Houzz at a Glance
Location: Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, New York
Who lives here: A digital media professional and a costume designer
Size: 1,500 square feet (139 square meters); three bedrooms, 2½ bathrooms
Designer: Etelamaki Architecture
Etelamaki found creative, eclectic solutions. For natural light, he gutted the top floor and put in two skylights, then created an open kitchen, dining and living area, seen here, with varied ceiling heights to add a sense of coziness. To save money, he left the middle floor mostly intact but did a fair amount of renovation on the bathrooms. Then he moved the stairs — which had gone up one side of the house, across a room and up the other side — stacking them in the middle of the house.
Now the clients can walk in from an entry on the front of the townhouse (the ground floor is a rental unit) and up to their duplex via open stairs and a stairwell flooded with light from the top floor.
The design process is one of “constant evolution,” Etelamaki says. He compares it to jazz: “You have the music but you have to be able to improvise and to be unafraid to deviate from the original plan if something comes up, whether it’s my idea or the clients’.”
In the living area, Etelamaki retained some of the character of the original building, such as moldings and window casings, while adding built-in bookshelves and a wet bar. He repatched and refinished the original oak flooring.
The clients wanted their main living area, on the top floor, to maximize the natural light. That was accomplished through skylights and the addition of a glass door at the back of the area by the kitchen. The clients purchased the blue couch years ago at a furniture store that has since gone out of business. A leftover piece of marble from a friend’s home renovation provided the top for the coffee table. The base was custom made.
He asked the clients, a costume designer and her husband, who works in media and has a background in theater, for a design meaningful to them. The wife brought Etelamaki a photo of a woman in an elaborate Victorian gown. He digitized and enlarged the photo and pixilated it, then had the pattern cut into a piece of teak plywood with a laser cutter. The teak overlays the red door so the pattern is visible. After living with it for a while, though, Etelamaki says, the clients may paint the red portion behind the teak yellow or gold to provide more contrast so the design stands out more.
Otis, the cat, sits on one of a pair of gray swivel chairs that were in the office of the father of one of the clients when she was growing up.
Etelamaki created definition between the functional side of the kitchen and the stairs and eating area by lowering the ceiling. “Sometimes if you blow out every wall and make a big open space, there’s no definition of space,” he says. The varying ceiling heights follow a line lengthwise down the middle, dividing the space in half. The ceiling over the kitchen and stairs follows the slope of the roof; the ceiling over the dining banquette is flat.
Wallpaper: Flat Vernacular, Studio Four (NYC)