From the street, Steve Burns's new house in Brooklyn looks like one of those studiedly industrial, uber-butch lofts that went up all over New York just before the real estate crash of 2008. Indoors, though, it's something else entirely.
A woody oasis of a place, it's arranged around a generous open-air atrium where Burns, former host of the kiddie fun show Blue's Clues, can sleep soundly under what passes for the stars in New York City.
Planks salvaged from Coney Island's boardwalk line the courtyard.
The 2,100-square-foot bachelor pad is the work of residential-conversion king Eric Liftin at Mesh Architectures, and it's set down in an old wood shop in the heart of New York's very own hipster slum, Williamsburg. Liftin wanted to give Burns, now a musician, plenty of privacy without making the whole place feel like a fortress, so he demolished all but three brick walls of the existing structure, then built up two stories (including an awesome catwalk on the second floor) into which he carved an intimate courtyard. The master bedroom, a bathroom, and the living room/kitchen all open out onto the sod-covered courtyard.
Private courtyards, for those not familiar with the iron shackles of New York residential zoning, are a rarity in the city. Liftin's trick was to take advantage of a loophole in the law. As he tells Co. in an email: "Usually you cannot make this form. NYC Zoning requires a rear yard of 30-feet depth. However, if you have an existing building you're converting, and you are not enlarging the building, you may forgo the rear yard. So that's what we did."
The house's interior is a showcase of inventive reclamation. Planks salvaged from Coney Island's boardwalk line the courtyard deck. Pine joists sliced from the original wood shop form a massive wall (called The SpecialWall) that's designated as a tabula rasa for all of Burns's creative endeavors. And along the catwalk, exposed lights made out of plumbing pipes are gorgeously reminiscent of glowworms or even the stars Burns may or may not see from his grassy perch in the middle of a concrete jungle.
[Images by Jason Schmidt courtesy of Mesh Architectures; hat tip to New York magazine]