Patience pays off when a Brooklyn family expands into the open unit beneath theirs.
When a duplex directly below them became available, Brooklyn residents Alex Kagan and Susan Hashemi jumped on the opportunity to acquire much needed additional space for their growing family. The couple originally moved to Brooklyn’s historic Cobble Hill in 1999 in a rental just a block away from their now permanent residence. They knew the neighborhood was special, and laid down roots in an apartment that was once a 1922 school building, and subsequently converted to condominiums in the '80s. But the addition of two kids meant space was tight for the family. Through a stroke of good luck, the apartment directly beneath them became available, and the couple acquired it with the intention of integrating the two units vertically. Together with Bangia Agostinho Architecture, they were combined to create an open 2,300-square-foot residence, preserving historic details of the old schoolhouse in the process.
In the sleek kitchen, the white Ikea cabinet uppers seem to disappear into the wall, while the bases get a distinctive custom walnut wrapping. Flanking the cabinets are open bookshelves, which provide secondary function as a spacial divider for the children’s play area. A Dornbracht faucet sits on a slab of Vermont Olympian White Danby marble, which is also used for the island and backsplash.
The kitchen island, illuminated by Flos Smithfield ceiling lamp, faces the steel entry stair, framed through a window. The steel was stripped and painted, and new L-shaped wood treads, steel railing, and wood handrail were subsequently fitted.
Although the two apartments were stacked vertically, their individual systems and layout were quite different. The limited horizontal overlap meant that the owners and design team had to give careful thought to the connective elements, and how the family would ultimately circulate through the home. One of the key pieces to the puzzle was finding a place for the interior stairs. Says Bangia Agostinho principal Anshu Bangia, “There was a challenge to find an appropriate location to cut a new stair opening between the apartments, and then have the new stair coordinate with the existing one to form a logical sequence of circulation between the three levels.”
The switchback stairs create a circulation pattern that, according to Bangia, is "noticeably different than what you would find in a typical Brooklyn town house." She adds, "It lends an element of surprise when moving between floors, and a dynamic spatial sense of expansion and contraction.”
The second-floor master bedroom, originally a science classroom, is now the owners' favorite parts of the home. “Before the renovation, our bedroom was very small and somewhat dark. It's now filled with light and quite spacious,” says resident Susan Hashemi. Rich wood furnishings include Design Within Reach bed and From the Source tables. The maple floors, original to the schoolhouse, have naturally patinated over time. A David Weeks Studio bedside lamp and geometric Madeline Weinrib rug accent the space.
The ensuite master bathroom features Ann Sacks slate floor tile, contrasted with white Carrara marble that wraps the Kohler Tea for Two tub. The shower features tile from Heath Ceramics.
On the second floor, the sliding door to one of the kids’ bedrooms lies flush with a cork-wrapped wall. In the bedroom, a colorful custom Maharam window shade rests above a window seat with a Kvadrat cushion.
In the kids’ bath, Ann Sacks slate tile is again used on the floor, while Heath tile in a more playful Mango hue makes for a cheery wall feature. The tub is wrapped in Celador quartz, which continues up the surrounding walls. Tom Dixon Felt pendant lights hang outside the second-floor hallway.
The spacious living room is another of the owners’ favorite spaces. “The double-height ceilings in that room create a very expansive feeling. No matter how many people are in the space, it still feels very open and airy,” says Susan. The soaring 17-foot-high concrete ceilings are original to the schoolhouse, though they were likely not exposed in the same way at that time. A Kilim rug over heated radiant floors bring visual and thermal warmth to the space. A BoConcept sofa and From the Source lounge chair define a seating area, accented by David Weeks Studio hinged wall light.
The living room leads to a private outdoor patio. Before the renovation, the slightly below grade area was in plain sight to passersby, as it lays adjacent to the public walkway into the building. This less-than-ideal setup was addressed in the redesign by adding a slatted cedar perimeter fence, along with tall trees and shrubs. Clever hidden doors conceal patio storage under the entry walkway.