Narrow house

The Insider: Tiny Cobble Hill Mews House Gets Sleek Upscale Treatment In Major Revamp

Just because a home is tiny doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish, as this 11-foot-wide boat-shaped townhouse shows. The historic three-storey house has been selectively gutted and completely transformed, with both solo living and entertaining in mind, by Gowanus-based Elizabeth Roberts Architects (ERA) into a home base for a California professional who regularly travels to New York. for work.

Before the renovation, the house was habitable, but in poor condition. Most of the original details are long gone. The bathrooms and kitchen were hopelessly outdated, and major mechanical upgrades and new flooring were needed throughout. Few of the existing windows were salvageable.

ERA removed partitions, doors and closets to open up floor plans and redesign the layout. Old doors, hardware, appliances, plumbing fixtures and lighting were donated to Big Reuse, Habitat for Humanity and similar recycling organizations.

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Although narrow, the house has high ceilings over the living room and second levels which make it more graceful than one might expect. The living room floor (top photo) is designed to look like one large room with different zones. A new joinery unit dividing the front and rear lounges is opposite the staircase descending to the garden level; it houses a mini-bar with a refrigerator and the necessary storage space. A pair of vintage Danish lounge chairs flank either side of the new built-in, tying the spaces together.

The aft saloon has a living room feel, with a custom sofa by Jason Miller for The Future Perfect and a circular wood slat coffee table by Essasso. ERA has carefully reviewed all new furniture for beauty and function, as well as sensitivity to scale. The pieces are substantial enough to be comfortable, yet light enough to let the small space feel open and airy.

A new parquet floor in smoked oak has been installed in straight planks on the garden and on the second floor, in herringbone on the level of the living room.

outdoor warren mews

The house is located in the Warren Place Mews, an 1870s enclave of Gothic-style brick cottages around a landscaped courtyard commissioned by the housing reformer and philanthropist Alfred Tredway White.

interior entrance

The forward lounge is more of a nook, elevated with a custom rattan daybed designed by ERA in conjunction with Atelier Vime.

dinner table


The garden level dining area, with a built-in bench, vintage Danish chairs that fold up for storage and an adjustable suspension by Franco Albini, can be reconfigured for solo or group dining.

The painting is from Black Creek Mercantile and Trading Co.


In the dining room, ERA designed a raised cooking fireplace with wood storage below.

interior staircase and kitchen

interior staircase and bathroom

The old partitions, doors and a fireplace on the garden level have been removed or moved to allow a more generous kitchen area with worktops on both sides.



Compact equipment and careful space planning allowed for a pantry and additional concealed storage.

The custom kitchen cabinets are painted in Benjamin Moore Mediterranean Teal. The scale is from Lacanche.


The existing staircase structure remains, with new treads and risers, as well as a new handrail and spindles in a historically appropriate style.

ERA worked closely with a plasterer to soften the frame of the staircase so that it transitions smoothly into the ceiling at the living room level.



The top floor has been gutted to make way for a generous master bedroom and bathroom.

In the bedroom, an existing fireplace has been replaced with bespoke joinery. Next to the bed, a custom side table doubles as a desk.

The Marilyn caned bed came from Radnor, a furniture maker and retailer in Gowanus; the wall lamp is by Lumfardo, based in Los Angeles.



A Savoy clawfoot tub by Waterworks, a Water Monopoly sink with Samuel Heath faucet, a ceiling light by Finnish mid-century designer Lisa Johansson-Pape and vintage 1950s sconces furnish the bathroom, with Clé tiles forming jazzy stripes on the wall and floor.

[Photos by Matthew Williams]

The insider is Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a remarkable interior design/renovation project, by a design journalist Cara Greenberg. Find him here every Thursday morning.

You have a project to propose for The insider? Please contact Cara at caramia447 [at] gmail [dot] com

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