top of page

Creating Space in Brooklyn Brownstone Rehabs

The Brooklyn brownstone market is hot, and property values are expected to continue to rise. Yet, many of these historic residences have not been designed for luxury urban living. With smart renovation, the historic integrity can be preserved, extraordinary living space created, and the investment value of the property amplified.

Turett Collaborative Architects (TCA) is known for its smart renovations of NYC brownstones and townhouses. TCA blends design, utility and creativity to make extraordinary use of every square foot. With its clients, TCA also creates new livable square footage – looking  up, under and out to optimize space.

Looking Up in Brooklyn Brownstone Renovations

A Brooklyn brownstone may come with air rights, affording an opportunity to add one – or more – floors. Often these rights have been restricted, particularly if the brownstone is a historic district (and there are many historic districts in Brooklyn). Overcoming these restrictions calls for a process that includes collaboration with community boards and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Working together, everyone’s objectives can be accommodated.  Value is created for the property owner while the character of the neighborhood is retained. In this townhouse, for example, a roof top master bed suite with terraces was added. The set-back met the Landmarks Commission requirements to preserve the streetscape.

Part of the backyard was also enclosed, providing an open kitchen and eating area.  Above this area, another terrace was added to extend and open living space on the upper floors.

Looking Under

Subterranean space also can be converted and extended into exceptional new square footage.  Initially dark, and sometimes damp, the basement opportunity often is overlooked. Consider this: the subterranean space can be extended under the backyard areas. Skylights built into the backyard patios allow natural light to stream under. The use of right materials keep the new space dry and comfortable.

Beneath this townhouse’s patio skylights, a home gym was installed.  A few years later, a new feature was added – a lap pool.  The light streaming in from the patio adds to the ‘pleasure’ of working out. This design was a first place winner in the 2013 Interior Design Magazine Best of Year competition within the residential category. The client subsequently sold the property well beyond the investments. With the added square footage, profit was amplified. 

Looking Out

Here is an even more entrepreneurial approach.  Look to how the  acquisition of adjacent property might add value and make room for luxurious elements.  Renovations of this 1870s-era structure was sharply restricted by its Landmark status.

The solution: the adjacent lot was purchased and a new six story, single-family structure was approved by community groups and the Landmark Commission. The original two-story jewel was painstakingly preserved on the outside, but integrated seamlessly with the tower on the inside.

On top of the 2-story historic building, an open-air courtyard incorporating extensive irrigated roof gardens extend the communal living areas. Natural light streams through structural skylights, just right for the home art studio below. Combining modern design with the historic structure became the guiding design principle.  A 6th floor pool, first floor art studio and two car garage create a unique urban residence.

Interested in exploring other examples of how we make incredible use of Manhattan townhouses and Brooklyn brownstones, check out these links:


bottom of page