Brooklyn Brownstone Illustration

Well, after writing yesterday’s post, I realized that some of my visitors are not from the United States and might be puzzled by my reference to a “floor-through.” Many of the townhouses in New York were built during the same two or three decades towards the end of the nineteenth century. Frequently, the facades were covered with a brown sandstone, known as brownstone, although many were brick or limestone. Being town houses, they share a wall with an adjacent building. Brownstones, when they are single family homes, can be very spacious and elegant, however I almost never see them in that way except in movies. When I see them in movies, I have to laugh. If you want to buy one, expect to pay upwards of two million. So last night, I started making a model of a typical New York townhouse. The are many variations, but a surprisingly large number are laid out in a similar fashion.

A 3d computer model of a brownstone. The facade viewed from the street.

This is how the facade appears from the street. Many of the buildings have a large flight of front steps, or stoop. The height allows a second door to be put underneath. The lower floor has decent sized windows and is called the “ground” floor. There is typically a basement beneath it.

A view of one side of the model with the exerior side wall removed revealing the staircase.

The floor above the ground floor is called the parlor floor. Frequently, it has higher ceilings and more elaborate decorations than the rest of the house.

The model with the facade and the other of the two sides removed.

Here you can see the layout of the rooms. Each floor has a central room with no windows.

This view of the top floor with the roof removed gives you a good idea of the floor plan.

This view of the top floor with the roof removed gives you a good idea of the floor plan.

Most of these buildings are no longer single family home and have since been divided into apartments. There are many ways of doing that, but the most common way is to simply make each floor its own apartment. That is called a floor-through.

Pardon my model making skills. It’s the first time I’ve tried this and I’m not up to materials, textures and lighting yet.

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10 comments
  1. And it’s not only your readers from outside the US who have no idea about a floor-through. lol

  2. GREAT JOB!!!! I knew what you meant and want to move to ParkSlope in a Brownstone right after I win the Lottery !

    • fojap said:

      For me, it wouldn’t be Park Slope, it’d be Park Avenue…
      “I just adore a penthouse view…”

  3. Thank you for laying bare the anatomy of a Brooklyn brownstone. Have been thinking of a story based in New York. This information on architecture will help.

    • fojap said:

      I replied to your comment below. (Hit the wrong button as usual.)

  4. fojap said:

    I live in New York City for most of my adult life, although I’ve lived in Baltimore for about two or three years now. I also have a fascination with architecture, so, if I can be any help, let me know.

    I was doing this in part for an animation I hope to do eventually. I’ve continued to work on it an I’ve been putting in the details. I don’t expect it to be done anytime soon.

  5. I may indeed call upon you for more info on architecture once I have the outline of my story going in my head. Have always dreamed of living in New York, but have never realized the dream. Closest I have come is 5 years in Buffalo (don’t laugh, I’m sensitive about Buffalo), 3 years in Burlington, VT, and 2 years in Syracuse.

    Speaking of pushing the wrong buttons, I can relate. Have been doing that (unwittingly) all my life, be they the ones on computer screens, remote controls, doorbells, or the invisible but highly sensitive ones on people.

    • fojap said:

      Well, I’m not one to laugh at Buffalo since I’m living in Baltimore. The best I can say about Baltimore is at least it’s not as bad as its reputation.

      • Well, neither (in my biased opinion) is Buffalo.
        Have been to Baltimore once. Being a mere tourist, saw only the Inner Harbor, and being a true tourist, liked it.

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