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This 1870s brick row house on a coveted historic district block made it into the 21st century with its elegant parlor beautifully intact. But the rest of the four-story building had been chopped up into small rental units, with 1960s fixtures and finishes.
New homeowners, a couple with two children, hired Barker Associates Architecture Office (BAAO) to undertake a major renovation. Their goal: a triplex that felt bright and open, with a garden rental beneath.
The architect’s main challenge was fitting everything the family needed into space measuring only about 1,600 square feet. “The house has a small footprint and is an odd wedge shape, with walls that aren’t parallel. It’s on a small lot, so an extension wasn’t possible,” said Alexandra Barker, the founder and principal architect of the Gowanus-based firm.
‘We preserved the front parlor and retrofitted the back room to become a small kitchen where there wasn’t one, a shallow rectangle running the width of the house,” Barker said. Instead of blowing out the back wall, as is practically customary these days in row house renovations, Barker enlarged the rear windows and a door to a small deck, for a more traditional look.
She tried to shoehorn a powder room into the parlor floor, but could only manage a water closet — a toilet in a separate compartment under the stairs, accompanied by a wall-mounted sink in the nearby hall, attractive enough to be a focal point.
There are bedrooms and new baths on the two floors above. The top-floor primary suite features an open, loft-like sitting room/library at the front of the house and a large bathroom with separate facilities for husband and wife, per the client’s request.
Shades of green, with accents of blue and yellow, run throughout the house in painted details and tile work. Wall coverings with plant and nature motifs adhere to a similar palette. The result is a fresh aesthetic that is also cohesive, extending even to the finishes in the rental unit downstairs.
A new arched opening, above a concrete sink from Kast with a gold-toned Vola faucet, allows a glimpse into the kitchen. Its shape echoes an existing arch in the front hall.
The risers on the curved stair, which retains its original newel posts and balusters, are painted Farrow and Ball’s Green Ground.
The front parlor (top photo) has its original ceiling molding, window casing and fireplace mantel, all stripped and refinished. Wall sconces from Rich Brilliant Willing provide an ambie5nt glow. The mix of vintage and contemporary furnishings includes Jens Risom’s mid-20th century lounge chairs and a coffee table from West Elm.
The cabinets in the L-shaped kitchen are semi-custom, by Design Craft. Open shelving is mounted on walls of green Fireclay tile.
A full bath on the second floor has walls of blue-green ceramic tile from Complete Tile, complemented by ethereal Ripley wallpaper from Sanderson.
The skylit master bath features a Perlato solid surface tub and Yukutori wallpaper from Farrow and Ball. Hex mosaics in the stall shower were sourced from Vermeere. All plumbing fixtures came from California Faucets.
Barker took advantage of the top floor’s high ceilings and sculptural skylight by creating an open sitting room with a wall of full-height shelving. The library ladder doubles as roof access. Herman Miller pendants light the space.
The blue-green scheme continues in the garden rental, with a backsplash of Popham Hex Zulu tile in the kitchen, Popham Visby tile on the bathroom floor, and penny rounds from Nemo in the shower.
[Photos by Francis Dzikowski]
The Insider is Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable renovation and/or interior design project by design journalist Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday morning.
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