City Modern Home Tours: Brooklyn

City Modern Home Tours: Brooklyn

By Sara Dierck
A rainy start to the Brooklyn Home Tour—the closing event of City Modern—didn't deter those who turned out for a peek into five unique homes in Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Boerum Hill. After maps and passes were secured at Module R on Atlantic Avenue, each attendee discovered homes filled with innovative design solutions, unique re-imaginings of space, and wonderful uses of textures, colors and materials.

A few of the surprises to be found: a third floor courtyard garden encased by glass at the Willow Residence, a townhouse tucked into a small side street; an expansive five-story home Brooklyn Heights wonderfully blurring the line between outside and inside; a townhouse in Cobble Hill filled with furniture nearly as stunning as the sculpturally designed skylight; a Boerum Hill rowhouse gutted and uniquely divided by an architect and his multimedia wife; and a warm, townhouse-turned-farmhouse perfectly suited for a family who spends most of their time in the kitchen.

Willow Residence is a three-story townhouse on a quiet street in Brooklyn Heights. A complete demolition of the interior of the space left a an "empty box" for architect Robert Kahn, which was enhanced by landscape architect Susannah Drake's stunningly designed green spaces.

Here is the view from the second floor landing.

Let's leave rain boots and umbrellas at the door, slip on some optional baby blue booties, and see what's behind some of the brick and brownstone of Brooklyn.

Exposed brick on the north facing wall with plenty of light, even on a rainy day.

Thick planks lead visitors up the staircase and compliment the wooden-beam details left exposed from the previous layout.

The second floor includes a music and video library, and foosball table.

A view of the vertical library and garden beyond the 16-foot-tall wall of windows.

The children's bedroom features bright carpeting and patterned wallpaper.

More patterned wallpaper in the bathroom.

The polished concrete inside the bathroom on the top floor has an amazingly smooth texture and pleasant slightly green tone.

Here's the master bedroom on the third floor.

One of the most delightful discoveries on the tour of this home: a courtyard garden enclosed by glass, as seen from the master bedroom.

Bookshelf walls in a guest bedroom slide to reveal a small study.

Juergen Riehm of 1100 Architect worked in close collaboration with the owners of a five-story, 7,000-square-foot townhouse in Brooklyn Heights to create a home that both preserves its 19th-century details and provides an open, modern setting for a diverse collection of contemporary art and objects."We all worked together," the owner says of the couple's work with Riehm. "I love materials, so I loved those meetings. The three of us were really in sync; it was a fun process."

Original moldings surround the dining room.

A large collection of art pieces are thoughtfully dispersed throughout the home. Each room provides something different to happen upon.

Nineteenth-century detailing stands its ground with the art collection.

Aside from the cohesion of past detailing and present decoration, the townhouse also blends inside and outside elements. Windows show glimpses of the garden outside, and potted plants are as well-placed at the artworks.

"Plants make it feel more human and alive," the owner says.

Decor in the master bedroom.

View from the master bedroom.

Partial view of a second floor "green roof" and the garden below.

The windows in the library still have their original shutters.

Mosaic tile details.

View of the garden from the lower level. Tile is used to create a visual transition from the indoor to outdoor environments.

The third stop on the Brooklyn home tour is a building with a history of transformations. Originally a single-family home, the structure was converted into a four-family dwelling. Though original details remained—such as fireplace, flooring, and moldings—a "fire-escape" like staircase had been installed. Architect Joseph Tanney reassembled the divided structure back into a single-family home and replaced the skylight in a dramatic way.

Rich colors and wonderful furnishings (the owner is a mid-century modern furniture dealer) are found within the Cobble Hill brownstone.

The dining room features an asymmetrical table and brilliant orange color on the walls. The previous interior colors made the home feel like a gallery space for the furniture. "Before it was all white," the owner says. "But we wanted to add more atmosphere and mood. We worked on the colors really hard, making boards for all of our finishings."

A subtle, yet striking detail is the combination of matte and high-gloss paint. "Our painter, who is awesome, asked: What do you want to do with the molding?" the owner explains. "Just for fun we used this high gloss oil paint and we said, 'Let's do that. That sets it off the most.'"

The master bedroom.

A collection of stools outfits the master bedroom.

The music room on the ground floor.

Here's a view of the garden through custom steel windows fabricated for the house by the owners' artist friend.

The walkway to the garden.

The previous skylight was smaller, and "junky." Architect Joseph Tanney created a sculptural new form: "We made it bigger, and sort of like a James Turrell," he says.

Light travels to each level of the home via the continuous staircase.

The Warren Street Townhouse kitchen.

A 1940s rowhouse in Boerum Hill is home to architect Jordan Parnass and his wife Melanie Crean, an artist. The couple completely dismantled the interior to order to reconstruct a new space for living and working in a light-filled environment of many levels.

In the dining room, deep browns and blacks from the furniture and railings are balanced with bright artwork.

Parnass designed the home in layers rather than rooms, creating a fluid space filled with light from the large rear windows. Steel staircases and railings connect the spaces.

View of the office and railing details.

A bright art piece on the upper floor. Exposed brick walls flank each side of the structure.

The master bedroom.

Tile work in the bathroom.

The marble mantelpiece was one of the only salvageable elements in the home. The family cat—who made this shelf her home—was a favorite surprise of visitors on the tour.

Staircase detailing on the bottom floor.

Crean's studio on the bottom floor is filled with light and features views of the garden.

View of the garden and bath from the dining room.

The final visit on the Brooklyn Home Tour is a townhouse on Bond Street designed by MADE architect Ben Bischoff for a family who spends much of their time in the kitchen. A perfect end for a fall day, this "urban farmhouse" is warm and inviting. While the kitchen may be the dominant room in the home, the staircase and the way its form plays with the existing space grounds the structure and reflects its charm.

Here's the workspace on the ground floor. The owners also have a bakery nearby.

Open shelves in the kitchen reveal a glimpse of the staircase.

Exposed and painted brick walls in the living room.

"The staircase was my favorite part," Bischoff says. "We changed the orientation—it used to come straight up form the front. It was a lot of fun to understand how that would make the house function a little differently by circulating through the middle instead of front-to-back, front-to-back."

Lines of the staircase and railing play with one another in a visually pleasing way, and the exposed air ducts work with the comfortable, no nonsense design. "You don't notice the ducts by being frank about them," Bischoff says of the visible conduit.

The bathroom.

View of the living room from the second floor.

Cubby holes under the kitchen counter house cookbooks. The cabinets are made from salvaged wood. "The kitchen is where they like to be at home," Bischoff says. "That's why it's in the middle of the floor plan."


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