Our client came to us with great excitement to bring this home back to life with a venerable attitude to its history. The neighborhood of Greenpoint is an evolving pocket of Brooklyn that is growing more diverse with each passing season. A third-generation Polish meat market can be found adjacent to a sleek, minimalist craft beer bar filled with young locals. It is truly the perfect setting for this project as our collective goal was to create a modern, comfortable home that embraced and even highlighted its past lives. Baxt Ingui Architects found this project to be unique among more typical New York City typologies because it is a wood framed, freestanding house that sits just outside a Landmarked district. These two factors, coupled with the client’s vision for a highly functional home that didn’t wipe the history of the building, resulted in a creative process for our firm to integrate the ‘new’ into an old home that was in disrepair.
Because much of the original exterior structure had to be reinforced and the majority of interior floor joists required replacement, we recognized the project as an opportunity for energy efficient construction or “Passive measures”. Reducing the home’s carbon footprint was appealing to the client as heating and cooling demand would be reduced and building longevity increased. These “measures” involved conscientious efforts to add insulation and air sealing where possible, while practicing restraint in other areas where the original wood framing and brick infill would be exposed for its historical significance. The project is truly a balance between old and new.
Some upgrades to the original building include a new front yard dig out to allow direct access to a basement level, a one-story extension at the back of the house to allow for soft seating next to the kitchen in anticipation of a highly trafficked zone, and a new stair and sliding hatch with access to a new roof deck with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline.
Natural materials were prioritized when selecting finishes with a thoughtful intention of allowing them to patina with “good use”. The homeowner truly wanted the house to live along with her. The original wide plank pine subfloors were sanded and refinished, reclaimed wood was found in the neighborhood and used for the fireplace mantel and shelving, and even the backyard clothesline was modified so it could be used for line drying. One of the most dramatic changes was removing four layers of siding and replacing with new, clear cedar that the homeowner will let weather with age.
This project was a diligent exercise in balance and has resulted in a very special house tucked in a quiet, shaded corner of Brooklyn.