The Brownstone Baked to Perfection

By William Lamb / Photos by Matthew Williams
A family enlists Brooklyn design-build firm MADE to renovate a brownstone using surplus and salvaged materials for a budget-conscious patina.

In 2009, Dawn Casale and Dave Crofton faced a quandary: With the arrival of their son, Nate, they had outgrown their apartment in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. And though unwilling to stray far from nearby Boerum Hill, where they opened a boutique bakery, One Girl Cookies, in 2005, they were largely immune to the charms of the neighborhood’s brownstones, which they viewed as being long on period detail but short on light and space.

Kitchen & Dining Room "This room really became the heart of the space," Dawn Casale says. "If people are sitting at the dining table or in the living area, you’re able to have a really free-flowing conversation and there’s a nice dynamic happening on the entire floor."

Kitchen & Dining Room "This room really became the heart of the space," Dawn Casale says. "If people are sitting at the dining table or in the living area, you’re able to have a really free-flowing conversation and there’s a nice dynamic happening on the entire floor."

So they set a less-than-realistic goal of finding something close by with an open, loftlike feel. "We gave our realtor a somewhat impossible task of finding us a place that probably didn’t exist," Casale acknowledges. Then they saw a three-story brownstone just a few blocks from their shop. Its location on a corner lot let ample natural light penetrate the building’s core. Even better, it had been completely gutted, giving Casale and Crofton a blank slate on which to create their living space from scratch.

The island and cabinets, fashioned from remilled Douglas-fir beams salvaged from upstate New York, sport inexpensive drawers from Ikea. The Carrara marble for the sink surround also came from the firm’s warehouse, from a section of slab orphaned from an earlier commission. A Viking chimney wall hood tops a free-standing range by Bluestar.

The island and cabinets, fashioned from remilled Douglas-fir beams salvaged from upstate New York, sport inexpensive drawers from Ikea. The Carrara marble for the sink surround also came from the firm’s warehouse, from a section of slab orphaned from an earlier commission. A Viking chimney wall hood tops a free-standing range by Bluestar.

For help, they turned to MADE, the Brooklyn firm that designed their bakery. A team led by MADE principal Ben Bischoff replaced the front-to-back stairway with one that coils beneath a skylight. The move freed space at each end of the house and allowed for an open plan on the main level. The new layout encourages an easy flow of conversation and foot traffic across the dining, kitchen, and living areas.

The Torroja pendant light by David Weeks hangs in the dining area, standing in sharp relief to the home’s original brick, now painted white (in Benjamin Moore Paper White)along with the wooden floorboards (in Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter). Radiant heat underfoot means a toasty interior even without a surfeit of textiles.

The Torroja pendant light by David Weeks hangs in the dining area, standing in sharp relief to the home’s original brick, now painted white (in Benjamin Moore Paper White)along with the wooden floorboards (in Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter). Radiant heat underfoot means a toasty interior even without a surfeit of textiles.

Entrance: By moving the foot of the stairway away from the front door, Bischoff and his team carved out a transition point from the stoop and sidewalk below, providing a welcome measure of privacy. (Visitors must scale the steps and stand at the door before they can peer in.) The concrete floor tiles were left over from an earlier MADE project. "We didn’t have an equal balance of black and white or even the right sizes," Bischoff says, "so we made a design moment out of what we had." Saving on the floor tiles meant that Casale and Crofton could spring for hand-finished wallpaper by Swedish company Sandberg.

Entrance: By moving the foot of the stairway away from the front door, Bischoff and his team carved out a transition point from the stoop and sidewalk below, providing a welcome measure of privacy. (Visitors must scale the steps and stand at the door before they can peer in.) The concrete floor tiles were left over from an earlier MADE project. "We didn’t have an equal balance of black and white or even the right sizes," Bischoff says, "so we made a design moment out of what we had." Saving on the floor tiles meant that Casale and Crofton could spring for hand-finished wallpaper by Swedish company Sandberg.