“That was the motivation for doing the renovation,” says Goldblum, a partner at Manhattan architectural firm The Building Studio LLP, of the family’s 1939, two-story, three bedroom home in Riverdale. “We were living comfortably, sharing one bathroom. But my daughter, like all girls her age, needed a bathroom where she could spend hours at a time looking at the mirror.”
The pre-refurbished house also had a cramped feeling, tighter than cozy. “In the old dining room, we couldn’t really seat more than four people at a time,” Goldblum says.
“And the kids would eat picnic style on the floor,” Ann, a social worker, adds.
As a result, Goldblum sharpened his pencils and got to work on a redesign of the house that swelled the footprint from 1,700 to 2,900 square feet, complete with four baths on three floors. The renovation took about 10 months, and was finished in March of 2008. The refurbished house earned New York City’s first residential LEED certification for a private single-family home.
The married couple spends most of their time in the kitchen and dining room. Goldblum opens a kitchen drawer full of tea boxes while Rauch boils water. The room is filled with sunlight. The house is Zen-like and simple, with much attention to details and no cluttering knick-knacks. Photos and art are neatly framed. One black and white image—a “band picture”—shows a young Goldblum in the 1980s. Vases and curios are thoughtfully placed, two or three at a time—and most items are small, fitting snugly into nooks and shelves.
The kitchen floor is bamboo, sturdy and hard. Cabinets shine white and marry well with stainless steel-finished appliances. Despite the starkness, the kitchen, as well as the rest of the house, is as warm as the tea served in it.
Goldblum sourced sustainable, local, and reclaimed items whenever possible. The most local material is rock quarried from the property. Excess bricks found on the property during the excavation were also used. As a result, the house features a façade of flagstone schist and brick, which echo other homes in the upscale neighborhood. It doesn’t get any more local than that.
What makes the home special from a green perspective is that most LEED buildings are newly constructed. Goldblum says despite that trend, he pushed on with the green renovation because he believes in reusing and reclaiming materials.
Take the mahogany doors, on one of the bathrooms and in the library/office. “One of my clients on the Upper West Side had these doors, and it was not part of the plan, so I asked if I could have them, and they said sure,” Goldblum explains. The door frame openings were customized to fit the reclaimed doors.
The slate on the roof was also reused: Goldblum salvaged the stone from another site. He also used reclaimed wood for trim, which came from church pews. Bath tiles are made from recycled glass. The building materials are free of formaldehyde and other chemicals.
“It is unusual because the [LEED] standard is for new homes, which is, in a way, perverse,” Goldblum says. “Isn’t it more green to just reuse what you have?”
Goldblum says the LEED certification system needs to be tweaked to make the process easier. Changes coming this month [March] involve a two-tier certification system, which is going to be “immensely baroque and complex,” Goldblum says, adding that the process “is well-intentioned, though.”
The renovation is a work in progress; there are little things to do, interior touch-ups here and there, the couple says, but the big work is done. Rauch says the difference between the old house and the new is like night and day. “We had been using appliances that were from the 1960s,” Rauch shyly admits while Goldblum chimes in that having working appliances “is a thrill.”
Natural light is abundant throughout the house. From a passive solar, solid-roof sun room (formerly the porch) to large windows and skylights, sunlight fills every room. “Before the renovation, the house was very, very dark,” Rauch says. “The old windows were small, so the difference now is tremendous.”
In the basement there’s an exercise room and a door leading to the gas boiler. Goldblum unveils the machine like a French chef uncovering roasted lamb tableside at a soiree. “We are very proud of our boiler,” he says. “It’s a Dunkirk, a full-modulating, condensing, gas boiler that is whisper quiet and super efficient.”
Is there a favorite room? Hard to tell, the couple says. The kitchen is one. They spend most of their time there, entertaining often. A lot of time is spent relaxing in the living room, which is furnished with vintage sofas and chairs from the 1960s.
For the children’s parts, Emma, 14, and Nathaniel, 11, offered input in the designs of their upstairs rooms. For Nathaniel, a thin shelf runs along most of the room to hold trinkets, trophies and other stuff. From the ceiling hangs a hammock chair where Goldblum says Nathaniel spends most of his time. Emma’s room features a new bay window and a large closet. A pile of Teen Vogues, drawings, and a half-size design mannequin are clues to her passion for fashion. The couple’s bedroom and an office for Rauch are on the third floor.
Goldblum says there was a design challenge to “make the house as open as possible while keeping it in tune with the existing houses in the neighborhood. I didn’t want it too aggressive. Had it been in another location, or a completely new thing, I would have done it differently.”
Subsequently, Goldblum’s renovated design fits perfectly in the closely knit neighborhood and with the existing topography.
“I think the whole family would agree that the [renovated] house came out well,” Goldblum says. “It is well lit and comfortable.”
- Heating System: Dunkirk gas boiler dunkirk.com
- Architect: Michael Goldblum, AIA Partner, The Building Studio thebuildingstudio.com
- Lead Contractor: Michael Goldblum
- LEED Consultant: Steven Winter Associates Inc. swinter.com
- Materials Used: Recycled rubber, bamboo, site-cut schist, reclaimed finished mahogany, slate, low-volatile organic compound paints, and other materials.
- Appliances: Electrolux Icon Energy Star electroluxappliances.com
- Microwave: Sharp sharpusa.com
- Low-Flow Shower Heads and Faucets:Grohe groheamerica.com
- Low-Flow Kitchen Faucet: Chicago chicagofaucets.com
- Dual-Flush Toilets: Toto totousa.com
- Double-Pane, Low-e wood windows: Bonneville windows-doors-bonneville.com