An Architect Builds His Own Backyard Oasis From Salvaged Materials

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By Paige Alexus / Published by Dwell
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.

Just a few blocks from the swooping Barclays Center arena in downtown Brooklyn sits an unexpectedly quiet haven, a petite 1,300-square-foot patch of green punctuated by a small outbuilding. This modest structure, a single room with just enough space for an army cot or chair, was designed and built by architect Nicholas Hunt, who runs the studio Hunt Architecture with his brother, Andrew, in addition to working for larger firms.

An Architect Builds His Own Backyard Oasis From Salvaged Materials - Photo 1 of 5 - Architect Nicholas Hunt used his garden as a laboratory for his budding private practice, creating a 55-square-foot studio filled with handcrafted details, including a half-inch reveal surrounding the front window and a Plexiglas skylight. "When a place is this small, the minimal details need to be nice," Hunt says.

Architect Nicholas Hunt used his garden as a laboratory for his budding private practice, creating a 55-square-foot studio filled with handcrafted details, including a half-inch reveal surrounding the front window and a Plexiglas skylight. "When a place is this small, the minimal details need to be nice," Hunt says.

"The point of the project for me was an escape from the city—both in terms of building it and hanging out in it, inhabiting it," says Hunt, who spent a total of about seven days over four months constructing the space. "It was for the act of building and to be able to do this for myself, to be my own client; that’s something young architects rarely get a chance to do."

An Architect Builds His Own Backyard Oasis From Salvaged Materials - Photo 2 of 5 - The building’s design was determined by the desire for a strong geometric form and by the materials Hunt could find. The cedar cladding is meant to fade over time.

The building’s design was determined by the desire for a strong geometric form and by the materials Hunt could find. The cedar cladding is meant to fade over time.

The 5-foot-by-11-foot studio was completed for just under $1,200, a small sum made possible by the clever reuse of materials, like cedar planks salvaged from another job and the white fence pickets from his parents’ property in Massachusetts that make up the interior. Plexiglas fills a skylight and wood-slatted windows, keeping out prying eyes while opening up the interior to views of greenery and sky. 

An Architect Builds His Own Backyard Oasis From Salvaged Materials - Photo 3 of 5 - The interior features fence pickets from Hunt’s parents’ house and a rotating selection of furniture from his apartment.

The interior features fence pickets from Hunt’s parents’ house and a rotating selection of furniture from his apartment.

"Once you’re in it," says Hunt, "you feel outside the city." 

An Architect Builds His Own Backyard Oasis From Salvaged Materials - Photo 4 of 5 - Windows oriented toward nature shut out the city.

Windows oriented toward nature shut out the city.

An Architect Builds His Own Backyard Oasis From Salvaged Materials - Photo 5 of 5 - "It’s a perfect spot for an afternoon nap, a makeshift painting studio, or a quiet space to have a drink with a friend." —Nicholas Hunt, architect

"It’s a perfect spot for an afternoon nap, a makeshift painting studio, or a quiet space to have a drink with a friend." —Nicholas Hunt, architect