A three-storey Bed-Stuy brownstone is revived with a blend of modern Swiss flair and traditional New England spirit for an art professor, a sound engineer in film and their young child. Nathan Cuttle helms this first solo project where he and his team at Studio Nato oversee the transformation of this 1899 brick rowhouse, a cross between Italianate and Federal styles. Their intervention gives new energy to a space for creative inspiration and casual living, reflecting the couple’s respective cultural histories and sensibilities.
Project Name: Bed-Stuy Brownstone
Studio Name: Studio Nato
Project size: 2600 ft2
Site size: 2000 ft2
Completion date: 2019
Building levels: 3
Location: Brooklyn, United States
Photography: Hanna Grankvist
The original front façade was restored in relationship to the historical context of the neighborhood; most elements of the existing architectural style remain while some of the period details were revitalized. A facelift is given to the rear with a new stucco finish; additionally, larger windows and new skylights are introduced to bring in natural light and give the space a bright and open feel.
The home beckons its guests in through the front door with an immediate view of a pure white, continuous monolithic staircase that spans from top to bottom. With a crisp overlapping diagonal line from the side view, the banister curves as it winds between floors and reads like a gallery experience. The skylight allows light to cast upon this sculptural staircase, a new insertion replacing the original in place, while keeping the traditional profile. The scale of the handrail is essential to the tactile experience.
Vestiges of the building’s history are fondly cherished as seen in the stretch of exposed brick behind the woodstove, the original fireplace in the dining room, and the refinished radiators. These are contrasted by contemporary fixtures and furnishings, as selected by Studio Nato. Challenged with budget constraints, the designers found creative solutions to achieve a consistent design language; they would use Ikea’s affordable modular systems with reworked front-facing white oak millwork from Danish company Reform in the washrooms and Oregon pine in the kitchen.
Cuttle is adamant on using honest, quality materials, emphasizing artisanship where possible and implementing sustainable and responsible practices. He has a particular penchant for wallpaper, applying it in nearly all of his projects as part of a desire to infuse traditional hand craftsmanship with contemporary building materials and technology. As a mostly disappearing decorative custom in new homes, the push towards wallpapering often requires some salesmanship to his clients. Here, Cuttle is able to persuade the homeowners on a very effervescent floral craft pattern for the powder room, contrasted by geometric forms seen in the fixtures.
His ability to read and translate the users’ personalities delivers a home that accommodates their varied interests and cultural influences while exuding a timeliness and elegance for modern living in Brooklyn.