Project by: Charles Wachtel of CW Property Group
Location: Bed Stuy — Brooklyn, New York
I am a former entertainment attorney, now on a mission to make clear that a house “flip” does not need to be a four letter word. I treat each renovation as my own home, and to that end, I build spec houses that I hope introduce a level of quality in both the design and the execution that people are generally unaccustomed to seeing in a developer-built renovation. I want buyers to walk in the front door of my houses and know they want to buy them before they’ve even seen the rest of the house. My goal is that the connection between the person and the house should be instant and mysterious — an intangible quality that a buyer just *knows* they want to live in a house, even if they cannot identify the exact feature of the house that is drawing them to it.
Specifically, the challenge I set out to meet with this particular house was to retrofit a run down, dark and decrepit old brick row house into an airy, modern, loft-like home. To get there, over the course of the nearly year-long project, the crumbling interior of the house was gutted to the bricks and beams on all floors, and the layout was completely revised with a totally open floor plan on the parlor to make that floor the focus of the open loft layout, and to anchor the incredible open kitchen and living room as the heart of the home. We were able to warm up the industrial feel of the parlor by keeping intact two of the only salvageable original details in the house - the incredible original mantles and pier mirrors, which were caked under layer after layer of thick paint in crazy colors like bright pink and deep blue. As it turned out though, the coats of paint probably helped preserve the condition of the mantles themselves, once we stripped them all down.
Mantles aside, the lofty feel was amplified when we found that the brick walls throughout were in great condition, so we left the bricks exposed everywhere we could, which let us keep the entire staircase wall exposed, connecting the garden, parlor and bedroom floors with one continuous wall of original brick, and a raw steel railing running from the top floor to the bottom.
In the kitchen, we had Jeremy Savian, a cabinet maker and woodworker based in Red Hook, Brooklyn, custom make all the white shaker inset cabinets. We used honed statuary white Carrera marble on the countertops, except on the island, for which we commissioned Nils Wessel of Brooklyn Butcher Blocks to make a beautiful custom walnut butcher block countertop. We used a Fisher Paykel fridge and put a double dish drawer in to keep the dishes clean, and splurged for a great Bertazonni range to really make it a chef's kitchen. On the backsplash, Ann Sacks' Context line of tiles were used to create a clean and modern aesthetic, but still provide more richness in the details – the sizing of the tiles is unusual at just shy of 2” x 6”, and we went floor to ceiling with the tile to amplify the effect of the grout lines. We also turned a window in the rear of the house into french doors, to walk out from the kitchen directly onto the deck we added, and down into the huge rear yard.
Beyond the openness of the layout, the finishes are what give the house its character and charm, and what really separates it from the bulk of Brooklyn renovations. In a house like this, the devil was in the details – in the weight of the doors and hardware, in the quality of the lighting and plumbing fixtures, the attention paid to the restoration of the original mantles, the details in the tile work, and the way the materials – brick, wood, steel, marble – came together to create a modern loft version of a classic Brooklyn townhouse.
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