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History Stays Alive in This Brooklyn Home

Modern Brooklyn renovation street facade

Margarita McGrath and Scott Oliver of Noroof Architects termed the 1,650-square-foot house in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, “Pushmi-Pullyu,” in reference to the interior-exterior flow they created. Resident Jill Magid, pictured on her front steps with son Linus, is a conceptual artist; she fabricated the neon house numbers.


If it’s not the raw brick siding, it’s the house numbers—a sleek neon “175” in sans serif font—that give it away. The miniature, functional art piece is the work of Jill Magid, a conceptual artist. She and her husband, advertising executive Jonny Bauer, finished a head-to-toe remodel of their row house in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn in mid-2013, and those neon house numbers act as a modern beacon on an otherwise unremarkable street. 

The couple bought the home—located at the end of a row of three matching turn-of-the-century workers’ homes—in June of 2011, then hired local firm Noroof Architects for the renovation. The five-month permitting process was the first stumbling block; during inspections with their architects, engineers, contractors, and city officials, they learned that the light remodel they had anticipated was turning into a major gut job. “But we were so determined to keep the shell,” says Bauer. 

To start, the circa-1899 house had no real foundation: It was situated on sand. The structure was so unsound that the contractor wanted to take down the street-facing facade, but Magid and Bauer put their collective foot down. Houses on the street all had brick fronts until the 1970s, when local contracting companies started selling vinyl siding—now the  dominant facade material in Greenpoint. The original brick front tied the structure to its historical fabric, a main selling point for the couple. In order to shore up the exterior, the architects had to painstakingly add a poured-concrete load-bearing wall into the brick shell. Noroof partner Scott Oliver says, “We took the studs off inside of the brick. Every four feet, we had to pour concrete, let it set, and pour a little more.”

The city also recommended covering the original ceiling beams on the first floor, which Magid and Bauer wanted to expose. The beams were “the only thing I fell on my sword for,” says Bauer. After some investigating, Noroof found a fireproofing paint for steel that is also made for wood, but only in one color—white. “I had to write to the city to get special permission to use it,” Noroof partner Margarita McGrath says. Both architect and client agree the trouble was worth it: “We were all really worried about it looking like a condo.”

Several updated touches define the first-floor living space. To make sure it didn’t look too new, the homeowners chose reclaimed wood: Elm for the window seat was handpicked by their older son, Linus, from a tree farm outside of Hudson, New York; the ash flooring was reclaimed from a demolished church in Ohio. Noroof designed a canted window, set into the thick, property-line-adjacent party wall, which they call the “Breuer window” for its resemblance to the iconic fenestration of the Whitney Museum. They used a matching blackened steel for the custom staircase, which, though open between the risers and along the sides, hews to the city’s mandated maximum gap of four-and-a-half inches. The decoration is kept spare: Patterned Moroccan concrete tiles delineate the entry area, and seamless built-in storage by the front door jamb keeps detritus in check. (“We’re very messy people, and we need as much stuff to be stowed away as possible,” Bauer says.)

Because of the extensive structural work required in the renovation, material decisions were not taken lightly. Magid and Bauer invested most of their funds in the reclaimed flooring and a few pieces of custom woodwork in the kitchen that surround off-the-rack Ikea cabinetry. They also splurged on an outdoor barbecue by Tec that the family regularly uses to cook, even in the winter. “Being Australian, this is most important to me,” Bauer explains. “We cook 70 percent of our meals here.” Economical choices include James Hardie cement-panel lap siding for the back facade, simple Decorators White paint by Benjamin Moore, and concrete masonry unit walls and a concrete floor slab for the first-floor rear extension.

Despite well-laid plans once the construction got underway, the layout changed when the family learned that Linus would be getting a younger sibling. The family had Noroof reconfigure the upstairs so that the master bedroom, initially slated for the front of the house, moved to the rear extension, next to a shared bathroom. Baby Banks, now a year old, occupies a petite chamber carved out on top of the stairwell—complete with a window onto the upstairs landing and a built-in changing table—next to his older brother’s room. Linus resides in the “quietest room in the house,” which is outfitted with a bunk bed by Oeuf, nautical wallpaper, custom floor-to-ceiling built-in storage, and a rocket-ship mobile scored on a trip to Mexico City. 

In the year since its completion, the neighbors have taken to the reconstructed home. “Some of the old houses have been demolished, so people have thanked us for saving ours,” says Bauer. “They bring us cheesecake once a week. Our son walks their dog. It’s pretty safe, and it’s a real neighborhood.” Judging from the number of passersby ringing the doorbell to catch a glimpse of the makeover, the new-old house is a welcome addition indeed.


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A Floor-To-Ceiling Cutout Makes Quite the Statement

New Zealand house with angular cedar facade with cutaway

The house that Henri Sayes designed for himself and his wife, Nicole Stock, is distinguished by a cutaway in the cedar cladding that mirrors the angular double-height space within. In the yard, a grassy berm, fashioned from earth excavated for the foundation, takes the place of a fence.

Onehunga House

The sharply asymmetrical outline of Henri Sayes and Nicole Stock’s house sets it apart from its neighbors, most of which are nondescript bungalows of the sort common to the couple’s hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. It reflects a deliberately idiosyncratic approach that carries over into the front yard, where a contoured, grass-covered mound rises at the edge of the pocket-square lawn.

For the two enterprising and architecturally savvy first-time homeowners, this 1,200-square-foot house is a self-conscious response to the sharply rising cost of real estate in New Zealand’s largest city. Despite its arresting appearance, this modern interloper is, in its way, as unassuming as the buildings that surround it.

Stock, a design agency strategist, and Sayes, an architect, met in architecture school. They bought the property in 2009 and settled there in a modest street-side bungalow. (They would later subdivide the lot and sell the bungalow after completing their new home on the rear part of the property.) “Our limited budget informed the form of the house more than anything else,” Sayes says. “Our theory was that every junction would cost money and not necessarily add anything to the experience inside.”  

Sayes, who tackled the project on his own time, away from his day job at Auckland’s Malcolm Walker Architects, describes the finished product as essentially “a very simple timber-framed rectangle with standard window details.”

New Zealand office with gray walls and Tolomeo desk lamp from Artemide

In the office, a Tolomeo desk lamp from Artemide rests on a desk that Stock designed and built in her university days. The Static shelving is by Lundia. 

“It has one double-story side that drops off over the lounge—a form that gave us the opportunity to create different spaces within it,” he says. “It’s just a good-looking barn containing some complex spaces.”

These consist of a double-height open living and dining area and smaller ancillary rooms. The different areas are defined by variations in materials and ceiling height: The tiled kitchen and the reading room are tucked beneath the bedrooms, one of which—Sayes and Stock’s—is partly visible through a vertiginous floor-to-ceiling cutout overlooking the ground floor. Precise fields of color—the wash of pink on the bedroom ceiling, for example—from a palette of soft pink, gray, and green, also help to define individual spaces.

One of the most striking features is the set of exposed trusses that, in addition to performing the practical function of supporting the roof, create the illusion of different ceiling heights over the dining table and its adjoining living area. The ceiling soars over the former, while the bottom edges of the trusses hover above the lounge and its cozy window seat like a ceiling that is, simultaneously, barely there. 

These are, in fact, standard-issue agricultural trusses, which Sayes simply inverted and set into a slight recess in the wall where the paint stops and the pitched ceiling begins. “The bottoms of the trusses create a kind of invisible flat ceiling above the living room and define it as a more intimate space, though technically it still has the height,” he says.

New Zealand master bedroom with Tolomeo classic wall lamps from Artemide

The master bedroom features an unobstructed door-sized opening onto the double-height great room. A pair of Tolomeo classic wall lamps from Artemide hang next to the bed.

Outside, the exterior cedar cladding—“our one big splash,” Sayes says—cuts away to reveal a recessed triangular section of white-painted plywood that hints at the geometry within. An overall sense of informality carries over into the interior, where Sayes deliberately deviated from the classic suburban model of a house that encourages family members to sequester themselves in separate rooms. Sharing is mandatory, and the open living-dining area was designed with large dinner parties in mind. “We were working to different priorities, and one of those was space,” he says.

A grass-covered path embedded with plastic mesh gives access to the site. After the foundation was finished, the couple were left with a big pile of dirt, which Sayes’s boss, Malcolm Walker (who regularly critiqued Sayes’s models of the house along the way), suggested turning into the sculptural berm that now cups and shelters the tiny lawn. “We made Play-Doh models and brought them out when the digger was here,” Sayes says. “The guys thought we were insane, but they did it anyway. They made this wave, which is now covered in grass and has become our conversation piece. Kids go crazy on it, and you can lie on it in summer.”

Construction took about six months and was completed in September 2013. Having begun with a building form that was so assiduously reduced to basics, the two seized opportunities to make small design changes during the building process.

“We spent so much time looking at those plans and talking endlessly about every decision that I worried the end result might not live up to what I’d been imagining,” Sayes says. “Abstractly, you know it’s going to work, but I wasn’t prepared for how wonderful it feels. Dining under those soaring trusses or falling asleep on the window seat, or noticing how the bedroom ceiling glows in the afternoon. That’s the extraordinary thing about architecture—how a pile of sticks transforms into something so much more than the sum of its parts.”  

New Zealand great room with exposed trusses, paper lamp, and dining table

The inverted trusses subtly establish distinct spaces in the great room, with the bottom edges lending an intimate feel to the living area. A simple rice-paper lamp shade hangs above a kauri wood tabletop that the couple borrowed from Stock’s aunt and uncle and set on a set of Taurus legs from Nils Holger Moormann. A Brit Longue chair by Sintesi isat right.



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There’s no need to wait until summer to start enjoying produce from your garden. Many favorite vegetables grow best when the days are a bit shorter and the weather is a little cooler. You don’t even need to wait for the final frost date to pass. In most cases, once you can start working the soil, you...


G Studio Architects creates unfinished aesthetic in Tokyo loft apartment

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NáBITO mini-kitchen and smart table extend functions of trolleys

the NáBITO 'mini-kitchen' and 'smart-table' are intelligent furniture products that combine all the functions of a room, into one utility design.

The post NáBITO mini-kitchen and smart table extend functions of trolleys appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


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