Radical Reno in Fort Greene

THIS IS the big BKLYN DESIGNS weekend, spread over three venues in DUMBO, when Brooklyn shows the world it’s an epicenter of furniture-making talent. In seven years, the show has grown from 30 to over 70 exhibitors, drawing on the boom (even in bust times) in Brooklyn home improvement, whether restored brownstones, raw lofts, or luxury condos.

Part of this year’s festivities is a house tour curated by Dwell magazine on Saturday May 9 from 11-5 (full details below). It’s a self-guided tour of five cutting-edge contemporary homes that “exemplify an aesthetic in home design that is modern, idea-driven, and sensitive to social and physical surroundings.

To me as an old-house fanatic, the most intriguing is the Slot House, so called because homeowners Margarita McGrath and Scott Oliver of noroof Architects cut a “slot” into the façade to make an existing 60-foot-tall maple tree in the front yard a visual part of the interior.


Inside the Slot House, one of 5 stops on tomorrow’s house tour curated by Dwell magazine

Talk about radical transformation. The 1,000 square foot house, located outside Fort Greene’s landmark district on a block of many brick and vinyl-clad homes, may be 200 years old, but little of the original remains except for its general size and shape. “The block is less formal than the brownstone streets to the south,” says Oliver. “This afforded us the freedom to do what we did.”



Oliver and McGrath did an extensive gut renovation, resulting in open, vertical, loft-like space that reveals the archaeology of the original structure, carefully stripped to bare bones.

First they boldly cut the slot in the facade to allow the tree to be seen from inside. This revealed a cedar frame infilled with handmade brick underneath the sheetrock and vinyl siding. They replaced sections of the wood flooring with slotted metal grills, allowing light to filter down to the floors below.



Much like a boat, the homeowner/architects edited the space to capitalize on the limited square footage. A sleeping space is stowed in the kitchen, accessible by a sliding grill that acts as both a ladder and a window grate. The dining table, made of hollow core doors, is vertically mounted along a wall and folds out as needed.

The 200 square foot roof deck is a quick escape if things ever start to feel cramped inside.

Color photos: Chuck Choi

[+] More Images of the Slot House


When:               Saturday May 9, 2009 from 11am – 5pm

Where:              Tour starts at the BKLYN DESIGNS ticket office of St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water Street

How Much:      Tickets are $40 each purchased in advance online and $50 at the door. For more information or to purchase online go here. Includes admission to BKLYN DESIGNS and the Friday Night Launch Party presented by Dwell.

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
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