Second Time’s the Charm: ‘A Renovation of a Renovation’ in a Brooklyn Duplex


If you’ve ever gone house hunting, you’re probably familiar with that feeling of ambivalence when confronted with a middling renovation by a developer. On the one hand, everything’s shiny and new and there’s no danger of finding a creepy doll in the attic; on the other hand, why does that bathroom door hit the sink when you open it?

Rather than live with the architectural flaws of their developer-renovated duplex, one Brooklyn couple decided a redo of the redo was a must. The pair hired vonDALWIG Architecture to tweak the improvements, to bring more light into their home, and to create better flow.

“We took the approach of rethinking the quality of space and found some simple moves to bring more value and spatial quality to the home,” says Kit von Dalwig, who founded the architecture and interior design firm with her husband Phillip. “We reorganized the garden level, moving the master bedroom to the rear and creating a cool hallway, behind a set of bathrooms, that connects the two bedrooms but is also a buffer space, too.” They also enlarged some windows and installed new pale wood flooring, both of which helped remedy the lack of light.

Ready to see what else the von Dalwigs did to turn a so-so space into something spectacular?

Photography by Alan Tansey, courtesy of vonDALWIG Architecture.

The walls had been painted blue; a fresh coat of Farrow & Ball&#8
Above: The walls had been painted blue; a fresh coat of Farrow & Ball’s Strong White helps brighten the room, as does new flooring, courtesy of 7-inch-wide engineered planks in a sun-bleached finish from Madera. One thing the developer did right: preserving the original dentil moldings, marble fireplaces, and plaster ceiling rose. Hanging from the medallion is the Arca Single-Tier Chandelier by Matter Made.
The clients own a lot of artwork as the wife is a curator. Between Mies van der Rohe&#8
Above: The clients own a lot of artwork as the wife is a curator. Between Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Couch and the black leather chair from DWR is a coffee-table-cum-art by New York–based artist Jessi Reaves. The painting over the fireplace is by Math Bass; the painting to the left is by Beauford Delaney.



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Kitchen of the Week: A Locavore Chef and Landscape Architect’s Low-Impact Kitchen


For landscape architect Victoria Taylor and chef Jamie Kennedy, a pioneer in Canada’s farm-to-table movement, it was all about the location: “The creek running through the property, the bluff overlooking the village, and a perfect south-facing slope for growing pinot noir,” says Victoria, were what they loved about their farmhouse in Ontario’s Prince Edward County. It certainly wasn’t the 100-year-old structure itself, which, while charming, lacked both heat and running water (hello, outhouse!). Still, they cherished their stays there.

That said, as soon as Vanessa Fong, an architect and Victoria’s cousin’s wife, launched her own business, “we got her on site to start talking!” Their collaboration led to a striking new addition that prioritizes both the couple’s emotional connection to the land and their wish to be as eco-conscious as possible.

“Jamie and Victoria had a strong guiding principle of using as many local materials and suppliers as possible,” says Vanessa. “They found heavy timber from an old barn literally just up the road from their property. (It doesn’t get much more local than that!) We assessed each piece and its usability. With the structural engineer, we then had to figure out where each piece could go and how to work it in with some steel structure to complete the ’skeleton’ of the home.”

It was an involved process, but what they ended up with—a lofty, low-impact kitchen and entertaining space that takes full advantage of the bucolic views—was well worth it. Let’s take a tour.

Photography by Cindy Blazevic, courtesy of VFA.

The large new addition connects to the original smaller farmhouse. &#8
Above: The large new addition connects to the original smaller farmhouse. “We wanted materials that would complement yet have a more contemporary angle,” says Vanessa, “hence, the stained wood siding (harkening back to barn board). The red metal roof is something that the existing farmhouse had and is prevalent in the area.”
The open space in the addition features polished concrete floors, white-washed pine walls, and salvaged timber ceiling beams. The slatted dining chairs by Canadian designer Thomas Lamb were a gift from Victoria&#8
Above: The open space in the addition features polished concrete floors, white-washed pine walls, and salvaged timber ceiling beams. The slatted dining chairs by Canadian designer Thomas Lamb were a gift from Victoria’s parents: “They are such a great design. To stack them away, you unbolt the seat frame and its slides flat,” she says.



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In the Glow: A Bright Bushwick Apartment, Courtesy of eBay, Craigslist, and Clever DIY Ideas


The best homes are the ones that evolve slowly over time, the kind of spaces where one can point to any object and the owner will have an interesting story about where it was sourced or how it was made. Take Clément and Sara Pascal’s Bushwick apartment. The couple (he’s a photographer; she’s a psychologist) bought the 1,000-square-foot flat in Brooklyn ten years ago—and it took them about that long to get it to where it is now.

Much of the vintage midcentury furniture was found by patiently stalking eBay and Craigslist (including nearly all the iconic Nelson Bubble Lamps), and what they couldn’t track down, Clément made himself (such as the DIY lookalike BDDW Captain’s Mirror hanging in their living room). As for the plentiful storage built-ins, they’re also Clément’s handiwork: “Once I started, I couldn’t stop finding places where I could add storage,” he shares.

Their most recent upgrade: swapping out sliding closet doors in the bedroom for wood-paneled ones. Clément counts it as one his DIY highlights: “It was a very long time coming,” he notes (ten years, to be exact). Ironically, a month later, the couple sold the apartment, now finally in its finished state.

They’ll soon be moving into a new space in Fort Greene and applying the same slow-wins-the-race design philosophy. We asked them to stay in touch and let us know when it will be photo-ready. Clément’s response? “Might take another 10 years.”

Below, he walks us through their Bushwick apartment, the pair’s first labor of love.

Photography by Clément Pascal.

Clément and Sara&#8
Above: Clément and Sara’s apartment is in a four-story building that had been gutted and redone. “Charm of the old but new inside,” he explains. The living room showcases many of his vintage scores, among them the leather Poltrona Fraus sofa bought in Germany and shipped here” (“still probably cheaper than a sofa from West Elm”). Above it are two oversized movie-set Mole-Richardson lights sourced on eBay, rewired, and repainted. And to the right, “a round mirror I made myself when I wanted to buy a BDDW Captains Mirror but couldn’t afford it.”
The dining chairs are by Peter Danko ($ each on eBay!): &#8
Above: The dining chairs are by Peter Danko ($25 each on eBay!): “I love how fluid the lines are.” (Chairish currently has it for $399 each.) The Saarinen Tulip Table is a Craigslist find. The photographs on the walls are by Clément.



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Kitchen of the Week: A London Kitchen Inspired by Traditional Haberdashery Stores


Noticed of late: kitchens that look like furnished rooms as opposed to, well, kitchens. If you’re intrigued by the trend, you may want to consider deVOL’s Haberdasher’s Kitchen line of modular cabinets inspired, says the company, by traditional British men’s clothing stores and their “glass doors and sliding drawers, of row upon row of lift-up oak cubbyholes full of ribbons and buttons, patterns and fabrics and soft balls of wool.”

Recently, deVOL reached out to us about their St. John’s Square showroom kitchen, outfitted with their Haberdasher cupboards, in Clerkenwell, London. It’s cozy, handsome, and characterful—the perfect kind of kitchen for the coming cold-weather months.

Photography courtesy of deVOL.

This showroom kitchen is housed on the top floor of a Victorian townhouse and features the Haberdasher&#8
Above: This showroom kitchen is housed on the top floor of a Victorian townhouse and features the Haberdasher’s Kitchen’s stand-alone modular pieces in oiled oak (the line is available in multiple finishes and colors). The three-legged Creedy Stools are by deVOL.
The midcentury-style oak cabinets, the company&#8
Above: The midcentury-style oak cabinets, the company’s first foray into unpainted cupboards, have been finished with one-coat tinted oil. The countertops are honed Carrara marble; the marble on the island is extra thin (20mm) for an elegant look. The pendant light is simply a filament bulb purchased from a local hardware store. The stove is by Bertazzoni.
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Above: “The design all started with the curved wall by the cooker and the low windows,” says creative director Helen Parker. “We needed to accentuate both these original features whilst still allowing room for all the necessary kitchen storage and appliances.”



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Steal This Look: A Classic NYC Bathroom with a Modern Edge


Elizabeth Roberts’ overhaul of Jean and Tzu-Wei Lee’s brownstone in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, is so full of memorable moments that it was hard to condense and curate the images for the house tour that we ran last year. There’s the dining room with views of the kitchen just below it; there’s the chic sunken den; there’s the breathtaking plaster ribbon of a staircase; and so on and so on.

We’ve already singled out the epic kitchen for a Steal This Look treatment (you can see it here); now we’re turning our attention to the master bath, a skillful study in black and white.

Photography by Dustin Askland, courtesy of Elizabeth Roberts Architecture & Design.

A vintage Art Deco double sink, upgraded with modern fixtures, is the pièce de résistance in the room.
Above: A vintage Art Deco double sink, upgraded with modern fixtures, is the pièce de résistance in the room.
Hexagon tiles, a classic NYC bathroom flooring, looks modern in black. The room is paneled in white Rhino marble with Nero Marquina marble wainscoting.
Above: Hexagon tiles, a classic NYC bathroom flooring, looks modern in black. The room is paneled in white Rhino marble with Nero Marquina marble wainscoting.
Soft waffle towels and botanical wallpaper add a soft, natural touch.
Above: Soft waffle towels and botanical wallpaper add a soft, natural touch.

Steal This Look

Flanking the bathroom mirror are two of Michael Anastassiades&#8
Above: Flanking the bathroom mirror are two of Michael Anastassiades’ Ball Bracket Wall Lights; $1,400 each at Lightology.
Wallpaper by Engblad & Co. in the Botanica pattern line the walls of the stall; $75 per double roll at Wallpaper Direct.
Above: Wallpaper by Engblad & Co. in the Botanica pattern line the walls of the stall; $75 per double roll at Wallpaper Direct.
For similar waffle towels, try Kiran Turkish Towels, in anthracite; $ each for the handtowels and $54 each for the bath towels at Matouk.
Above: For similar waffle towels, try Kiran Turkish Towels, in anthracite; $25 each for the handtowels and $54 each for the bath towels at Matouk.
For similar marble hooks, try the Fontane Bianche Wall Hooks designed by Elisa Ossino. They come in three sizes; from €0 at Salvatori. (See  Easy Pieces: Marble Hooks for more ideas.)
Above: For similar marble hooks, try the Fontane Bianche Wall Hooks designed by Elisa Ossino. They come in three sizes; from €160 at Salvatori. (See 10 Easy Pieces: Marble Hooks for more ideas.)
Dornbracht&#8
Above: Dornbracht’s matte black Tara line of bath fixtures is a modern classic (you can read our 2008 story about it here.) Find its Three-Hole Lavatory Mixer in matte black (pictured in the Elizabeth Roberts-designed bathroom) at Plumbtile for $1,915.84.



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Historical Reinterpretation: A Georgian Home Updated for a Young Family, by Fraher & Findlay


Renovating a home never comes without a few hiccups and halts, but this impressive South London project by Fraher & Findlay involved more than a fair share of complications. Dubbed the “Artists’ House” on account of the clients’ creative backgrounds, the building’s listed historical status meant that all plans had to be legally approved, and in fact, the architects’ application to move the kitchen from the basement to the parlor floor was at first rejected. “After a robust case was presented…at the final hour,” according to the brief, “the application’s recommendation was overturned and listed building consent granted.”

Phew. Another major challenge: the unique crescent shape of the building. “We were not working with regular or orthogonal shapes of spaces, so everything had to be bespoke,” explains Fraher & Findlay design director Lizzie Webster. Going custom meant, though, that she and the clients were able to tease exactly what they wanted from the home: an open, modern, and family-friendly design set inside a classic, if atypical, shell.

Join us for a tour.

Photography by Adam Scott, courtesy of Fraher & Findlay.

The home is at one end of a historical Georgian Crescent (note the curve in the building). The project, from design to construction, was overseen by Fraher & Findlay.
Above: The home is at one end of a historical Georgian Crescent (note the curve in the building). The project, from design to construction, was overseen by Fraher & Findlay.
Just off the entry hall is this coat room, where a streamlined and fun orange coat rack paired with a classic round foyer table announces the clients&#8
Above: Just off the entry hall is this coat room, where a streamlined and fun orange coat rack paired with a classic round foyer table announces the clients’ unique modern-meets-traditional sensibility.
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Above: “We wanted to create a really amazing entrance hall and reception space immediately off the hallway, and we wanted to keep this space connected with the rear living room and make the most of the natural daylight from the front of the house, hence the use of the glazed door set,” explains Lizzie. “The door set brings in the natural light but also creates a division of space when needed.”



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High/Low: The Two-Seater Windsor-Style Bench


I love the mid-century lines and simple Shaker-esque simplicity of the Originals Loveseat Bench, designed by Lucian Ercolani in 1956, founder of the British furniture company Ercol. Made in the UK, it’s sold today at some of our favorite stores like Design Within Reach and Lekker Home, but at a premium. Recently, I noticed a couple of lookalikes, for significantly less. Let’s investigate.

High

From the DWR site: &#8
Above: From the DWR site: “The Loveseat Bench is handcrafted in solid ash or walnut with traditional joinery techniques, free of metal or screws. The back rail is steam-bent, and the large outward-shaped seat is carved for comfort.” It comes in natural ash, black ash, and walnut (pictured); from $1,495.
Ercols&#8
Above: Ercols’ Originals Love Seat Bench was intended to be a versatile piece, suitable for every room of the house. For more finishes (pictured is natural ash), try Lekker Home and Palette & Parlor; both stores carry the bench in more than a dozen colors.

Low

Urban Outfitters&#8
Above: Urban Outfitters’ Evie Bench is made of rubberwood; $399.
For a more rustic version, try the Shaker Dining Bench by Hearth & Hand for Magnolia at Target; $9. It&#8
Above: For a more rustic version, try the Shaker Dining Bench by Hearth & Hand for Magnolia at Target; $199. It’s also made of rubberwood.

For more high/low posts, see:



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Kitchen of the Week: An Imposing English Manor, Updated for Modern Family Life


Pevsner’s Architectural Guide: The Buildings of England details the style and history of every building of architectural significance in the country. England doesn’t suffer for lack of old buildings—there are 51 volumes in the series—but this manor still stands out. According to the guide on Lincolnshire, a county known for its rural beauty, “Few houses in the country fill one with such delight.”

When the new owners bought the historic property, they were intent on turning it into a warm family home without losing the grand proportions—including in the kitchen. To this end, they kept the oversized Gothic windows, the weathered limestone floors, an original fireplace, and the space’s dramatic loftiness. Then they tapped deVOL to supply them with their Classic English Kitchen cabinets. The result is a large, airy space that manages to be both fit for family life and respectful of its architectural pedigree.

Have a look. (For more on the renovation of this medieval manor, follow @the.history.keeper on Instagram.)

Photography courtesy of deVOL.

While the cabinets are traditional, the lighting, all by Original BTC, is thoroughly modern. (See High/Low: The Classic English Table Lamp from Original BTC.)
Above: While the cabinets are traditional, the lighting, all by Original BTC, is thoroughly modern. (See High/Low: The Classic English Table Lamp from Original BTC.)
Forming a low backsplash are deVOL&#8
Above: Forming a low backsplash are deVOL’s Crackle Metro Tiles. The countertop is Silestone. (Love art in the kitchen? See The New Art Gallery: 12 Favorite Kitchens with Paintings on Display.)
The cabinets are painted a custom peacock blue. The wall behind it is awash in the same color.
Above: The cabinets are painted a custom peacock blue. The wall behind it is awash in the same color.



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The Nesting Instinct: A Cabin Retreat in Washington Inspired by a Bird


In a large-scale study released a year ago, scientists confirmed a 29 percent decline in the North American bird population—to the tune of 2.9 billion fewer birds—since 1970. I read the alarming news with great sadness and fear. But then I stumbled upon this project by Wittman Estes Architecture + Landscape that was inspired by a small bird—the nesting killdeer—and I felt a tinge of hope.

Their clients, Pat and John Troth, are environmentalists and nature-lovers. John is a wildlife photographer, and whenever he found himself at their cabin overlooking Washington’s Hood Canal, he would seize the opportunity to take pictures of the nesting killdeer. The 1960s one-room cabin, though, was dark and felt closed-off from the outdoors, so they hired the firm to transform it into a restorative retreat where they could watch birds and commune with nature, even when they were indoors.

As architect Matt Wittman learned more about the killdeer, he realized that its nesting habits could and should inform the redesign. “Unlike most birds, the killdeer doesn’t bring outside vegetation to build its nest; it pulls away the existing brush, burrowing into the existing forest, and nesting on the ground,” he says.

Indeed, the resulting compound of three structures (a main cabin, an addition, plus a new guest bunkhouse)—both low-impact in design and low in height—has the look of nests scattered across the 1.13-acre property and feels of a piece with the environment. Furthermore, the buildings now feature large floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors—perfect for indoor-outdoor living and, of course, bird-watching.

Let’s take a tour of the Troths’ new perch, shall we?

Photography by Andrew Pogue, courtesy of Wittman Estes Architecture + Landscape.

The main cabin is in the forefront, the bunkhouse in the back. The most dramatic feature of the buildings may be the large eaves of engineered wood. &#8
Above: The main cabin is in the forefront, the bunkhouse in the back. The most dramatic feature of the buildings may be the large eaves of engineered wood. “The homeowners weren’t sure about the flat roof, but we agreed that with the proper maintenance, it would work well in this climate,” says Wittman.
The entry into the main cabin. Just beyond is a Hans Wegner rocking chair and a hidden Murphy bed on the right wall of the living room. The flooring is fir hardwood, and the ceiling and walls are clad in pine plywood.
Above: The entry into the main cabin. Just beyond is a Hans Wegner rocking chair and a hidden Murphy bed on the right wall of the living room. The flooring is fir hardwood, and the ceiling and walls are clad in pine plywood.



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Kitchen of the Week: A Modern Space Thanks to a Traditional ‘Tsubo-Niwa’


Last week, we wrote about Fraher & Findlay‘s inspired update of a Georgian home. Today, we’re sharing their most recent project, a renovation of an old Victorian in Hackney, London, featuring a Japanese-inspired tsubo-niwa.

Tsubo is a unit of measure equal to the area of two tatami mats (about 3.3 square meters); niwa means garden. As a compound word, it describes a small courtyard garden—and that’s precisely what was added to the property to connect a new rear addition to the original building.

Inserting a classically Japanese feature into a classically European house may seem like an odd mismatch, but it somehow works—and nowhere is this more apparent than in the kitchen and dining areas.

Let’s take a tour.

Photography by Adam Scott, courtesy of Fraher & Findlay.

The kitchen and dining room are housed in the new rear extension of the home. To the left (just beyond the glass door) is the small courtyard (or tsubo-niwa) &#8
Above: The kitchen and dining room are housed in the new rear extension of the home. To the left (just beyond the glass door) is the small courtyard (or tsubo-niwa) “to help articulate a relationship between the existing house and the new architecture,” says Fraher & Findlay.
The cabinets were custom-made by the joinery experts at Oblique Furniture in London. The marble used for the countertop and backsplash was sourced from J&R Marble.
Above: The cabinets were custom-made by the joinery experts at Oblique Furniture in London. The marble used for the countertop and backsplash was sourced from J&R Marble.
The backyard is on the other side of the kitchen, directly across from the tsubo-niwa.
Above: The backyard is on the other side of the kitchen, directly across from the tsubo-niwa.



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