This project is a dream come true!
A house for a young family of four in Brooklyn – in many ways a typical project and in other ways so atypical. This is my own home with my husband Tobias and our 2 kids. Truly the most enjoyable projects, but also the most pressurizing one – since we all know designers/architects have big ideas and small budgets. We bought the house with understanding that it will be a gut renovation. Little did we guess that we would even be building/supporting exterior walls.
Tobias being an eco-conscious European and me a LEED Accredited Professional, our first idea was to make a “green” house and so we looked into being off the grid. However, we soon realized that given the budget, time constraints, the legalities of building in NYC and our contract with our bank, that this could be a VERY energy efficient house but not necessarily a certified green project.
Good enough for us! We then started from what was a “must” list.
Our first goal was to make a very tight exterior envelope (wall and windows) to minimize heat losses. If you install the right heating system, you are almost there. We got closed cell foam spray (yes there were concerns about the chemicals) but the benefits of a one time spray vs getting high R values in a 4″ wall cavity were important. The roof got so much insulation, that the contractors were – at the very least to say “very surprised”. In fact the contractors most constant line was ” I have been doing this for 20 years – never have I done this! Windows were a huge deal given that the entire downstairs bedroom is basically all glass windows and we sourced them from Canada. We stuck to radiant floor heating throughout the house. It is very efficient, healthy and now that we have been living in the house, I’ll admit – its a true luxury. After getting our High efficiency wall hung boiler we use much less energy than a typical house.
Now for the low down on the design. I wanted the brownstone to feel like a brownstone, and keep its original proportions and feel. But we are not the kind of couple who fuss over the original details so it was lucky the house we bought had none of the original details to worry about. Everything including the fire place, is what we created. From my drawings, the space flow is exactly what I had hoped for. A nice large open plan with the living room followed by a light filled dining area. You can step right on the deck from the dining room double doors. The kitchen is slightly tucked away but is still the commanding place. A small Puja niche (Ganesha, Lakshmi and Vishnu) sits right across the kitchen for my ritual habits from India. The kids decided they wanted to share a room, so they got one big room. We have our big bedroom and library with floor to ceiling glass. The room is slightly sunk in the floor so the garden truly feels like an extension of the space.
I had set out to negate my own perception of most townhouses : small rooms and dark interiors. I am happy to say that we achieved the goal – we have a light, open and very spacious feeling throughout the house. Warm, elegant, wordily, modern, design conscious, cool, urban, recycle, natural style – that would reflect who we are and our life style. A place we can nurture our family and that gives me a peaceful wholesome home to relax and rejuvenate!