Tour a Modern Renovation of a Former Navy Boardinghouse

A once-abandoned Boerum Hill building got stripped down to its bones and built back up again.

Photo: Fran Parente
Photo: Fran Parente

“We were only looking at severe rehabilitation — we didn’t want to pay for someone else’s taste,” says Mitchell Wasser of the house search he and his wife, Samantha, recently undertook. The couple — Mitchell runs leasing and marketing at real-estate firm Metro Loft, and Samantha is the president and co-founder of the vegan-restaurant chain By Chloe — found just the fixer-upper in Boerum Hill: a Federal-style brick building built in 1920 that was used as a boardinghouse for Navy veterans after World War II. The house had been sitting vacant for five years when the Wassers got to it. “The reason I knew it was the one was that it was an entirely blank slate for us to work with,” Mitchell says.

Designers Ariel Ashe and Reinaldo Leandro, of Ashe + Leandro, as well as Mercer Street Restoration, came onboard for the 20-month renovation, which spared nothing save the outer brick walls, which now sport a coat of white-painted stucco and have new windows and an original marble fireplace. The architects added an extra floor, plus a large roof deck where the Wassers do yoga, entertain guests, and cool off under a portable outdoor shower. Throughout the space, Ashe and Leandro tried to strike a balance between sophistication and comfort, with arched entryways, splashes of geometric tiles, and lots of vintage Moroccan carpets. And when Samantha thought a formal dining room might come off as too stuffy, the designers placed the eating area between the living room and the kitchen, which was inspired by the blue of Monet’s kitchen in Giverny.

*A version of this article appears in the June 26, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.

The New Façade Mercer Street Restoration worked with Ashe + Leandro on the 20-month gut renovation of the house. The project called for a new finish for the original brick façade, in white painted stucco, a new staircase for the entrance, and a custom-design iron fence to replace the original chain-link fence on the property. Photo: Fran Parente
The Rooftop Deck The space — designed by Ashe + Leandro — features custom floor cushions covered in fabric from Perennials. The landscaping was done by Brook Landscape. The portable shower is by Seletti. Photo: Fran Parente
The Rooftop Deck The wood table is from Restoration Hardware, and the chairs are vintage. Photo: Fran Parente
The Rooftop Bathroom Custom tiles from Clé Tile cover the floor and walls; the hunter-green bathtub is from Victoria + Albert. Photo: Fran Parente
The Top Floor This is Samantha’s designated hang-out space, which she calls “the pink room.” The tile floor continues on the outdoor deck. Photo: Fran Parente
The Guest Room It’s swathed in floral fabric and wall coverings from House of Hackney. Photo: Fran Parente
Master Bathroom Honed statuary marble tiles cover the walls of the airy master bathroom. The bathtub is from Victoria + Albert and Dirk Auferoth & Associates made the custom vanity. Rohl supplied the plumbing fixtures. Photo: Fran Parente
The Living Room The custom armchairs are upholstered with fabric from Stark; the Utrecht-style sofa is by Ashe + Leandro. The carpet is also Ashe + Leandro for Merida. Photo: Fran Parente
The Kitchen “Samantha is in the restaurant business, so the kitchen was very important to her,” Leandro says. The Lacanche stove is nestled between cabinets from Timeless Design Center, and a Made a Mano tile backsplash decorates the wall. The terra-cotta floor tiles came from Exquisite Surfaces, and wood beams were added to the raised ceiling. Photo: Fran Parente
A View into the Kitchen From the Dining Area The dining table is from Cassina, and the chairs are vintage. Photo: Fran Parente
A View From Dining Area Toward Living Room The Wassers want a relaxed home, for a relaxed lifestyle, so Ashe and Leandro made a conscious decision to set up a dining table on the open parlor floor between the kitchen and the living room, rather than to build a separate, formal dining room. Photo: Fran Parente
The Wall Art and Sconces By Dining Table The vintage scroll was found on 1stdibs, and the pair of wall sconces is from Apparatus Studio. Photo: Fran Parente
The Media Room “We dug down two and a half feet underground to create added height to the room,” owner Mitchell says. It’s decorated with a vintage Moroccan carpet and a coffee table by Rob Pluhowski. The Restoration Hardware sofa is covered in a striped design from Perennials. Photo: Fran Parente
Tour a Modern Renovation of a Former Navy Boardinghouse