For this project, I was honored to serve as architect and associate designer for another architect—a highly-respected leader of a renowned international firm—who was both the owner and the lead designer. The building is an historic 19th century brick carriage house, and we converted it into a modern residence, restoring the original brickwork and stone walls and inserting a series of highly contemporary elements. The design was very ambitious, and the craftsmanship is unmatched.
On the street façade, we replaced the existing doors and windows with high-performing replicas, but on the alley façade, which was previously blank, we punched large square openings and inserted frames of half-inch aluminum. Inside the frames are custom-built wood awning windows. On the window below, which sits outside of the building, we pushed the sash frame behind the interior walls, making it appear like a simple square opening when viewed from inside. The edges of the window align with the walls and casework that surround it, giving the space a clear sense of order.
The building was completely gutted. With the help of structural engineers, the builders removed the floor plates and replaced them with open-web wood floor trusses that could hold new mechanical ductwork and electrical and a/v systems. Meanwhile, masons dug under the old stone walls and extended them down 30-inches, giving the basement a proper eight-foot ceiling. The old stone walls—cleaned and repointed—form the perimeter of the space, and a ground concrete floor with radiant heat gives the space a refined industrial character.
Replacing the floors allowed us to reconsider the location of the stair, and after several plan iterations, we decided to move the stair into its own addition, opening up the spaces of the main house. The addition is brick and glass and distinct from the historic building to which it connects. It contains an open stair constructed of quarter-inch plates of blackened steel and thick treads of white oak.
The relationship of the existing building, with its old brick walls that twist and turn, to its minimal, perfectly-rendered additions was a continual challenge to the designers, engineers, and, especially, the builders. The design aims to relate various building elements by aligning them and making them correspond across open space. Walls, floors, and ceilings come together with the most minimal joints, and they all contain concealed mechanical, electrical, and audio-visual systems. The result of these efforts is an, elegant, composed, and quiet space—a retreat from the busy city outside.