After five years of happily living in a warehouse loft in Brooklyn’s then fringe Dumbo neighborhood, architect Jordan Parnass and his wife Melanie Crean decided that it was time to look for a new home in which to put down roots and raise a family.
The criteria was simple: bedrooms for kids and guests; a cook’s kitchen; studio space and video projection for multimedia artist Melanie; and outdoor space in which to garden and entertain. Unfortunately, the couple soon found that their sun-drenched open-plan loft lifestyle was not going to be easily shoehorned into the typical Brownstone Brooklyn housing stock.
The solution: a derelict row house in the Boerum Hill neighborhood, unrenovated since the 1940’s, which would be rebuilt and re-imagined as a light filled container for art and living. The original two-family structure was completely gutted, preserving only the front façade, side party walls, and the roof. A crumbling extension and the bottom half of the rear wall were removed, creating a dramatic glass opening to the garden beyond, and bringing copious amounts of natural northern light into Melanie’s new studio space below. An ipe wood bridge spans over the studio and a recessed sculpture well and provides a link to the outdoor living space.
Within the existing brick skin a new steel skeleton was inserted, allowing for a freeform composition of floating horizontal planes and vertical openings. The perforated floor plates encourage light and air to penetrate easily within the house, bringing a modern sensibility to a very traditional building envelope.
The renovation was also designed to showcase the couple’s art collection, including vintage bronze castings and print works by Picasso, Miró, Chagall, Piranesi and Barbara Kruger. Melanie, a former Director at digital arts nonprofit Eyebeam Atelier, called on her artist friends, including Tali Hinkis from LoVid, Argentinian sculptor Alejandro Dron, and Kinya Hanada aka Mumbleboy to create custom artworks for the space.
The results include site specific sculptures, paintings, and an eighteen foot high digital mural in the dining area. Furniture and fixtures rounded out the interior design and are by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Established & Sons, Hivemindesign, Feeldesign, BluDot, and Verner Panton.
As construction began, it became clear that the house would soon have another occupant. Baby Micah was born shortly before the move-in date. All are now happily residing in this unique architectural sculpture for living.