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Japanese-influenced living room at Warren Street Townhouse

Studio Vural reinterprets Japanese interiors for Warren Street Townhouse

New York City architecture firm Studio Vural used Kyoto merchant houses as a reference point when renovating the interiors of this Brooklyn townhouse for a couple.

A trip to the Japanese city in 2009 left such an impact on the clients that Studio Vural decided to adapt and update elements of the traditional minimalist architecture for the interiors of the Warren Street Townhouse.

European oak cabinetry
The townhouse renovation involved adding plenty of storage using European oak

"Our design is the embodiment of an early memory our clients experienced as a young couple in Kyoto, an experience so powerful and authentic, that it found its way to a new reality in Brooklyn through our imagination," said studio founder Selim Vural.

The four-storey building was overhauled to create a rental apartment at the garden level, leaving the upper three floors for the clients to live in.

Breakfast nook
A dining nook was created at the back of the parlour level, behind the staircase

With a total of 3,200 square feet (300 square metres), the project involved reorganising rooms while bringing in contemporary renditions of traditional Japanese home features, such as a sunken hearth, folding and sliding screens, and undulating soffits.

"[We] studied Kyoto houses' serene interior emptiness, flow of asymmetrical spaces, rhythm of tatami mats and the placement of courtyards to make that interpretation possible," Vural said.

Breakfast nook with dining table
The nook is based on a recessed space in Japanese reception rooms known as a tokonoma

At parlour level, where the main entrance is located, the plan was opened up so the living and kitchen spaces flow together.

Exposed brick walls were painted white, creating a blank canvas onto which a variety of light-toned European oak elements were placed.

Living room facing front door
Traditional Japanese home features like a sunken hearth, folding and sliding screens, and undulating soffits were interpreted with a contemporary twist

The custom wooden furniture includes a window seat and a sofa. Both feature built-in storage, as well as a range of cabinets and shelves that run along one wall and incorporate a bar.

Oak boards wer also laid across the floor to create homogeneity throughout the open-plan space.

Staircase enclosed by slatted screen
The staircase is enclosed by wooden slats and incorporates limestone platforms for displaying objects

At the back of this level, the kitchen area is framed by a concrete-topped breakfast bar and includes a dining nook – based on a recessed space in Japanese reception rooms known as a tokonoma – tucked in behind the staircase.

The stairs are enclosed by slatted oak screens, and the first seven treads are widened thanks to beige limestone slabs that act as platforms for displaying objects.

Bedroom with oak headboard
The simple white and oak palette is continued in the bedrooms

Three bedrooms and two bathrooms can be found on the storey above, while a further two bedrooms and a bathroom are located on the top floor.

All of these rooms continue the same simple white and oak palette, and character is added by exposing the original wood ceiling beams.

The upper level also includes a lounge area, where the historic vertical columns are also made a feature.

Skylights were added to bring more natural light into the centre of the long, narrow space, which reaches the windowless hallway below through a glass panel in the floor.

Bathroom behind glass partition
A glass partition between the primary bedroom and bathroom helps the spaces to feel larger

"Our work at the Warren House Townhouse powerfully demonstrates architecture's capacity to cast distant memories into contemporary forms, revitalise historic typologies," said Vural. "It is a prime example of a historic building's rebirth for a new family in the history of Brooklyn."

Much of Brooklyn's townhouse stock has been bought up and renovated over the past few years, after homeowners jumped at the opportunity for extra space compared to nearby Manhattan.

Lounge with skylights
Sklylights bring natural light into a lounge on the upper level and down through a glass panel in the floor to a windowless hallway

Recently completed examples include a passive house that features a dramatic cedar screen and a project that took its architect owners 17 years to complete.

Studio Vural, which is based in the borough, has previously released images of a speculative off-grid house in the dunes of Cape Cod and a vision for a mixed-use Manhattan skyscraper covered with Asian lilies.

The photography is by Kate Glicksberg.

Project credits:

Principal architect: Selim Vural
Project architect: Rima Askin
Design team member: Angela Tsaveska
Interior design: Claire Hung Design
Engineering: Ilya Veldshteyn
Construction: David Nahm

More images and plans

Warren Street townhouse studio vural
Warren Street townhouse studio vural
Warren Street townhouse studio vural
Warren Street townhouse studio vural
Warren Street townhouse studio vural
Warren Street townhouse studio vural