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  • Black dust, to glitz and glam

Black dust, to glitz and glam

IMAGES Talia Shulz

Location: New York
Client brief: The client wanted their home to have the element of surprise and to be suffused with light.
Project budget: US$ 1.8 million
Project duration: 12 months

When Andrew Rasiej saw the 19th century brick building up for sale, he jumped at the opportunity to own a house in Downtown Manhattan that came complete with an existing garage. While these days there are no more heavy-duty trucks reporting for work, an indoor parking space to accommodate three residential cars was retained. Now that's a luxury in itself in New York City, but it’s a mere starting point for what lies beyond the modernised brick façade.

The street frontage is unassuming and blends in completely with the historic architectural style of the neighbourhood. A modern twist on the classic red brick typical of the area is achieved by painting the bricks a solid brownish red. Only the shell of the building was preserved, however, and every inch of the interior was completely redesigned and repurposed to create a sleek and stylish home.

At a size of 4,500 square feet over four levels, there was plenty of space to play with, but the structure posed a few intrinsic challenges. First and foremost, Andrew wanted the house to be light filled. “Allowing light into every room was a key challenge of the project,” explains Wayne Turett of Turett Collaborative Architects. “We also wanted to keep the floor plan open while maintaining privacy for the master suite.”

Both issues were elegantly overcome and the house has an airy flow and feel to it. This was achieved by designing a glass curtain wall at the back of the house, in combination with a huge skylight above the kitchen/living/dining space. An internal courtyard was created to let the light channel down into the lower level. With its wall art and water pond the courtyard also doubles as a whimsical design feature that overlooks this level of the house. Devised as the busy hub and entertaining centre of the house, this new space enables the socially and politically involved Andrew to host fundraisers for his favourite causes and non-profits.

The house offers enough space for entertaining larger groups, and yet offers cosy retreats as well. Paying homage to the origins of the building, the original brick was left intact and unfinished in several parts of the house, notably in the main living/dining area where it is mirrored in the outside courtyard as well. The light tones of the interior design palette complement these more rustic sections.

One of the most striking elements of the interior is its industrial looking staircase. It runs through the building like a metal spine and connects the different levels of the house in an extraordinary visual way. The main living and dining space boasts double ceiling height and an extra slim catwalk style staircase has been installed along the wall. It’s a spectacular design highlight that conveys a sense of extravagance and also connects this level to the next as an alternative route to the main staircase. The pinewood used for all the stairs was salvaged and is a nod to the building’s past life as a coal truck garage.

Reclaiming and reusing materials when renovating is a trend that is becoming increasingly popular in the United States as well as around the globe, especially when the restored building is a historic one. The idea is to take a building to the next level while at the same time honouring the existing structure and working efficiently with available building resources. It’s about bridging the gap of designing a completely new space and paying respect to the heritage of the building and its neighbourhood (plus working within the limitations of building restrictions). 

A resident of lower Manhattan himself, architect Wayne works closely with community and preservation groups to do just that. His experience in creating clever designs in the local area helped transform this rather dark and dank coal storage unit into a top-notch townhouse suffused with sunlight. He adds: “Every renovation that the Turett Collaborative designs is unique. This one is most notable for its use of natural light.”

+ all information is deemed to be true at time of publishing - read more in Issue 021 of Renovate Magazine. +


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    Renovate Magazine