You can count on one hand the pieces of furniture in the apartment Julian von der Schulenburg shares with his wife, Min, and their year-old daughter, Miru: bed, dining table with benches, console, daybed, chair. Everything about their home is ultra pared back, down to the lighting, which consists of LED bulbs in simple porcelain sockets. The sparseness fits the couple’s minimalist lifestyle, but it also emphasizes the raw beauty of the loft-like space.
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When Julian and Min purchased the yellow brick building that houses their apartment three years ago, it was totally run down. Their gut renovation, which also included an upstairs rental unit and basement studio, was "largely a process of subtraction," says Julian. Out went the fake wood walls. Out went the dropped Styrofoam ceilings. The design took shape as demolition progressed.
"I didn’t want to fake a perfect turn-of-the-century Ridgewood house. It’s contextual, but it’s a conversion." Julian von der Schulenburg, architect and resident
When they were tearing down the walls, for example, they discovered a lining of tar-covered bricks that became a key element of the project. Uncovered remnants of tin were melded into a new floating ceiling. Pipes, like the bricks, were left exposed. To keep an open flow, Julian recessed the kitchen along one wall and tucked the master bath behind it. Doors in the wall hide storage, a washroom, and a cleverly placed soaking tub. Except for the light gray floor, everything inside that wasn’t brick was painted white.
Julian, who grew up and is licensed in Germany, worked with two Pritzker-winning architects—Peter Zumthor and Rem Koolhaas—before starting his New York– and Munich-based practice a decade ago, but he feels a greater connection to the former. "Zumthor’s philosophy is about the atmosphere of spaces, and looking for some kind of ‘magic’ through material and light," says Julian, who worked his own kind of magic on a quiet block in Queens.