning of walls, doors, and windows were crucial as each floor was planned to serve a purpose."

Photo: Matthew Williams

"Good design is more than just solving problems; it's seeing them as opportunities," adds Shahane. "With Little House, Big City, the result is a home that is not just larger, but livelier—filled with the possibility to do more and stay longer in a city that requires its residents to be resourceful and inventive."

The first floor is a continuous public space featuring a dining area, kitchen, and living room.

Photo: Matthew Williams

Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves provide ample storage for books and memorabilia. 

Photo: Matthew Williams

"Some of my favorite spaces are those that weren't even necessarily planned," says Shahane. "For instance, underneath the stair on the first floor it ended up being a few inches deeper than initially planned because of plumbing requirements. But those inches made a perfect and impromptu alcove for our daughter's drawing table."

Photo: Matthew Williams

A peek inside the light-filled guest room.

Photo: Matthew Williams

On the second floor, long, open shelves in the kids' bedroom help foster a clutter-free zone.

Photo: Matthew Williams

The new basement level now serves as an entryway, and includes an 'urban mudroom.'

Photo: Matthew Williams

The laundry area is also housed on the lowest level.

Photo: Matthew Williams

Floral wallpaper adds extra flair to the home's small powder room.

Photo: Matthew Williams

The added top floor houses the master bedroom and bath, as well as a rooftop terrace.

Photo: Rafael Gamo

The fenced backyard offers an additional play area for the kids.

Photo: Matthew Williams

A rearview look at the slender yet highly functional residence.

Photo by Rafael Gamo

A sectional drawing of Little House, Big City.

Courtesy of Office of Architecture

The floor plan of Little House, Big City.

Courtesy of Office of Architecture

Office of Architecture uploaded Little House, Big City through Add A Home.Add your own project for the chance to be featured in Editor's Picks.

Related Reading: Slim Is in For These 10 Skinny Homes

Project Credits: 

Architect: Aniket Shahane of Office of Architecture / @aniketshahane

Builder: Nick Moons of Montesbuild, Inc.

Structural Engineer: Joe Kelmanovich of Blue Sky Design

Lighting Design: Office of Architecture

Interior Design: Office of Architecture

Cabinetry Design: Matthew Gribbon

Photographers: Matthew Williams (interior) & Rafael Gamo (exterior)

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