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A Glendale House With a Bright-Red Staircase

Charlie Gower built a new staircase and then painted it red, inspired by a friend’s house. Photo: Interiors by Kat

In 2016, when Charlie Gower bought a two-story rowhouse in Glendale, on the border of Ridgewood, he was working full-time as a designer for a software company — a job that forced him to think about how users make sense of digital interfaces. He started to think of his house the same way: If someone walked in, would they know where the spices were? Instead of losing track of cans in a deep cupboard, what about displaying them, label-out, on a shallow shelf? “I’m constantly looking at something and saying, ‘How could it be better?’ So the house is terrible for me because I spend all my time fixing little bits.”

Gower bought from a family that had lived in the home for years. He ripped up carpets, tore down vinyl siding, and dug up a concrete yard. Then he built the place up. Shelves in the living room are now sized to fit his massive collection of vinyl records and books. He conceived the kitchen as a “workshop” for cooking, where storage is open and the cement tiles are built to withstand wear. On the second floor, he replaced an old skylight to let in more light and painted old boards — preserving their character while giving them another coat of protection. COVID lockdowns gave him more time to focus on the garden, adding a raised patio, trellis, a deck, and a lawn that he hand-seeded, “which I’m not going to do again.” Lockdown also gave him time to focus on the home’s central feature: a staircase, which he painted red. “It turns the stairs into a bit of an accent, as opposed to being only a functional thing.”

Photo: Interiors by Kat

If Gower was starting to talk like an artist, that was because the house had pushed him to become one. He had spent years finessing construction skills only to become frustrated by the parameters of practical building. Now, he’s embarking on a new career as a sculptor, and is selling to move to Portugal, where a lower cost of living will help him start out.

When the agent Erin Pastrana showed up to help him sell, she was in shock. She had sold the home to him back in 2016 and could remember what it looked like. “I knew he worked with wood, but when I came into the house, I was like, ‘Damn! You built this?’” Pastrana says that Gower’s artistic renovation makes the home an anomaly for an area where most families stay for decades, making a few piecemeal upgrades. “The level of renovation done and the personalized renovation is very rare,” she said. “It’s thoughtful. He was just upgrading during COVID as he lived his life.”

Charlie Gower built shelving in the living room to fit his collection of vinyl records, books, and trinkets. By the door, a shelf can hold plants or keys. Photo: Interiors by Kat
Photo: Interiors by Kat
The dining room is big enough to hold dinner for eight. Gower built radiator covers and installed new wood floors. Photo: Interiors by Kat
Gower has spent time in Spain’s Balearic islands and in Mexico, where cement tiles are more popular. Photo: Interiors by Kat
In the kitchen, where he added practical touches: a butcher-block counter, farmhouse sink, and shelves sized for Mason jars that hold his spices. Photo: Interiors by Kat
He had help finishing the basement, where he added a second bathroom. The lowest floor served as his work area as he finished the rest of the home. Photo: Interiors by Kat
The yard was covered with cement when Gower arrived in 2016. He dug it up, adding a deck, a raised back patio, a storage area, and a trellis. Photo: Interiors by Kat
When Gower arrived, the skylight was mottled and the floor was worn thin, and it needed to be strengthened or replaced. He wanted to preserve the character of the boards, so painted them a dark blue-black. He put in a new skylight to let in more light. Photo: Interiors by Kat
The bow windows of the primary bedroom face over 68th Street. Photo: Interiors by Kat
A second bedroom is at the center of the second floor, with a window that looks toward the backyard. Photo: Interiors by Kat
A third bedroom looks over the backyard. Photo: Interiors by Kat
A Glendale House With a Bright-Red Staircase