The Insider: Carroll Gardens Townhouse Reborn with Traditional and Modern Elements
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There are renovations and there are restorations. This mid-19th century townhouse was in more need of a resurrection. For one thing, its facade had been stripped of all detail in a misguided 20th-century attempt to modernize what was then considered an old-fashioned Victorian style. Inside the house, which had stood empty for years, suffering extensive water and structural damage, things were also dire.
When new owners hired an architectural firm based in Gowanus Khanna Schultz converting the house into a single-family residence for them and their two young children, they had a pretty good idea of what lay ahead. “They bought this house knowing that it was going to need a very major renovation,” said architect Robert Schultz, who, along with Vrinda Khanna, is one of the firm’s directors. Amidst the decay, there were intact historic remains of wood and plaster and, of course, elegant proportions and the natural light of a south-facing rear wall.
The house had an existing extension of three stories and 12 feet for a total depth of 52 feet. “One of the files from the beginning was to open up the back of the house,” Schultz said. “The footprint hasn’t changed, but we’ve rebuilt the back wall with a lot more glass.” They also replaced wooden joists that had sagged and bowed in various parts of the house. “A lot of structural steel has been invested in this extension,” said Navajeet Khatri, the project’s architect.
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The design program was a combination of restoration and reconstruction, primarily in the front half of the house, with stylistically modern interventions in the rear half, which includes the kitchen, home office and guest/entertainment suite at the ground floor. “It’s kind of a back and forth exercise with the stairway as the hinge in between,” Schultz said. “Because we removed and rebuilt the back wall and added a lot of glass to the back, it only made sense that these rooms no longer had the traditional vertical sash windows that are markers of an older townhouse. ” .
“We also made the transition from more traditional to modern in the details,” Khatri said. By passing from the front parts to the rear, the moldings become simpler. “There’s traditional crown molding on the side of the living room and cleaner lines as you turn the corner towards the kitchen.”
Vintage details missing from the interior, such as stair balusters, door jambs and a plaster ceiling medallion, have been recreated from fragments. New HVAC systems, plumbing and other mechanical elements have been surgically inserted into the historical context.
Using archival photos, the stripped-down front facade was brought back to match its original design, including cornice, lintels and brownstone.
Deborah Berke Partners of Manhattan handled the furniture and lighting, and advised on the wall and floor colors.
The front saloon, with the most ornate mantle, opens into the kitchen through a new wide gate. The fireplace mantels are all original to the house, although one has been moved from a lower level bedroom to the dining room.
Functional wall panels between the dining room and the kitchen hide cupboards, a bar and a powder room.
The kitchen features floor-to-ceiling cabinets in painted wood and Jet Mist granite countertops. A new expansive steel glazing wall overlooks the back yard.
The staircase has been rebuilt to match the original, according to photographs found by the owners. The starter posts are a combination of existing and new, the balusters are all new.
A skylight in the steam shower illuminates the master bathroom on the third floor.
A walnut barn door provides privacy to the third-floor office, with new glazing and more walnut millwork inside.
The ground floor apartment has been gutted and reconfigured into a completely modern space, with porcelain tile floors and folding doors that open fully onto the garden.
The rear garden, lounge level terrace and third floor terrace are the work of Julie Farris of XS Space.
The insider is Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a remarkable home improvement and/or interior design project by design journalist Cara Greenberg. Find him here every Thursday morning.