In 2015, after the arrival of their first daughter, Josh and Debra Dean began looking to buy a home, as they were rapidly outgrowing their East Village rental. Their expectations seemed reasonable enough: They wanted a three-bedroom in Brooklyn, with outdoor space, for about $1.5 million.
As is often the case, expectations that would seem reasonable in other parts of the country proved unrealistic in New York.
“We were focused on Brooklyn, but weren’t too specific about what part: Park Slope, Red Hook, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Bed-Stuy,” said Ms. Dean, 36, a freelance advertising project manager.
But everything they saw was either tastefully renovated and beyond their budget — like a particularly stunning house in Red Hook on which they made an offer that was rejected — or in dire need of work they wouldn’t be able to afford after making a down payment.
At the urging of Mr. Dean’s brother, they halfheartedly agreed to look outside the city and found a listing for a midcentury-modern house in Hastings-on-Hudson, about half an hour north of Grand Central Terminal on Metro-North.
“We thought, let’s just go up for comparison’s sake,” Ms. Dean said. “We almost couldn’t be bothered.”
But when they arrived in the village, wound their way up a tree-lined hill to the house and saw its long view to the Hudson River, they quickly changed their minds.
“We pulled up and were like, ‘Wow,’” Ms. Dean said. “Then we got inside and were like, ‘Wow,’ again — for different reasons.”
The house was a wreck. Although the sellers were still living there, “it looked like demolition had already begun,” Ms. Dean said, with holes in the walls, missing sections of floor, exposed wires, bare plywood and leaky plumbing.
Nevertheless, with a vision of transforming it into a sleek cedar-and-glass modernist box, they offered the asking price of about $1.1 million, and closed in February 2016.
For a gut renovation and addition, they turned to Studio DB, a New York-based architecture firm run by the husband-and-wife partners Damian and Britt Zunino, after seeing a story about the house the Zuninos built for their own family in Amenia, N.Y.
The Deans liked Studio DB’s warm yet pared-down sensibility, and because the architects have four children, the Deans were confident their solutions “would be practical for us as a family,” said Mr. Dean, 36, the chief marketing officer at the underwear company Tommy John.
And as the project got underway, it began to seem fated: One of Studio DB’s designers was Kate Gray, who turned out to be the seller and designer of the Red Hook house the Deans had tried to buy.
“It was very serendipitous,” Ms. Dean said.
The plan for the renovation was “to make open, light-filled spaces,” Ms. Zunino said, using a palette of handsome, hard-wearing materials like white oak, concrete, quartzite and terrazzo. “We tried to think a few steps ahead, and thought about them having another baby, and having room for visiting relatives.”
The resulting design substantially changed the layout of the two-story house and added a new wing clad in composite concrete panels. Now the primary entrance is a glass vestibule with terrazzo floors. It connects to an open living, dining and kitchen area, where the interior walls and a dropped ceiling were removed. With floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over a steep lot, the airy home has the feeling of a treehouse.
Upstairs, Studio DB combined a hodgepodge of smaller spaces to create a generous master suite and a media room. Two additional bedrooms are above the garage in the addition; they are occupied by the couple’s daughters, Pearl, 2, and Ada, who was born in September.
Downstairs, there is a walkout basement with a playroom and a guest suite with a separate entrance.
The renovation, completed last March for about $450,000, provides everything the Deans were looking for in a new 3,800-square-foot home — except for a location in Brooklyn.
Do they miss living in the city?
“Not at all,” Ms. Dean said on a recent afternoon, as the late-day sun turned the sky orange over the Hudson. “On Sunday morning, when you’re sitting with your cup of coffee and looking out at that view, it’s hard to go, ‘Oh, I really miss that 40-minute wait at brunch.’”
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