When Clients Become My Friends: The Story Of An Immigrant Family Rediscovering Home

Immigrant Family Rediscovering ‘Home’

My firm rarely takes on home renovation but when I work with residential clients, I’m looking for chemistry. Just the other day, I helped a young family find their home. The family of four, including their 4-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, has been living in a small apartment in Brooklyn.

The wife who is an immigrant from China works in Manhattan’s financial sector and the husband who is Jewish is a writer for the New York Times. Together, they needed more space as the wife’s parents who do not speak English are also moving in with them.

As I revealed their finished house, they finally felt at home. It’s a 2-story townhouse in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which is a diverse neighborhood, gradually becoming revitalized. You could say that this neighborhood, like my clients, is in transition. Looking upward and onward to a new chapter in life.

We took a long journey together. When we first stepped into the space last July, the place was very cluttered. The clients doubted they could ever uncover the feeling of home here.

The previous owner lived in the house for about 30 years; she filled it with her ‘collections’ and two large dogs. We looked out at this mess, padlocks on some of the doors, outdated appliances and plumbing. On top of everything, the previous owner had done some work to the house to accommodate her disability, but without permission from the authorities. As she aged, her children didn’t want to take on the burden. So we did.

My firm provided design services and project management; we were able to walk the new homeowners through the whole process and work with the contractor to stay on task.

Stair Restoration After

Most importantly, we helped our clients envision the space’s potential. We embraced the perks – the original hardwood floor with inlay and borders was intact, and we were able to refinish it and reveal its beauty.

Architectural details like crown molding were hidden underneath paint. The wife stripped the paint off of the staircase and nearly restored the original carvings. As she discovered this hidden detail, she embraced our collective vision.

Read more about this project here: redwoodsdsa.com/clients-become-friends/


About the author

Eric Lam

Eric Lam is the Principal of Redwood Design Studio Architect. Along with overseeing the firm’s day-to-day operations, he stays informed of every project while maintaining a hands-on approach to management. Eric’s professional expertise encompasses mostly hospitality design in which he has extensive experience leading projects from inception to completion. He has twenty years of experience designing numerous restaurants and hotel spaces as well as projects in other marketplaces. While he may be busy with client meetings or at job sites observing construction progress, he often spends leisure time in the great outdoors.