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July 19, 2001

HOUSE PROUD

A Sleek Aerie Atop the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel

By BONNIE SCHWARTZ

Mick Hales for The New York Times
BROOKLYN SANCTUARY A serene maple and white interior.

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Specs: Building a Roof Deck (July 19, 2001)

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Join a Discussion on Apartments in New York




Mick Hales for The New York Times
Intense color leads to the front door.




Mick Hales for The New York Times
PALM SPRINGS, N.Y. A ``porch,'' with pergola, pillows and plants.


AN 800-square-foot apartment that sits practically on top of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and around the corner from an entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel may not be everyone's idea of an urban oasis. But for Avi Adler and David Stark, a renovated one-bedroom home on the roof of a nondescript 1940's Brooklyn building is paradise found.

Mr. Stark, 32, and Mr. Adler, 45, partners in life and work, own and operate Avi Adler, a company known for offbeat designs for weddings, fund-raisers and other events. Elevating party décor and floral design to the level of installation art, they use unsung materials like copper tubing and carnations — often in astonishing masses — to create modern, sophisticated environments. The highlight of their design for the Robin Hood Foundation dinner at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center last month was a path made of yellow aquarium gravel, protea flowers and chrysanthemums in a forest of green cardboard mailing tubes.

They began working in 1992 in a rented 2,500-square-foot loftlike apartment, which was also their home, in a building on Luquer Street on the outskirts of Carroll Gardens. Crammed with props, flowers and staff members, their living space was quickly overrun. "Whenever we needed to put in another desk," Mr. Adler said, "we'd get rid of a dresser or our kitchen table."

Mr. Stark added: "Most nights we had to dump props off our bed before we could actually get into it."

Three years ago they purchased the building and separated their work lives and their personal lives. The business moved to a first-floor commercial space, and they renovated a small apartment on the building's rooftop for their home.

Jim Bartholomew, an architect in Chelsea, transformed the tight two- bedroom apartment into an airy single-bedroom space with plenty of closets, if not much elbow room. A floating storage wall 20 feet long and 4 feet deep, with access on both sides, hides most of their domestic detritus.

After living with the clutter of their work space, Mr. Stark said he wanted to come home and "not see any stuff at all." So he and Mr. Adler gave Mr. Bartholomew a wish list that included all the objects they wanted to remove from view.

The storage wall houses a washer, dryer and dishwasher, television, stereo speakers, books and bed linens, rendering the apartment a testament to clutter- free living.

The storage wall also separates public spaces (the living room, kitchen and dining area) from private (bedroom and bathroom).

"Jim used to tease us that he doesn't trust people who don't have books visible in their home," Mr. Stark said. "But I know I have books, and I know where they are. I don't care whether other people can see them."

Such discussions were typical among them, and when it came to choosing details, the aesthetic of Mr. Adler and Mr. Stark again prevailed. Surprisingly, given their exuberant designs for events, their choices for surface finishes were decidedly subdued.

The architect suggested a warm wood finish on the storage wall and a dark slate or ebonized wood floor to create a homey environment. Instead, they ordered everything painted white, with light maple flooring.

"We always envisioned this place white to keep the light bouncing around it and make it feel as spacious as possible," Mr. Adler said. "The problem is, it takes a lot of courage to add any color to a white space."

Yet Mr. Adler and Mr. Stark never worried that the place would feel too sterile. "We're constantly experimenting with colors, forms and fabrics, and we knew they'd follow us home," Mr. Stark said. "We'll get obsessed with a certain color and paint everything that color." At the moment, a fluorescent-yellow painting, made for an event, hangs above their gray living room couch.

The outdoor area is lavish, encompassing a 500-square-foot pergola- porch and almost 865 square feet of deck on two levels. They use the porch, reached by two sets of center- folding glass doors, each over 8 feet wide, in the wall of the main living space, as a place to entertain and relax. They even use it in the rain (the pergola is topped with translucent acrylic).

They spent $200,000 and eight months, twice as much as they planned in both time and money, on the renovation.

"There were a lot of structural problems we had to fix before we could make much progress," Mr. Stark said. But it was worth the trouble. "Being able to walk from the inside directly to the outdoors has always been my dream," Mr. Stark said. "My greatest desire has always been to live in the most luxurious hotel suite imaginable, except with my own stuff in it."

Even the ever-present honks, brake squeals and hum of passing trucks do not diminish their experience. "We joke that it sounds to us like the ocean," Mr. Stark said.



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