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Total Converts

The Stable
A 2,400-square-foot, three-bedroom former stable in Clinton Hill with large double doors—initially designed to accommodate horse-drawn carriages.

Illustration by Jason Lee  

How’d you find this place?
Geoffrey Freeman, current owner: I bought the mansion next door, and the stable was part of it.
Julian Richards, current tenant: I’ve leased it since September 2011.

What condition was it in then?
Richards: Pretty tumbled down. There was graffiti on the outside, and inside, it was a cavernous, menacing hole. Like a lost tooth. freeman: There had been a hayloft up top, which would have had a small living quarters for the coachmen, but that was gone and the beams were in bad shape. The floor was dirt: When it was a stable, the horses’ pee would be absorbed by the ground.

What was the renovation like?
Freeman: It was structurally unsound, so we took the stable walls down and rebuilt them, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission gave us permission to restore it according to historic specifications. I had to have the bricks hand-hewn.

Those tiny windows high up on one wall: What are they?
Richards: Horse-head windows. I used to wonder, “What kind of horse would have their heads up that high? Giant unicorns?” When you used to drive the carriage in, the areas on the left and right were raised, so you’d see horse heads sticking out.

What else gives it away as a former stable?
Richards: Not only are we street-level, we are on the street. The paving stone actually goes partway inside the house. And when it rains, water creeps up underneath the door.

So that’s a disadvantage to living here, then?
Richards: Well, the proximity of the street is a little peculiar. You’re always aware if someone’s out there. You might feel a little conspicuous when, say, you want to get naked. If you have an argument, people outside hear it.

What’s the best thing about living in a converted stable?
Richards: Opening the doors onto the street. In the summer, we open them and eat breakfast; it’s like living in Provence. Everybody who walks by double-takes, because who the hell expects such intimacy with people eating croissants?

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