Advertisement

NYC’s dazzling first ‘mass timber’ home sells for $7M

Mass timber.
Mass timber.

An 1870s Clinton Hill carriage house that was transformed into the city’s very first mass timber home has sold for $7 million — after hitting the market last November for $7.5 million.

The seller, Aaron Schiller, 39, was also the architect. Schiller, of Schiller Projects, and his wife, Planted Growing co-founder Anna Schiller, 38, bought the 21-foot-wide home at 329 Vanderbilt Ave., which is part of the Clinton Hill Historic District, for $2.75 million in 2018.

It originally asked $3.95 million in 2016. “At the time, I was looking for a home for my family and to put proof of concept down for what you could do with a historic renovation in New York City that was focused on maximizing carbon savings,” Schiller told Gimme Shelter. “I was looking to prove a point with something developers said you couldn’t do in New York. I was confident it could be done.”

The handsome exterior. Frank Frances of Art Department
The handsome exterior. Frank Frances of Art Department
The interior wows with a Douglas fir staircase and a 6½-foot Japanese maple tree. Frank Frances of Art Department
The interior wows with a Douglas fir staircase and a 6½-foot Japanese maple tree. Frank Frances of Art Department
A detail shot of the staircase. Frank Frances of Art Department
A detail shot of the staircase. Frank Frances of Art Department
The kitchen. Frank Frances of Art Department
The kitchen. Frank Frances of Art Department

While New York banned timber towers in the 19th century over fire concerns, Schiller, a Yale-educated architect, was part of an advisory group indirectly helping the city council make changes. By 2021, the New York City Council approved mass timber for buildings up to 85 feet high.

Glue-laminated timber is far better for the environment than steel and concrete — if the trees are sustainably harvested and disposed of responsibly at the “end of life.”

When those glue-laminated timber panels are bonded together with resin, they can be stronger than steel and concrete, and reduce construction time by 30% to 38%, said Schiller, who was a woodworker before he attended architecture school. But working with precisely cut new wood panels and an 1880s brick building that was laid by hand was challenging.

“Brick walls weave and bow and pitch. They are never straight,” Schiller said. “We had to do a lot of work to get the building ready. But once the panels arrived, we put up the whole new floor and roof in seven days, and we installed the stairs, with two carpenters, in four days.”

And while LEED-certified buildings are environmentally friendly, they don’t have an immediate climate change impact the way mass timber buildings do, Schiller says. The project was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission — from refurbishing the arched windowed brick facade to adding a top-floor main bedroom suite and a landscaped roof deck, with views of a Gothic cathedral next door.

The final result dazzles.

Plenty of space for having guests to come and dine in. Frank Frances of Art Department
Plenty of space for having guests to come and dine in. Frank Frances of Art Department
A home office space. Frank Frances of Art Department
A home office space. Frank Frances of Art Department
A view of the layout. Frank Frances of Art Department
A view of the layout. Frank Frances of Art Department

The home, flooded with natural light, is anchored by a Douglas fir staircase with a 6½-foot Japanese maple tree growing from an indoor atrium — planted in a 3-foot-deep soil pit. The three-bedroom, 3½-bath residence is 3,050 square feet. Highlights include a curb-cut garage that opens to the foyer.

“The prior owner used it as a defunct limousine garage. He was also a hoarder. It was quite the scene,” Schiller said.

Schiller’s design details included an open layout, high ceilings, arched windows, and sliding-glass doors framed by custom-cut wood from New Hampshire and fabricated at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There are also custom windows manufactured at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and floors made with recycled wood beams from the building’s original structure produced at Tri-Lox’s Brooklyn millwork facility.

The just-sold residence also has doors leading to outdoor space. Frank Frances of Art Department
The just-sold residence also has doors leading to outdoor space. Frank Frances of Art Department
The outdoor space even comes with an old world-style view. Frank Frances of Art Department
The outdoor space even comes with an old world-style view. Frank Frances of Art Department
An evening view inside the top-level bedroom. Frank Frances of Art Department
An evening view inside the top-level bedroom. Frank Frances of Art Department

The home is anchored by an open, eat-in kitchen chef’s kitchen/dining area with a breakfast bar and a 10-person dining table. Sliding kitchen doors open to the landscaped backyard. Inside, the minimalist stairs — built with concealed hardware and slatted wood — echo the mass timber ceilings and recycled wood floors. A second floor features two bedrooms overlooking the garden, oversize windows, original brick walls and a large skylight. The new third floor is the floor-through primary bedroom suite. It features a sunken indoor sitting area, a large dressing room, a spa-like ensuite bath and opens to a 350-square-foot planted roof deck.

The buyer is a Las Vegas-based shell company, Mt. Epsilon LLC, according to property records.

Next up: The Schillers are buying a farm in Litchfield County, Connecticut, and creating a home made out of hay.

“Our objective is to grow our own house,” Schiller said. “We are buying a farm to raise our kids [aged 1 and 4]. It was a pandemic-influenced life decision. But my office and practice remain in the city. We are very proud of the [mass timber] house and glad it has found someone to celebrate and appreciate it, and we look forward to the next journey.”

The listing brokers were Nick Gavin and Allie Fraza of Compass.