A Neglected Brooklyn Townhouse Becomes a Home That’s Primed for Entertaining

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By Kelly Dawson / Photos by Dustin Aksland
At more than 150 years old, this structure was a ruin when the architect and her clients found it. Now it's a stunning home designed with a growing family and hosting in mind.

Without Principal Elizabeth Roberts' encouragement, her clients probably wouldn't have purchased this house in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

A Neglected Brooklyn Townhouse Becomes a Home That’s Primed for Entertaining - Photo 1 of 8 - The original home’s dilapidated rear wall was in such poor condition that Roberts called it "an opportunity in disguise." She removed the wall and built a two-story addition that features double-glazed windows and sliding doors for unified entertaining inside and in the garden.

The original home’s dilapidated rear wall was in such poor condition that Roberts called it "an opportunity in disguise." She removed the wall and built a two-story addition that features double-glazed windows and sliding doors for unified entertaining inside and in the garden.

Her clients were a couple, both involved in the New York art scene, who sought a home for their children and space to host. Together they had already toured another nearby property but the architect said its price and look weren’t quite right. When they first saw the townhouse pictured above, its rooms had stood vacant for years, water had been pouring in from the roof, and the back wall was leaning heavily. Roberts said the structure—originally built in 1852—was "dangerous" and "horrible" but she still saw the potential in its bones. Her clients trusted her architectural vision. The renovation was completed in 2014 and the results are remarkable: the home features light-filled spaces where the young family of three (soon to be four) could feel comfortable and their guests would feel welcome.

A Neglected Brooklyn Townhouse Becomes a Home That’s Primed for Entertaining - Photo 2 of 8 - "They knew they wanted a big kitchen where all of their friends could stand around and be involved in the cooking process," Roberts said of the owners. Exposed beams stripe a ceiling above Wood Mode cabinets painted Newport Green by Benjamin Moore.

"They knew they wanted a big kitchen where all of their friends could stand around and be involved in the cooking process," Roberts said of the owners. Exposed beams stripe a ceiling above Wood Mode cabinets painted Newport Green by Benjamin Moore.

A Neglected Brooklyn Townhouse Becomes a Home That’s Primed for Entertaining - Photo 3 of 8 - As much as the owners and Roberts wanted – and needed – to modernize the home, they also tried to honor some of its historical touches. They preserved the mantel, and replaced the plaster crowns on the parlor level. The antique chaise is by Lisa Sherman, and the walls are painted pavilion gray by Farrow & Ball.

As much as the owners and Roberts wanted – and needed – to modernize the home, they also tried to honor some of its historical touches. They preserved the mantel, and replaced the plaster crowns on the parlor level. The antique chaise is by Lisa Sherman, and the walls are painted pavilion gray by Farrow & Ball.

A Neglected Brooklyn Townhouse Becomes a Home That’s Primed for Entertaining - Photo 4 of 8 - Reclaimed oak with a custom finish by LV Wood surrounds a staircase in a herringbone pattern. The new stairs are painted off black by Farrow & Ball, and the handrail that lines them is of salvaged mahogany.

Reclaimed oak with a custom finish by LV Wood surrounds a staircase in a herringbone pattern. The new stairs are painted off black by Farrow & Ball, and the handrail that lines them is of salvaged mahogany.

A Neglected Brooklyn Townhouse Becomes a Home That’s Primed for Entertaining - Photo 5 of 8 - Four bedrooms make up the private areas of the home, which all benefit from natural light and a complementary airy design. Custom built-in shelves and a walkthrough closet with enclosed cabinets are featured in this room, as well as bedding by Coyuchi.

Four bedrooms make up the private areas of the home, which all benefit from natural light and a complementary airy design. Custom built-in shelves and a walkthrough closet with enclosed cabinets are featured in this room, as well as bedding by Coyuchi.

A Neglected Brooklyn Townhouse Becomes a Home That’s Primed for Entertaining - Photo 6 of 8 - A salvaged antique tub stands beside a sink by Waterworks. Town and Country Surfaces supplied the Malaga cement tiles that color the floor.

A salvaged antique tub stands beside a sink by Waterworks. Town and Country Surfaces supplied the Malaga cement tiles that color the floor.

A Neglected Brooklyn Townhouse Becomes a Home That’s Primed for Entertaining - Photo 7 of 8 - "We did a lot of studies for the project to show how we could get huge amounts of light into the rear of the house," Roberts said, which culminates in the two-story addition that replaced the original collapsing wall. The living room’s two antique round leather chairs, by Ralph Lauren, are within view of the garden beyond matching sets of windows.

"We did a lot of studies for the project to show how we could get huge amounts of light into the rear of the house," Roberts said, which culminates in the two-story addition that replaced the original collapsing wall. The living room’s two antique round leather chairs, by Ralph Lauren, are within view of the garden beyond matching sets of windows.

A Neglected Brooklyn Townhouse Becomes a Home That’s Primed for Entertaining - Photo 8 of 8 - Indoor and outdoor entertaining is made simple by the dining room’s sliding glass doors, but the two spaces also share a literal common ground. Lapicida’s tumbled black limestone with white Carrara marble inserts sprawl from the kitchen, past the dining room, and onto the patio.

Indoor and outdoor entertaining is made simple by the dining room’s sliding glass doors, but the two spaces also share a literal common ground. Lapicida’s tumbled black limestone with white Carrara marble inserts sprawl from the kitchen, past the dining room, and onto the patio.

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