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Inside the Gowanus House That Sprouted a Sculptural Blob

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All photos by Marco Walker

Whe artist and sculptor Clarina Bezzola bought her Gowanus townhouse, she knew she would completely redesign it. Upon purchase, the house's bones were solid, but the first floor was dominated by a large, retro kitchen that encroached on the living room. That kitchen is now long gone, and the first floor is now distinguished by what is best described as a big, sculptural blob, built by the artist herself. Naturally, the blob became the focal point of the house, but the nearly three-year renovation, a collaboration between Bezzola and raad studio, reconfigured the entire space in a decidedly playful way that is specifically designed to accommodate the needs of an artist.

The blob—which raad studio calls "a sculptural fungus-like form [that] seems to be growing into the space"—is formerly the site of a more traditional fireplace. It's a steel structure underneath, molded by steel mesh and wood fins to create the curves, and it took three-and-a-half months to build. It was ultimately covered with Structo-Lite Plaster, a light plaster that's much like foam.

Bezzola, a sculptor, painter and performance artist, designed it an as art piece and calls the final result "a light sculpture." The home was open to the public this weekend as part of Dwell's Brooklyn Home Tours.

There's a crawl space hidden inside the blob with a seating cushion and a small television (that's Bezzola hopping out ↑). The original fireplace remains, but it's now surrounded with concrete and the sculpture. From the crawl space, you can climb up to the second floor of the home through a "hidden passageway."

The traditional staircase has an open designed so Bezzola can easily bring large artworks down the stairs. The handrail is embedded into the wall; there is also a removable handrail that can be added or taken out to open up the staircase.

The dining room and kitchen are accented by dark wood cabinetry that has a flowing, wave-like motif; "We carried the wave as a design language throughout the house," said designer Sang-yun Han. The kitchen looks out to the backyard through floor-to-ceiling, folding glass doors. Raad studio also revamped the backyard to include more landscaping and seating. The backyard also leads out to Bezzola's separate, three-story studio space.

The open staircase leads to a studio space on the second floor, which you can also access through the blob. At nighttime, the opening glows out onto the second floor.

[The second floor from the staircase.]

On the second floor, there is a moveable chalkboard wall for spontaneous sketching. Han explained that before renovation, the home was in fine structural shape so they didn't have to worry about any structural fixes. "We focused on creating a flexible design," he said.

Both Bezzola and Han expressed that one of their favorite spaces in the home was the third-floor bathroom, which has an open skylight and a glass wall lined with plants. "There are certain places we tried to capture nature in the home," said Han. The first floor living room also features an impressive terrarium that doubles as a coffee table. It was, of course, built and designed by Bezzola.

· Brooklyn Home Tours 2015 [Dwell]