One determined Brooklyn architect spent eight years proving that any idea can be reinvented — even one as classic as the New York brownstone.
Mark Applebaum, the Pratt Institute-trained owner of the design firm Radius, transformed a one-story Pacific Street auto repair shop into a modern, four-story standout amidst a sea of traditional brownstones.
But when he first bought the property at 377 Pacific St., between Hoyt and Bond streets, in 2000, changing the structure’s look wasn’t the top priority.
“The original idea was to buy the single story, build it up and then sell or rent the units,” Applebaum said. “But the project quickly became a labor or love, as opposed to merely an investment property.”
That’s because Applebaum quickly realized he had a blank canvas on his hands in the 25×90 garage. He began thinking about how he could bring the building into the 21st century without throwing off the look of the stately, brownstone-lined street.
Already juggling a full load of paying clients, Applebaum worked after hours, on the weekends and whenever else he could squeeze in time over the next seven years to complete the project, which he estimates would have taken only about a year and a half if he had actually hired his own firm.
The finished product blended both the traditional (the brick foundation of the old garage is still intact) and the innovative (the top three stories of the building are a mixture of glass, steel and wood).
“The wood and the brick really temper the stark aspects of the steel and glass, so the building blends in with the neighborhood despite being completely modern,” Applebaum said.
Inside, Applebaum used hidden storage and built-in furniture to create clean lines and uncluttered space, but also focused on keeping the rooms bright and open so the family would want to spend time in them.
The completed projected will be honored in July by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which annually recognizes constructions projects that stand out and make neighborhoods more unique. But Applebaum insisted the biggest reward for his years of work is simply the satisfaction of successfully turning his family’s dream home into a reality.
“I love that the living experience has played out exactly as we had envisioned it to while designing it years ago,” Applebaum said. “The house has become a terrific place to have friends and family gather and enjoy each other’s company. We’ve created a place that looks new and interesting but doesn’t feel cold or uncomfortable.”