Over the years, Murdock Solon Architects has developed a strong specialty in brownstone renovation in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The firm’s ability to balance brownstone preservation with modern desires has attracted clients who want to make a home uniquely their own while maintaining historical elements that make New York City brownstones so special.
MSA’s brownstone renovation experience ranges from full gut renovations to single apartment updates to penthouse rooftop additions. In each project, MSA provides an exceptional level of specialized design expertise.
Brownstone Renovation Considerations
For many new NYC brownstone owners, vertical living can be a mindset shift. MSA works closely with owners to help develop a flow throughout the space that best matches their lifestyle, whether raising a family, entertaining large groups, or including a secondary living quarters.
Such needs may not always conform to the original layout of the home. Often dating back more than one-hundred years when central heating and air conditioning did not exist, rooms were designed to be smaller to confine and maximize heat. Today, when open floor plans are more desirable, many homeowners choose to reconfigure the space. Changes may include increasing kitchen square footage, utilizing extra rooms for walk-in closets, and adding to the size and number of bathrooms.
While the layout may need to be adjusted, appreciated and often stunning original details can be maintained. Fireplaces, now prohibited in new construction in New York City, can often be grandfathered in, allowing the ornate marble or wood fireplaces to operate. Built-in bookcases, coffered ceilings, and decorative staircase banisters can often be preserved and highlighted while mixing with modern design features and furniture selections. Many of the projects highlighted below showcase how this juxtaposition can be successfully achieved.
Today, heating in NYC brownstones may still include radiator heating, but with a more efficient system. Central air conditioning will often include a back-up heating system. Radiant floor heating can be added in bathrooms and entryways as an extra supplement. Humidification systems are recommended in homes that have preserved original woodwork, which can often dry the air.
Endless Design Possibilities
Standing the test of time, Manhattan and Brooklyn brownstones are primarily solid structures that allow owners to integrate their own design aesthetics. From modern to traditional, the space can be transformed to fit one’s tastes. For example, our Brooklyn Heights project utilizes a much more transitional design as compared to the more modern, industrial aesthetic of our Clinton Hill project as shown below.
NYC Building Permitting and Landmarks Processes
In addition to the design and construction needs, an understanding of the complex NYC building permitting system is necessary. Working as NYC architects for more than 20 years, the firm fully understands these processes, as well as the details required to meet NYC Landmark requirements. A seamless permitting schedule is critical in saving time and managing budget.
Landmarks does require extra attention to maintaining the original design of the home’s facade. However, the department allows extra freedom in the rear of the home, allowing homeowners the flexibility to make more dramatic changes. Such may include adding on space, utilizing glass walls, and constructing outdoor balconies and patios.
In our Brooklyn townhouse project in Clinton Hill, we created a double-height kitchen that included steel-framed windows, opening up the space and allowing substantial natural light. In our Brooklyn Brownstone project, glass doors and walls were created to showcase the stunning backyard and to create an open-air concept.
Highlighted MSA Projects
Below are a few NYC brownstone and townhouse projects MSA has completed. View our full project list here. Discover the details that have led MSA to become a leader in brownstone renovation in New York City and Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Heights Townhouse
The Brooklyn Heights townhouse project included merging an inspired client vision with a creative architectural realization for a family that was moving from France to New York City. The project included transforming a traditional Brooklyn brownstone to reflect the couple’s love of travel, art, and family time. The guiding principle was a juxtaposition of old and new, which included exposing natural wear and the beauty of repurposed materials from the original brownstone structure. Dark gray woodwork added depth and complexity. A focus on lighting, both natural and artificial, helped highlight the unique architectural details.
See more photos and learn more about the space by visiting our full Brooklyn Height Townhouse page here.
Clinton Hill Townhouse
In the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, MSA transformed a Landmarked brownstone while maintaining many of its original elements. An entire gut renovation, the project including converting a multi-unit structure into a single-family home.
At the owner’s request, MSA maintained a light airy aesthetic with an open floor plan on the main floor that included the kitchen and a living/dining area. The tall ceilings spanned from 11 to 22.5 feet, emphasizing the double-height steel-framed kitchen windows. An office was added above the kitchen to allow the owner to work in a loft-style setting while still feeling part of the family activities below.
With a distinct industrial aesthetic, the design utilized natural materials reflective of the original structure and pipes and floor joists were intentionally left exposed. MSA reclaimed and refinished original wood used in the house. These elements were used alongside high-end finishes, including Italian Effeti kitchen cabinetry and Waterworks fixtures.
See more photos and learn more about the space by visiting our full Clinton Hill Townhouse page here.
Originally a three-family residence, the Brooklyn Brownstone project consisted of a conversion into a single-family home. Throughout the conversion process, the design was sensitive to the prewar details of the existing house while introducing a modern sensibility that addressed the family’s unique needs.
Custom millwork became a focal point of the project, which included a hallway photograph library, a custom closet system, and natural-finish walnut doors with frosted glass panels.
See photos of these deals and learn more about the space by visiting our full Brooklyn Brownstone page here.
A unique project, the Dean Street gut renovation included the conversion of nine single-room apartments into a two-family residence. The top three floors became one residence with a separate basement-level apartment below.
In the design phases, the owner wanted to blur the boundaries between interior and exterior spaces with a new rear extension. On the main floor, this extension contained the kitchen and led directly to the interior dining and exterior patio. At the master suite level, the extension included the master bathroom where natural lighting flowed through the space, resembling bathing outdoors.
With sustainability a prime feature, MSA applied photovoltaic panels to the roof to draw solar energy, and hydronic radiant heating permeated all floors.
See more photos and learn more about the space by visiting our full Dean Street page here.
View our entire portfolio, including more NYC brownstone projects, here.