Brooklyn brownstone adaptation memories, inimitable storytelling by This Old House

[dailymotion id=x81v7x] From the book The Best Homes from This Old House by host Kevin O'Connor, via TODAY Books: "In 2008, Kevin Costello, his wife, Karen Shen, and their three children sat on the stoop of an old, run-down brownstone in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights, smiling as they considered their good luck at having purchased the century-old boardinghouse behind them.  In Brooklyn, stoops serve as front yards, and now this stoop in this up-and-coming neighborhood was theirs, with all of its problems — and all of its promise.

"Constructed in 1904, this brownstone was one of thousands built at the beginning of the twentieth century to provide housing for the legions of people working in the boroughs of New York City, Manhattan in particular.  At some point, probably in the 1940s, a previous owner had converted the building into a rooming house, surely to make some money off the young men returning to New York after World War II.  The building had been divided into nine separate units.  Ironically, the building’s neglect turned out to be its saving grace. Previous owners had made few improvements but also few changes.

"'This Old House' had never worked in New York City before, and now that we were there, it made sense to work on the city’s iconic housing style: the brownstone. To me, the word 'brownstone' inspires visions of elegant façades and stately buildings lining the avenues of expensive neighborhoods in New York, Boston, or other American cities. But the truth about these buildings is that in many neighborhoods, they were designed for middle-income families: worker housing, rolled out four to six at a time by developers building densely packed, affordable homes in much the same way that modern subdivisions are built today.

"Karen and Kevin wanted to build a home for their family but needed some rental income to help pay for the recent purchase and pending renovation. The plan was to renovate the first and second floors for their family and then to create two rental apartments, one on the top floor and another on the garden level.  Karen and Kevin hoped to take back the top floor in about five years, after replenishing their savings and paying off some of the mortgage, so their family could spread out.

"We pieced back together the once chopped-up building and ended up with three kitchens, four bathrooms, and six bedrooms in three distinct units.  For a century our brownstone had been reconceived and repurposed by its many occupants, whether they were families, tenants, or landlords. And in 2008, the house was again transformed to serve the needs of new owners."  Full excerpt here.