The Prism House – Brooklyn, NY

Prism House: a standalone home on a sunny corner lot in Brooklyn, New York.

The design was inspired by a prism, how it simultaneously disperses a beam of light and separates the light passing through into different colors. With 24 windows and 2 skylights, the home is light and bright, and sun soaked. The main living spaces were kept white, allowing sunlight to bounce off the walls and ceilings before refracting into a myriad of bright pops of color found in the furnishings and artwork. Ancillary rooms were saturated with color, creating a compelling counterpoint to the main living spaces.


Tessa – The circumstances surrounding the purchase of this property were a bit unique with very limited access to the home prior to closing, so once we started pulling it apart, there were alot of surprises, most of which weren’t good. There were layers upon layers of carpet (we found 16 different kinds!), but beneath all of the shag we found two rooms of beautiful original oak parquet flooring that we were able to refinish. The original ceilings weren’t visible, hidden above a suspended acoustical ceiling tile system, so we didn’t get a good look at them until we tackled a pile of trash left on the roof. At the bottom of the pile, we found, wrapped in a plastic tarp, an old patio dining table (think stippled glass, you know the type!) that had been turned upside down and was being used to cover a hole where a skylight should have been.  The skylight is above the hallway and stair and now fills that space with a tremendous amount of light, shining all the way down the stairs.


Tessa – I was so intent on removing all of the walls and opening up the entirety of the ground floor that I hadn’t solved for a coat closet by the time construction started. We had thought that the exterior walls were going to be thick enough to run all of the plumbing in, but once it started going in, we realized that we needed a chase passing through the ground floor to service the two bathrooms upstairs. I decided to use this as an opportunity to find a coat closet location. We positioned the chase next to the side door and ran the new wood flooring up the face of the wall, concealing the chase and creating a backdrop for oak coat hooks and shelving. The “closet” doesn’t have a door, remaining as true to the fully open floorplan as possible, and the treatment conceals the fact that there has been any space lost to the chase at all.

Zeb – The house, built over 100 years ago, has a steam heating system. The main trunk of the steam system runs the full length of the house, below the ceiling in the basement. The trunk was a lot wider and lower than we wanted it to be and seemed like it couldn’t possibly be any more in the way. We ended up building a 12″-thick wall around it that hid all of it. We used the thickness of the wall to recess low bookshelves on the library side of the wall and a high wood-clad niche that acts like a headboard on the back bedroom side of the wall. We embraced the thickness of the wall at the door openings, painting each one a different color that you experience as you walk through them.


Tessa/Zeb – The LEGO bricks are one of our favorite little details! When we exposed some of the original brick around the opening that leads to the powder room, we found that three of the original bricks were missing. Instead of replacing them with new brick, we made three decorative bricks out of LEGO. The LEGO bricks slide easily in and out of the openings and are hollow without tops, creating secret little boxes that are currently filled with a stash of Jolly Ranchers.


Tessa – The curves! The home itself is a big rectangle, the original architecture being all sharp lines and 90-degree angles. Since the home wasn’t originally blessed with any curves, we decided to incorporate a curve into each floor of the project, wanting to soften the architecture and introduce something unexpected. The curve on the upper level is in the primary bedroom, where it unwraps around a pop of contrasting color, revealing a built-in desk and shelving. The curve on the main level was incorporated into the kitchen millwork, where display shelves are carved into a curve while the closed lower cabinetry conceals bar space. The lower level received a concave curved wall that hugs a small seating area at the bottom of the stairs. On the exterior, plant beds were given radiused corners and a new door with a curved landing was cantilevered from the side of the building where a window was originally.


Zeb – Tessa had the idea to use a radiused white oak tambour as the kitchen backsplash and accent material, and she was both convinced and convincing! We started looking for a material source but kept striking out, finding it hard to locate a white oak tambour, in the radius we wanted, the lengths we needed, with the durability suitable for the intended use, that ALSO had a reasonable lead time and price point. We were spinning our wheels, getting frustrated and rapidly running out of time. Tessa pivoted and sourced a ceramic tile to use instead. We received the tile but she had already made me a believer in the tambour and I just couldn’t get excited about the tile or let the tambour go, so just like that, I was back on the hunt! I ended up finding a little woodcraft shop online that sold unfinished lengths of white oak dowels in the radius that we wanted. We ordered what felt like a million dowels, spliced each one down the middle, and stained and sealed them by hand, before installing them one by one. The process ultimately took much longer than we would have liked, but it was a fun project, the tambour feels really special and it ended up being one of our favorite moments in the house.

Bonus Tracks