The major challenge with the Mirtillo Townhouse was marrying the character of a historic Brooklyn Heights townhouse with the clients’ desire for a house designed for modern living. Aesthetically, this was achieved by making a clear distinction between the treatment of the original structure and that of the new interventions. Physically this meant completely rebuilding the house, saving only the original four masonry walls and roof line.
The house is composed of an existing 4 story structure to which we added a modern, two-story rear addition, open to a lushly landscaped yard beyond. The addition contains a formal dining platform suspended by steel rods over the family room below, the two spaces sharing a double height wall of books and a mahogany curtain wall, which frames views to the backyard. The design and placement of the new stair offered the greatest opportunity to radically alter the traditional brownstone layout. Constructed of blackened steel and wood beams reclaimed from the house during demolition, the stair is shroud in a delicate screen of stainless steel cables and reaches to a dramatically faceted skylight above. By sitting a switchback stair in the middle of the house, hallways were minimized and rooms were now able to be wider and more appropriate for today’s needs. Read as a sculpture around which all the spaces flow, the stair visually and physically connects all the spaces in the house.
The house feels voluminous and light, with a sense of verticality, spaciousness and connection to the outdoors that was entirely absent in the original. Yet it retains the presence of a traditional brownstone that drew the clients to the house in the first place.