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One Big Happy Family? Separating the owner's duplex from the garden apartment.


Our building has a few interesting challenges that we need to solve as we complete the design. We’ve been working on one situation and we have some ideas but we haven‘t fully decided how to resolve it yet. Our building is configured as a garden level 1-bedroom rental and a parlor/topfloor duplex. The garden level entrance under the stoop opens up into a common hallway with a staircase that goes up to the parlor level. The one bedroom apartment is self contained and there is a door off the common hallway. The issue is that if our future tenant climbs the stairs from the common area they will be in our duplex apartment. So a wall has to be built. We’re trying decide where.

Beautiful Brownstone view from the garden apartment main entrance

We’re not excited about building a wall. We want it to be the least intrusive to the space as possible and for it to seem like it belongs there. There are also some really nice original details on the bannister and stairs that we would potentially lose with some of the options. Closing the stairs up all together is also not an option because we could still like access to the basement where we will have the laundry. We’re hoping some of you may have had a similar problem that you’ve already solved or may just have some great ideas!


The hallway from the duplex level that needs to be configured

OPTION A- Build the wall on the parlor level under main stairs. With this option the wall would be on our level. We could extend the Wall down from the bottom of the staircase to the floor so that you can see into the stair well that goes to the parlor level. There would be a door at the top of the stairs. We think this option could look like it belong there, especially if we match the moldings and woodwork that is on the bottom of the stairs. It also has the advantage of hiding what would be a dark staircase to closed door. If we chose option B the drawback is that we are closing in space on the duplex level. We would also lose some nice detailing and we would need to remove the bannister railing that separates the parlor hallway from the stairs below.



OPTION B- Build the along the garden level stairs. This option would put the wall on the garden level. We could keep the openness in the duplex stairwell and entry. We could also keep the parlor level details and bannister in tact. The drawback is that the lower stairs that would be visible from the parlor hallway would be closed in and lead to a closed and locked door. It has the potential to be dark unless we figured out a way to cleverly light it. We would also need to completely remove the bannister from the lower stairs. Instead there would be a wall with a simple handrail.

Thinking of extending the wall to where the stairs are

OPTION C- Build a wall at the garden level entrance. This option would be nice as it wouldn’t require us to alter the stairs or bannister at all. We could just build a wall in the garden level common hallway that would separate the stairs from the part of the hallway that rhe tenants have access to. So far we have not been able to figure out how to do this without further reconfiguring the garden apartment. The current door is too far back to be able to build a wall in a place that makes sense.



The hallway view from the garden apartment

Options A & B seem to be the most viable options. We aren’t particularly excited about either of them but we need to separate the apartments. Are there options that we haven’t thought of? Or should we go with one of the ideas we have? Let us know what you think!

Options A & B seem to be the most viable options. We aren’t particularly excited about either of them but we need to separate the apartments. Are there options that we haven’t thought of? Or should we go with one of the ideas we have? Let us know what you think!


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