The restoration of 1372 Dean was a passionate undertaking of understanding and preserving the old, while thoughtfully introducing the new. This remarkably conscientious and transparent process was executed at 1372 Dean in a way rarely seen in Brownstone Brooklyn development.
As a protected Landmarked building, the structure of the building and its exterior shape and features of the building had to be preserved and restored, including the brick facade, mansard roof, ornamental sheet metal trim, bay window, window openings, etc. to the standard of Landmarks Preservation.
In August 2014, the project was successfully presented before the commissioners and approved. Prior to the public hearing, the developers had to present the project before the Crown Heights community board. Familiar with the building and previous owner, they were very supportive of the project and its positive impact on the neighborhood.
The demolition of the top floor ceilings yielded a hidden treasure - the original framing of the turret cone, a 12ft high, coned-shape cavity. The master bedroom of the penthouse apartment currently enjoys this inexplicably dramatic feature.
For the turret windows, removing the old frames back to the brick openings exposed that the original wood sills were curved. Landmarks confirmed that this was evidence that the original windows of the turret were curved glass windows. That was good news and bad news: curved glass windows are rare architectural elements that can have a magical effect on a facade, however, unlike in the old world, fabricating them today requires craftsmanship that only a handful of manufacturers in the country can do. They are therefore extremely costly. Sparing no expense, the developers had to go all the way to Wisconsin to find a specialist in historic replicas who could make the curved glass windows and Mahogany frames for them. It took 5 months. The building now features spaces with incredible natural light and multiple exposures.
One of the most impressive features of 1372 Dean is the interior woodwork.
When traveling to Belize in Central America, the developers came across an interesting story of reclaimed hardwood: the Belizean Sinker Mahogany. Many decades ago, loggers of these impressive trees used to transport the logs through the rivers into the ports. Some logs inevitably sunk to the bottom of the rivers and stayed there untouched. Over 100 years later, a local group of Belizeans started to look for those sunken logs and pulled them from the bottom of the rivers with their small boats. Those Mahogany logs were like time-capsules - they were not only preserved in the water, but their texture, grain pattern and color became much more vibrant and unique than any other contemporary trees of their kind. At 1372 Dean, this wood is found in bathroom niches, benches, and shelves.
Prime quality walnut was selected for the hardwood flooring. The walnut logs were milled into boards at the yard just a few days after the developers hand selected them. There is no comparison to the regular walnut flooring that one can find in the market.
Many of the truly unique light fixtures throughout the house were purchased from a Brooklyn-based lighting store. The developers were drawn to iron-made fixtures, crafted by local artists, which complimented the age of the castle-look of the building.
Another great discovery was the condition of the exterior brick of the two chimneys. The original deep red brick was covered with a layer of cement, which was then carefully removed and re-pointed to expose the chimneys in their entirety. The two restored chimneys add beauty to the side yard of Unit A, while directional lights illuminate them at night, allowing a view of the building depth from the street.
In addition, the original interior arched brick wall at the garden level has been completely exposed and restored in a similar process, providing an old-new contrast feature to Unit A.
The restoration of the original bay window at the side of the building was an adventure in time-travel. Back in the day, those elaborate bay windows were made of thick sheet metal, and were fabricated as off-the-shelf products in factories that used heavy-duty press machines to bend the metal. Those machines are rarely found today. Being in poor condition, the bay window at 1372 Dean needed to be restored and sections of it had to be replicated. Landmarks would not allow wood or other substitute material and after visiting dozens of sheet metal shops the developers found the one that had the skill and the specific equipment to bend and recreate the exact ornamental profile.
In order to restore the original slate shingles at the mansard roof and turret as well as the sheet metal curved ornamental trim, the developers used both a scaffold and a cherry picker. Damaged slate tiles were replaced with salvaged ones, sheet metal trim along the building were scraped, patched and painted, and curved gutters were waterproofed and pitched properly.
There are four staircases featured in the building, each uniquely designed and fully custom built. All are made of the same two repeating elements: black painted iron and solid slabs of walnut, to echo old castle historic materials. Yet each stair offers a very distinctive structure: 'Waterfall' for the main stair, 'Floating spiral' in Unit A, 'Floating harp' in Unit B, and 'Square spiral' in Unit D.
The design chosen for the rear and side yards, called 'basket weave' was meant to provide the necessary privacy but in an airy and fun way, by using thin strips of white oak interweaved like a basket. It's one-of-a-kind.