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Prospect Heights Row House gets stunning budget transformation

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Prospect Heights Row House is a stunning renovation project carried out by Delson or Sherman Architects situated in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York. On a tight budget, architect Jeff Sherman purchased this wrecked row house, which in it’s previous life had been used as an illegal breeding kennel. Even before its fall the home suffered from common row-house ailments: dark in the middle and spatially flat. The architect worked as his own contractor and builder for ten years, transforming the scariest building on the block into a high-design home for about $100 per square foot. The entire center section of the house was opened up to draw light in and counteract the darkness which is typical of row houses. Now, a long slot of skylight spills daylight into the double-height dining room, about which the rooms on both floors are arrayed. To disperse the light, one bedroom wall is translucent; the other, open shelves. A two-story storage tower wrapped in copper defines the foyer.

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After the architect cut a giant hole in the center, the room configuration quickly laid itself out. The kitchen went in the back, the living room in the front, and the two-story space became the dining room. Upstairs, there’s a bedroom in the front, a bedroom in the back, and a catwalk connecting the two. “I also wanted to separate the living room from the foyer and to activate the full height of the space, so I built a volume that contains storage space and extends from the first floor to the roof. I covered it in inexpensive copper flashing so it would read as a single object,” states Sherman.

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To make sure the light well over the dining area read as “a hole, rather than just a bending of the Sheetrock plane,” Sherman clad the first-floor ceiling in inexpensive tongue-and-groove cedar closet liner from Home Depot. Bonus: “I like the smell of cedar,” says Sherman, and now the house carries a faintly woodsy scent.

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The marble fireplace was uncovered by the architect under a half dozen layers of paint.

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The dining area is bright and airy, thanks to the skylight-topped hole cut in the center of the structure. The ceiling is clad in cedar closet liner; the dining chairs and table base are from Ikea.

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To consolidate most appliances and food storage, keep his compact kitchen looking neat, and save money on cabinets, Sherman built a closet into the kitchen wall (“Cabinets are expensive but closets are cheap,” he offers). Inside is a countertop, blackboard surface, toaster oven, garbage cans, magnetic knife rack, and plenty of shelves. When the doors are closed, the unit recedes from view.

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The copper-covered volume extends from the first floor, where it contains coat and shoe storage.

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To cover up his shoe-storage shelves, Sherman bought bamboo bead curtains from the Callaloo Company emblazoned with an image of the Madonna. He separated out every other strand to create two curtains from one, resulting in twinned pixelated images. The resulting pattern is “like a Chuck Close that everyone can afford,” says Sherman.

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Prospect Heights Row House-Delson or Sherman Architects-13-1 Kindesign

The master bedroom wall that faces the light well is made from a double layer of corrugated-plastic panels, with a sheet of vinyl from Canal Plastics Center sandwiched between them for translucency. The wall lets sunlight and moonlight into the room while still maintaining privacy.

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The copper-covered volume proceeds to the second floor, where it forms a storage wall in Sherman’s home office.

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The tin panels lining the stairs are original to the house.

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Sherman sits in front of his Prospect Heights home. The front door is made from etched Lexan bulletproof glass.

Photos: Hulya Kolabas Photography / Dustin Aksland for Dwell

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