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Houzz Tour: A Brooklyn Landmark Returns to Glory

Locating design inspiration on the internet is commonplace by the current standards, but finding your future house through a picture search is a whole other animal, especially when the residence is a 5-story brownstone in severe need of a renovation.

After finishing a prior project for those homeowners, architect Kimberly Neuhaus was brought on to head this ambitious project in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill area. At the time the house was used as a rooming house for students, a musician’s recording studio, and the occasional basement nightclub. It was only after Neuhaus visited the site did she realize that something special had been unearthed.

Built in 1887 with a co-founder of Pfizer for his daughter and her loved ones, the residence had seen a varied assortment of owners throughout the years and had endured the neglect that often comes with the cost of keeping up a 10,000-square-foot home over a hundred years old.

Throughout a clear and consistent design vision and a team of remodeling specialists, the house was restored beyond its first glory to become the ideal house for a family of four — as well as the community at large.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Neuhaus and her team were presented with the responsibility and challenge of the renovation and preservation of a significant neighborhood landmark.

With historical architecture renovations, maintaining total period authenticity presents itself as an obvious solution. But that frequently feels quite dated, and possibly overly spammy. Rather, Neuhaus produced a hybrid option fusing contemporary and period design that combines the architectural tradition of the brownstone with its people’ modern perspective and lifestyle.

The home exterior and architecture was treated as a metaphorical envelope and could retain its period integrity. Interior features like the cabinetry, bathrooms, furnishings, light fixtures, stairs, etc.. were seen as the contents of this envelope and so could serve as contemporary insertions to the space.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Wood floors in the home represent a convergence of the two. While the wood itself isn’t original to the house, parquet borders found under layers of asbestos tile and carpeting motivated the new flooring design. “CAD drawings and a CNC machine were used to reestablish sections of exactly what some craftsman had initially done by hand,” says Neuhaus.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Jessica Warren worked closely together with Neuhaus and the remainder of the team and acted as the interior designer for her home — and has subsequently founded an interior design company. Since nearly all the furnishings were owned by the client, a great deal of inspiration and collaboration originated from her collection.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

The home reads as an unofficial gallery of priceless and one-of-a-kind collectibles, but it is the unpretentious and casual show of these art pieces which makes them so much more accessible.

Brutalist panels purchased on eBay, which formerly were displayed on the clients’ dining room walls, today serve as doors on this media console.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

The furniture reveals a life of selection and curating — a lot of that had been in storage until the clients moved into a house large enough to utilize them.

The collection is a visual representation of the clients themselves and the lives they have lived thus far. An assortment of antiques, thrift-store finds and classic treasures are paired side-by-side using custom and reissue pieces.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

With the exception of the kitchen addition, nearly all the job on the parlor level was decorative work — by the first trim and molding to the ornate leaded windows found here.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

With the original kitchen gutted, a contemporary redesign was able to come into fruition while still paying homage to the architecture of this conservatory that stood at that space.

The achievement of this complicated design of contradictions stems substantially from Neuhaus’s vision, and she is quick to credit her team for its best execution. “The ability with which that was done really speaks to the beauty of working with a building manager and subcontractors that have great respect for, and experience , old houses.”

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Neuhaus created and designed this kitchen storage device to show the family’s ceramic collection. Like most things now prominently displayed through the home, these too had been in storage. The client wanted very observable and accessible storage to these bits.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

The kitchen itself is a bunch of all things modern, although the curved weight-and-chain dividers keep a link to the past. “Towards the close of the project we had winter meetings sitting at the table at the apse of this space, and when it snows it seems a bit like you’re sitting inside a snow globe,” Neuhaus says.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

From the outside, the first curved brick foundation of this conservatory becomes far more apparent. The newly added aluminum roofing takes its inspiration from the initial form of this construction.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

While historical integrity was key when it came to many of the structural choices, color played a major role in determining the decoration and materials that would be used through the home’s interior. Warren originally envisioned the whole house would be done in a version of”camouflage” colours. Neuhaus and Warren took this inspiration and interpreted it into a palette characterized as”neutrals with colour ” Dominated by muted blues, grays, and tans, and accented with dark and heavy woodwork or metallic accents, an cohesive and overriding theme is created through the whole home.

“We sealed those first colours in a bag together, and it was astonishing how consistently we were able to utilize them, with minor variations depending on the light in the space, throughout the whole project. That bag of colours functioned as a sort of touchstone as we moved forward through the home.”

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Even the individual colours in the banding of this rock gray onyx from the wet bar is in accordance with the color scheme. The boldness of this spectacular slab is almost downplayed by the fact it is so in line with the colours used throughout the home.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

While the carefully curated color palette and material choice is an obvious contributor to an overall sense of lightness that abounds the home, the home itself plays a main role for this result. The brownstone extends nearly the whole length of this block, and because of this three walls get natural light — very unusual for New York City. Intricate woodwork and darker accents still maintain an airy quality due to the lack of artificial light.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Bringing natural light to the basement level proved to be a challenge. The staircase from the parlor level to the basement is built at a masonry shaft beneath a copper skylight which had been formerly roofed over.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Following a set of vigorous back and forth negotiations between Neuhaus, her dad’s firm StudioRed Architects, the building manager, and the fabricator, a perfected steel and wood open riser design was settled upon.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

By daylighting the skylight and enabling as much natural light to permeate through the staircase as you can, the formerly dark and barren basement today invites sun to the home’s deepest depths.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Reminders of previous dwellers were continuous throughout the renovation — a few more apparent than others. Before being substituted, the windows of this bathing area were dominated with religious iconography — remnants of the Roman Catholic Diocese that possessed and occupied this home and its twin next door from the 1930s until 1989. The glass needed to to go.

“However we must laugh as a cross reappears in that area at a certain time each day,” Neuhaus says,”if the light from external hits the tub faucet at a certain angle and jobs a ideal crucifix throughout the room”

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Original details were revived and preserved when possible. “We set two major goals for the project: The first would be to create a dialogue between the home and the items and interventions inside it,” Neuhaus says. “The second wasn’t to eliminate the sense of this being an old residence. We did not want to renovate the life out of it”

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Continuing with the envelope metaphor, outside window materials and styles remained loyal to the era of the home. While the hardware and shelving of this closet are contemporary, its tie to the exterior remains architecturally historical.

“We really enjoy seeing the dialogue between the old and the newest. The things we chose to eliminate were largely items that obscured the true elegance of the home.”

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

While the home itself boasts a shocking four stories and a basement flat, rooms, similar to this toilet, were created to be inviting and comfortable. First and foremost, this space was pictured as a family dwelling.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

For that reason, there is a clear demarcation between private and public spaces in the house — with all the bedrooms residing in the top stories of the home whereas the open living spaces remain on the entry level for hosting romantic cultural events and fundraisers.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

The clients’ cherished art collection fills the walls across the general public and private regions of the house. Originally a personalized wall installation from the clients’ past entryway, this piece by artist SWOON was hidden between 2 pieces of glass to be displayed from the Clinton Hill house.

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

In the guest bedroom, a unique woodblock used for the posters of a traveling carnival is just another reminder of the clients’ cultured travels and the significance attached to each product furnishing their property.

The spacious and accessible approach to art and home has led this home in Clinton Hill to become an unofficial salon and gathering space. Whether it be a neighborhood joyful hour; a location for local art students to showcase their job; and talks of hosting an opera composed for a residential setting, the Clinton Hill brownstone has kept its heritage as a historical residence and a space for a neighborhood to develop.

More:
Houzz Tour: New Orleans Glamour
Houzz Tour: Edith Wharton’s The Mount
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