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TODAY, THE INSIDER (my weekly column for Brownstoner.com) features a pair of newly built townhouses near the Brooklyn waterfront. Designed by CWB Architects, one is a 3,800 square foot home for the property owner’s family (with the lighted garage door, above) — and right next door, a slightly larger building with three rental apartments to pay for it!

I like their straightforward design and how unobtrusively they meld with the context of the street. Not to mention the fabulous roof deck, below.

Click here to see the interior, which is big on Design Within Reach.

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THIS WEEK, “The Insider,” my Thursday interiors column for Brownstoner.com, visits out-of-the-way Red Hook, where a surprisingly open, bright, and modern interior hides behind a nondescript, vinyl-clad facade.

Architectural designer Elizabeth Roberts transformed the space, a formerly unfinished, unheated basement, to create a hip, modern home for Brandon Holley, the editor-in-chief of Lucky magazine, and her husband John Deley, a pianist and composer.

For many more photos and all the details, pop on over here.

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SPENT TIME IN RED HOOK, BROOKLYN, this weekend, and forgot to take pictures of the Statue of Liberty. Instead…

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…this beached boat reinvented as a planter…

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…new mural art cropping up everywhere…

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…families picnicking at Valentino Park…

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…development development development…

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…Coffey Street, unchanged since forever…

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…another mural and a glimpse of why Red Hook is often called ‘gritty’…

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…a sign that once had more letters…

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…cloud formations, a specialty of the neighborhood.

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M-Greenacre Park 2NEW YORK in 2011 is truly a great garden city. World-class, I’d venture to say. Yet, as Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry¬†point out in the newly revised edition of Garden Guide: New York City (W.W. Norton, $22.95), as recently as 10 years ago, people were puzzled to hear they were writing such a guide. Gardens in New York City? Really? Are there enough to fill a whole book?

<-Greenacre Park, East 51st Street

Irish Hunger D8Now there can be no doubt. In the past decade, there’s been a great flowering, if you will, of gardens and landscape installations all over the five boroughs. There are the obvious, most impressive recent ones, like Chelsea’s High Line — the conversion of rusty elevated rail line into a well-used planted park — and landscaping efforts at the Battery in lower Manhattan, where Dutch designer Piet Oudolf has brought a naturalistic new aesthetic to the riverfront.

High Line D11The book calls attention to gardens that have been around a long time, but that I’ll bet a lot of newish arrivals to the city (and maybe some oldish ones) don’t quite realize are there, including the attractive, well-maintained botanic gardens in Queens and at Snug Harbor in Staten Island, where they are interspersed among picturesque Greek Revival houses.

Even I, a NYC resident of 40+ years, just ‘discovered’ what the book calls “the crown jewel” of New York City gardens — the Conservatory Garden at 105th street and Fifth Avenue, six acres of romantic magnificence in all seasons — within the last few.

Irish Hunger Memorial, Battery Park City ->

<-High Line

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Conservatory Garden

Garden Guide: New York City covers more than 100 gardens open to the public, including the Lotus Garden on West 97th Stret, the only rooftop community garden in New York City; urban farms from the Bronx to Red Hook; and the small plots around such historic houses as the Morris-Jumel Mansion, the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, and the Mount Vernon Hotel on East 61st Street (formerly known as the Abigail Adams house).Noguchi Q5

Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum ->

Many of NYC’s gardens are concealed in some way — inside museums, hidden behind skyscrapers, up on rooftops. Probably none of us knows New York City’s gardens as well as we might. This chunky little guide feels good in the hand, fits neatly in the glove compartment, and insures that no weekend need pass without discovering some new-to-you refuge of green.


76959_12IF EVER THERE WAS A ‘BACK ROAD,’ it’s Starbarrack Road in Red Hook, N.Y., a little-traveled, winding two-laner with nothing on it but old houses and barns. In northern Dutchess County, heart of the Hudson Valley, Starbarrack Road is a hamlet unto itself; I’ve often driven it just for the pleasure of traveling back in time.

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Three old houses on Starbarrack Road have hit the market in recent weeks, including my favorite, #105, above and right. An 1820 Greek Revival on 4-3/4 acres, with Catskill views, a lovely pond, 3 fireplaces, wideboard floors, the “right” windows, and beamed ceilings on the lower floors, it’s been stylishly done up, and done up right (except for the vinyl siding, though some might argue that’s a good thing). Ask is 650K, which is rather a pretty penny for these parts, and taxes are high ($11,000/year). But it’s still wonderful. I would if I could. Go here for the listing and more pics.

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Then there’s #71, left, an 1850s Victorian farmhouse on 11 acres of former apple orchard. You got your wraparound porch, fireplace, yada yada, but the main attractions of this historic farm, “once owned by the Apple King of North America,” are several vintage outbuildings, including a stone summer kitchen/smoke house, and a couple of extraordinary barns, one English, one Dutch, both a faded aqua color. Because of those fabulous barns and the acreage, the ask is 895K, with taxes of $7,000 per year. Details and more pics are here.

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Registered Dutch barn, above; summer kitchen, below

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Finally, check out #30 Starbarrack, below, an 1890s Victorian on 10.7 acres with a serviceable 8-stall barn. Very attractive house, but nearer Rt. 9, not as secluded as the others — and within sight of several modern houses on bare plots. They’re asking 695K; taxes are $10,000. For the listing, click right here.

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Why the sudden exodus from Starbarrack Road, when it’s not even a good time to try and sell a big old house? Damned if I know, but it looks like a negotiating op there for those poised to take advantage.

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