Design Team: Colin Murtaugh, AIA; Terrence Seah; Jessica Wilcock
Text description provided by the architects. This new construction, five-story townhouse is home to a young family of four. The façade combines brick, speaking to the neighbors; a cedar rainscreen; and black aluminum panels. Maintaining an indoor-outdoor connection throughout was important to the clients, so despite the narrow 25-foot lot, each floor opens to exterior spaces. Concurrently, maintaining a comfortable level of privacy from the street and neighbors was also critical.
The garden level houses a mudroom, guest bedroom and playroom that open to the backyard, where turf tiles create a maintenance-free lawn and weathering-steel bamboo planters provide privacy. Up the exterior stair, a water wall screens from the neighbors the dining terrace, which opens to the double height living space on the main level.
A custom teak sofa, flanked on one side with an aquarium for the owner’s salt-water fish, defines the sunken living room. Opposite the sofa, black steel shelving holds media equipment and a fireplace. A wall of custom teak cabinetry stitches together the living spaces, provides storage, and stretches up to the mezzanine level to create a sofa pod for movie watching. The curving, white Corian island grounds the main level and includes a breakfast banquette at one end.
In an effort to make vertical living feel natural, an open tread stair, made from structural Parallam lumber, stitches the levels together. The treads wrap a black steel-clad wall that runs through all five stories like a skewer. The stair’s openness allows for light, air and sound to pass between floors, and the landings feel like a part of the living spaces, enhancing connectivity between levels.
The mezzanine level opens to the living area below and a balcony facing the street, wrapped in a cedar slats for privacy. A study is tucked in corner with a built-in desk looking out a corner window. On the third floor, two kids’ bedrooms have large south-facing windows while the master bedroom opens to a private balcony on the north side with sliding glass doors.
On the top floor, which serves as an art studio, the façade steps back to preserve the street’s cornice line. This setback creates terraces on either side of the studio and helps maintain privacy. A solid parapet wall shields sightlines from the street and neighbors without inhibiting views of Park Slope beyond.
Operable windows throughout and the open stair allow for both stack and cross ventilation. Practically, incorporating lots of glazing raises questions about energy efficiency. In response, radiant heating efficiently heats the whole house, and is broken into many zones, which allows levels that aren’t always in use to be controlled separately. EIFS (exterior insulation and finish system) and insulated metal panels provide continuous insulation at the building envelope, helping to reduce heating and cooling loads. A solar canopy shades the upper roof terrace and helps offset the home’s electrical loads. Additionally, daylighting fulfills lighting needs most days, and all lighting is LED, helping to lower electricity usage. On the roof terraces, light colored pavers help minimize the heat island effect.