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One for All: TBo Updates A Brooklyn Townhouse for Multigenerational Family Living

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One for All: TBo Updates A Brooklyn Townhouse for Multigenerational Family Living

September 29, 2023

The family wanted to stay together—literally. Bretaigne Walliser and Thom Dalmas’s clients asked the architects to reconfigure an 1899 Brooklyn townhouse for three generations—grandparents and their daughter, her wife, and their two children—to cohabitate and have space for creative pursuits.

Thom and Bretaigne run TBo, one of our favorite NYC design studios: see A One-Room Cabin in the Catskills and The Anti-White Box Development. To make the existing structure work, they came up with a plan that includes a poured concrete rear addition, which despite a remarkably small footprint, introduces light and space to all three levels. In TBo’s words, “The design weds a modest original Federal-style brick house with a generous sunlit extension framing a rediscovered rear garden.”

The top two floors are set up for the young family and include a place for practicing music. The grandparents live in the garden apartment, which, at their request, has a painting studio and a play area for the kids. Artfully linking new and old elements through the use of “natural, raw, and minimally treated materials,” the architects composed rooms that exude stillness and serenity, a cocoon for young and old. And as in all TBo projects, indoors and out are in dialogue. Join us for a tour.

Photography by Matthew Williams, styling by Brittany Albert, courtesy of TBo.

the federal townhouse is part of a row of adjoining brick structures on a quiet 17
Above: The Federal townhouse is part of a row of adjoining brick structures on a quiet street in Clinton Hill. The family bought their place in 2020 with plans to move in together; TBo began work on it soon after—which was just a month before Covid hit. Needless to say, it took longer than usual to complete.
the three story rear extension has a pour in place concrete frame. &#8\2\20 18
Above: The three-story rear extension has a pour-in-place concrete frame. “The narrow lot, bound on both sides by deep neighboring buildings, created a challenging set of conditions,” note the architects. The original house totaled 1,760 square feet: “it was small and very tight, and previous renovations had stripped away all of the original detailing,” says Bretaigne.

“The rear addition is designed with a small 200 square foot footprint but it totals approximately 500 square feet of living space across the the floors: the build-out on the basement level added an additional 200 square feet; the parlor and second floors have L-shaped additions and total 150 square feet of extra floor area apiece.”

The Young Family’s Parlor Floor

&#8\2\20;previous renovations had stripped away all of the original detail  19
Above: “Previous renovations had stripped away all of the original detail and it was rather bleak and dated inside with old and deteriorating infrastructure,” says Bretaigne. The architects added salvaged period double doors at the entry and Douglas fir double-hung windows. The wide-plank, character-grade white oak flooring here and upstairs is from the Hudson Company.

Prestige Renovation served as the project contractor, Moonlight Woodwork did all the millwork, and the structural engineering was provided by Enigma Engineering.

the team exposed the original party wall—&#8\2\2\1;it was cleaned an 20
Above: The team exposed the original party wall—”it was cleaned and selectively repointed for uniformity”—and revamped the staircase with a new oak handrail and balusters and painted treads.
tbo designed a modernist mantel for the fireplace with a pour in place concrete 21
Above: TBo designed a modernist mantel for the fireplace with a pour-in-place concrete bench and a niche for firewood storage.
the l shaped parlor floor extension serves as a kitchen and dining bay with a   22
Above: The L-shaped parlor floor extension serves as a kitchen and dining bay with a picture window. TBo’s design combines concrete structural elements with Douglas fir window frames and exposed beams (“we used 6-by 6 timber beams and concrete panel subfloor for the ceiling of the dining bay for warmth and texture”). The walls are diamond veneer, a hard gypsum plaster, troweled smooth.
double doors lead to a terrace with a table overlooking the garden. the paintin 23
Above: Double doors lead to a terrace with a table overlooking the garden. The paintings here and throughout are by the grandmother, an artist who is originally from Eastern Europe.

“Our clients were very easy going about the design and mostly sought to have as flexible a space as possible for their family to grow into and be able to feel like they could have both separate and communal spaces,” says Bretaigne.

the custom cabinets—a combination of flat panel overlay and full inset&# 24
Above: The custom cabinets—a combination of flat-panel overlay and full inset—are painted Farrow & Ball’s Inchyra Blue and have clear maple interiors. The Shaws Shaker Collection farmhouse sink is paired withg a Waterworks Easton bridge faucet. The counters are gray Caesarstone and the kitchen island is topped with butcher block.
there&#8\2\17;s a bosch stove and a bosch 800 series induction cooktop on t 25
Above: There’s a Bosch stove and a Bosch 800 Series induction cooktop on the island, which has a Dacor downdraft hood. The unfinished brass Bin Pulls and Cabinet Knobs are from House of Antique Hardware. The inset brass circle on the counter is a pop-up electrical outlet.
&#8\2\20;delivering light into the house was a paramount concern for our cl 26
Above: “Delivering light into the house was a paramount concern for our clients,” says Bretaigne. The concrete structure of the extension is visible from the windows.

Upstairs

the extension off the main bedroom is used for playing music—in addition 27
Above: The extension off the main bedroom is used for playing music—in addition to the full-size harp, there’s a child-size one. Note the poured-in-place concrete ceiling with a rough finish: “we designed it to contrast with the smoother exposed concrete frame,” says Bretaigne.
the family bath has a freestanding cast iron clawfoot saxby tub from waterworks 28
Above: The family bath has a freestanding cast-iron clawfoot Saxby tub from Waterworks and a Brockway cast-iron sink from Kohler. Subway tile in a running bond pattern serves as a tub enclosure, and the floor has basket-weave cement tile from Clé.

The Grandparents’ Garden-Level Quarters

the architect &#8\2\20;sank&#8\2\2\1; the floor level of the studio are 29
Above: The architect “sank” the floor level of the studio area to gain ceiling height and lowered the adjoining ground level to create a smooth transition between indoors and out. The brick arcade is a remnant of the original building and divides it from the new extension. The walls are diamond plastered to bounce light around, and the ceiling has what the architects describe as “poured-in-place ‘keepouts’ for fixture-less lights: the light sockets are recessed into the concrete slab.”

Re: aging-in-place livability, the architects say, “The clients requested that the apartment interior be moderately geared towards accessibility with sufficient clearance between rooms, low resistance flooring, and a roll-in shower.”

the poured and polished cement floor here is in a speckled &#8\2\20;salt an 30
Above: The poured and polished cement floor here is in a speckled “salt and pepper” pattern that echoes the pea gravel garden patio just outside.
&#8\2\20;the extension acts as a transitional zone between the original hou 31
Above: “The extension acts as a transitional zone between the original house and the garden, creating gentle oppositions and offering a versatile set of spaces,” write the architects.
the poured concrete frame is left bare. 32
Above: The poured concrete frame is left bare.
the studio opens to a tbo designed galley kitchen. here, the brick is treated w 33
Above: The studio opens to a TBo-designed galley kitchen. Here, the brick is treated with lime wash from Limeworks.
the grandparents&#8\2\17; bedroom has lime washed brick walls and douglas f 34
Above: The grandparents’ bedroom has lime-washed brick walls and Douglas-Fir framed windows.
the pocket patio is big enough for coffee outdoors. 35
Above: The pocket patio is big enough for coffee outdoors.

Where TBo goes, we follow. Check out our book The Low-Impact Home for a full tour of Bretaigne and Thom’s family cabin.

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