It may be the newest construction on the block, but for a bit of history in this Williamsburg townhouse, just look down. The floors are reclaimed wood from the iconic Domino Sugar Refinery. Built in 1882, the refinery once processed half of the nation’s sugar.
In 2014, it began to come down, as developers reconfigured the refinery into a retail and residential space. “Every year, we review hundreds of demolition projects around North America, from take-downs of industrial buildings, barns, rooftop water tanks and everything in between,” says Jamie Hammel, president of The Hudson Company. “We were lucky to get access to reclaim much of the heart pine wood from the Domino Sugar Refinery’s interior.”
The flooring throughout the four-floor, single family home is reclaimed pine, white washed and sealed with a matte finish. “Heart pine is ultra-durable, but it will show a natural patina of wear over time, which is also charming,” Hammel says. Beams from the refinery were milled down and recently installed. Wheelhouse, a boutique development firm that oversaw the construction of the townhouse, was thrilled to add a dose of history into an otherwise new home.
The team behind wanted the space to feel continuous so using different woods on different floors was out of the question. Hammel suggested mixing up the patterns: The bedrooms and bathrooms feature straight planks, while the more social spaces like the living room, dining area and open kitchen have a herringbone pattern. “The best way to use herringbone is as an accent,” Hammel says. “You’ll most often find herringbone in entryways, dining rooms, billiard rooms and the like — it’s a great way to make a statement.”
But the floors aren’t the only eye-catching wood in the home. The owner commissioned Henrybuilt to do the kitchen, wet bars, bathrooms, and closets. Henrybuilt does dozens of luxury New York townhouses each year, merging classic design elements with modern convenience. “Visually, the goal was classically modern, timeless, impeccably executed and ‘human’— not a glossy spaceship dropped into the house,” says Henrybuilt Vice President Chris Barriatua.
There was no “wedding cake plaster,” as Barriatua calls the Victorian era design detail that remains in many New York townhouses; instead, the owner wanted something with a more mid-century feel. “This house has those amazing wood floors, so we knew that doing wood everywhere in the kitchen would be way too much,” Barriatua says.
The kitchen Henrybuilt came up with uses a mix of black walnut, solid acrylic, two types of steel, anodized aluminum and high-pressure laminate. The latter was used to create fronts on the walnut kitchen cabinets. “We repurposed a classic utility material in a way that feels (the right kind of) luxurious, but not at all fussy. Like good denim,” he says.
All of the systems they built, from the wet bars to bathrooms, are done in walnut, which had the mid-century feel the team at Wheelhouse sought. But Barriatua is very careful when it comes to selecting the walnut itself. “Well, there’s walnut and then there’s walnut,” he says, adding, “A big part of what makes it work so well in this house is the way it’s treated. The panels are laid-up by hand, with a careful blend of plain-sawn pieces to give more of an organic feel and quarter-sawn to balance out the activity of that grain. So you get something that has more warmth and feels natural, but is actually very carefully controlled in terms of the overall look and feel.”
As with any such systems, the details matter: The wet bars have under-counter refrigeration and deep drawers that could house a popcorn maker or a whiskey collection; the dressing room has leather lined bays and integrated charging systems beneath solid wood trays. As Barriatua sees it, “the owner took those few extra steps to create true luxury. Luxury isn’t about how many ovens you have, it’s about things that improve your life every day and finding the people who can show you what those things are before you ask for them.”
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