Two Apartments Were Combined into This Inviting Brooklyn Home

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By Dora Vanette / Published by Dwell
In an industrial part of Brooklyn, architect Sarah Zames transforms two unremarkable apartments into one modern space full of color and texture.

Moving from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, Brian Crano and David Craig struggled to find a worthy replacement for the sizable Victorian home they left behind. They finally saw potential in the exquisite views offered by an uninspired apartment building in Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill. The couple ended up buying two apartments on the top floor and enlisted the help of Sarah Zames, of Brooklyn-based General Assembly Design, to help them merge the two into one coherent unit. "They took a developer’s building that was built without anyone in mind and really sculpted it to be exactly what is right for them," says Zames.

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With the help of Sarah Zames of General Assembly Design, Brian Crano and David Craig merged two apartments into one while preserving their general layout. One apartment serves as a space for entertaining while the other, housing a bedroom and home office, retains a more intimate character.

To bring order into the space, Zames divided the apartment in two directions. She pushed all the functional elements—including a bedroom and home office—against one wall to provide more room for leisure, in the form of an open-plan area for entertaining, on the other. 

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The open plan living room and kitchen areas utilize natural materials, from reclaimed oak flooring to custom-made cabinetry. The Oscar sofa by Matthew Hilton from Future Perfect marks off the living room area.

The division is visible in the choice of materials and color. "We used raw and industrial materials on one side and brought more texture and color to the other," Zames says. "In the public space all the walls are bright whites since they get a lot of great light," Zames says, "and on the bedroom side we painted the ceiling a dark blue to make it feel quieter and calmer." Connecting the two is what was once the building's public hallway, that makes a strong statement of its own with the help of wallpaper from Flavor Paper.  

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A large kitchen island makes up for the lack of upper cabinet space and separates the kitchen from the living room. The cabinetry is custom made by Henrybuilt, hidding all appliances other than the copper BlueStar range.

The wallpaper reflects a desire on the architect’s side to create a balance between the natural and the synthetic. Although both the owners and Zames express a preference for natural materials, Zames was careful not to overemphasize their presence. "I think if you use too many natural materials things can end up looking a little bit too ‘country-kitchen.’" In turn, Zames juxtaposed the raw wood and the custom cabinetry with dark colors and wallpapered walls, creating a space full of dynamic details.

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Zames carved out a small custom office area under the stairs that lead up to the roof.

Although extensive, the nine-month renovation was guided by a number of small but key decisions. "When we first started working together Brian picked out a copper BlueStar range for the kitchen," Zames says. The strong presence of the stove initiated a lot of conversations about materials and colors and the final design was revealed as part of the process. "Maybe some designers and architects come with grand, sweeping gestures of how to transform the space, but I think it’s often a series of small decisions that end up making the design," Zames says. 

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The cabinet under the built-in desk opens to reveal a fold-out bed for guests.

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The once public hallway between the two apartments now boasts a bold wallpaper by Kravitz Design for Flavor Paper.

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Zames decided on Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue color for the bedroom ceiling to make the space feel more intimate, but juxtaposed it with another wallpaper from Flavor Paper. The bed is from Room & Board and the Fawn tables are by Rich Brilliant Willing.

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A system of full-height panel doors rotate in the space, closing off the bedroom and walk-in closet from the home office—a key feature for the residents, who often work from home.

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The custom sliding doors are Zames's favorite detail in the home. "They are functional, but also manage to balance nice clean modern details without being cold," she says.