An Architect Goes Minimalist to the Max With His Home Renovation in Queens
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An Architect Goes Minimalist to the Max With His Home Renovation in Queens

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By Camille Rankin / Photos by Dean Kaufman
An ascetic-minded couple take a New York row house down to the studs.

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.

German architect Julian von der Schulenburg did a complete overhaul of a 1901 townhouse in Ridgewood, Queens. The kitchen is part of an "inhabitable wall" that holds the master bath, a mud room, a toilet, and a small  tub, accessible through a raised door.

German architect Julian von der Schulenburg did a complete overhaul of a 1901 townhouse in Ridgewood, Queens. The kitchen is part of an "inhabitable wall" that holds the master bath, a mud room, a toilet, and a small tub, accessible through a raised door.

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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.

The floor is made of plywood scored in a triangle pattern.

The floor is made of plywood scored in a triangle pattern.


"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

Wherever possible, the couple saved original elements, like the hallway staircase and banister. 

Wherever possible, the couple saved original elements, like the hallway staircase and banister. 

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.

They redid the electrical and plumbing, but kept the metal radiators, which were painted silver. They saved sections of the tin ceiling. 

They redid the electrical and plumbing, but kept the metal radiators, which were painted silver. They saved sections of the tin ceiling. 

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.  

The space can be divided into three sections, thanks to sliding panels that hang from channels in the floating ceiling, all done in Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore. A Wishbone chair by Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen & Søn sits in the bedroom area.

The space can be divided into three sections, thanks to sliding panels that hang from channels in the floating ceiling, all done in Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore. A Wishbone chair by Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen & Søn sits in the bedroom area.

Project Credits:

Architect: Julian von der Schulenburg

General Contractor: Andy Lalman 347-323-8288

Structural Engineer: Prudigm Engineering