Before & After: An Architect Takes Steps to Create His Dream Home in Brooklyn

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By Kelly Dawson
After spending much of his life waiting to renovate a historic row house, Brooklyn–based architect Shane Neufeld finally finds one to revamp for himself.

Architect Shane Neufeld has been considering a project like this for a quarter-century—or in other words, much of his life. 

Before he spent a year renovating this row house in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, Shane spent a decade living in a nearby apartment with his wife. And in the years preceding that, he grew up in a townhouse set in the same New York City borough. 

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American white oak was used for the flooring throughout the house, including the sun-filled kitchen. A Brendan Ravenhill hangs above the sink, and a Wolf cooktop was installed opposite the island. 

American white oak was used for the flooring throughout the house, including the sun-filled kitchen. A Brendan Ravenhill hangs above the sink, and a Wolf cooktop was installed opposite the island. 

"So I was already extremely intimate with the nuances of the design—the scale of the spaces, the relationships between inside and out, and the lack of light," he says.

"There aren’t many row houses that treat vertical circulation and the relationship between public and private spaces the same way as [this house]," Shane says. White oak treads and a painted steel handrail make up the home's signature staircase. 

"There aren’t many row houses that treat vertical circulation and the relationship between public and private spaces the same way as [this house]," Shane says. White oak treads and a painted steel handrail make up the home's signature staircase. 

His day-to-day familiarity only bolstered the practical experience he gained in his career, which includes starting his own firm L/AND/A

Nevertheless, when he and his wife, Claire Stapleton, decided to buy the listing online, he was still intimidated by the idea of modernizing a 19th-century property. 

Shane and Claire have a one-year-old son, Malcolm. 

Shane and Claire have a one-year-old son, Malcolm. 

"The biggest challenge was finding the confidence to tackle the project on my own," he says. "It was my first independent project, and I had previously worked on only one substantial renovation through construction administration."

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Shane came to the project with a "lifetime of ideas," he says, although the prospect of taking on an entire property's renovation was daunting. He kept the kitchen simple and used drywall and oak for much of the detailing. 

Shane came to the project with a "lifetime of ideas," he says, although the prospect of taking on an entire property's renovation was daunting. He kept the kitchen simple and used drywall and oak for much of the detailing. 

Perhaps it became even more daunting when Shane discovered that this house had been neglected for years. The floors had rotted, the original plaster was damaged, and the plumbing was broken. He also encountered squatters heating the home with the kitchen's gas oven during his final walk through. It was a rough start, but Shane had a vision.

Large windows, like this one from Loewen, help illuminate the home's three stories. 

Large windows, like this one from Loewen, help illuminate the home's three stories. 

By focusing the remodel on one specific detail—the stairs—the rest of the home fell into place. "The goal from the very beginning was to invert and open up the traditional row house by replacing a stacked stair with a switchback stair," he says. 

"We removed the original plaster moulding to reveal the brick demising wall between our house and the neighbors. We painted it white so that the brick's character and texture are highlighted by the skylight above." 

In the new bathroom, Heath Ceramics tiles were used in the shower alongside cement tile flooring from Clé Tile. 

In the new bathroom, Heath Ceramics tiles were used in the shower alongside cement tile flooring from Clé Tile. 

The large skylight above the staircase helps illuminate all three levels of the home, which were kept minimal to underscore that sunshine. And to make sure that he still honored the history of his long-awaited project, Shane kept the exterior the same. 

Given that this project feels so personal, it makes sense that its best features stay that way. "The contrast between interior and exterior is whats makes the house so exciting," he says. "The interior transformation remains a mystery to most walking by."

Scroll ahead for the fascinating "before" images.

Before:

Before & After: An Architect Takes Steps to Create His Dream Home in Brooklyn - Photo 7 of 10 -
Before & After: An Architect Takes Steps to Create His Dream Home in Brooklyn - Photo 8 of 10 -
Before & After: An Architect Takes Steps to Create His Dream Home in Brooklyn - Photo 9 of 10 -
Before & After: An Architect Takes Steps to Create His Dream Home in Brooklyn - Photo 10 of 10 -

Project Credits: 

Architect: Light and Air Architecture

Architect of Record: Brendan Coburn

Builder: Black Square Builders 

Structural Engineer: Ivan Luk 

Cabinetry Design: Kwn Woodworking

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