House Tour: Bill's Beach House in W'burg

House Tour: Bill's Beach House in W'burg

Jill Slater
Jul 16, 2008

Name: Bill and Jeanne
Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Size: 2,600sf, 4-bdrm, 3-bath, 2-story living area; 2,400sf ground floor Design Studio; 800sf basement.
Lived in: 4 years


Bill Harvey shared his home with the AT Offline crowd at last Thursday's meetup. He was surprised at how challenging it was to expos the inner workings and fixings of his homemade home to a room full of strangers...

Photo by Robert Presutti/New York Times

Bill Harvey's home is a labor of love, an experiment in living with less and at less expense, and an act of forging community. Bill reused his neighbors' doors and the store down the street's discarded timber. He paid no more than $500 for all 4 bathrooms' fixtures, sinks and toilets and he created highly effective cooling and ventilation by incorporating sliding doors, big open spaces, set back balconies and operable skylights. He never needs air conditioning and says that the resulting cross breezes evoke hanging out in a beach house.

Bill believes he has a "reuse recycle building gene in my family. My Grandfather built a house himself [literally] in the late 1950's using the foundation stones from his forebear's barn and wood salvaged from the cabin in which he was born. My father's first summer job consisted of carefully salvaging a Victorian house from the slate roof down to the foundation stones and then helping to build a new home with the salvaged materials."

According to Bill, the Williamsburg auto repair shop he turned into a home, serves "as a nexus for friends, family, creativity [work] and community." His process of "using (reusing) unique, one of a kind "saved" materials [as opposed to "salvaged" which sounds kind of brutish] was as much an aesthetic decision as a green choice. I wanted my bespoke home to have a unique ambience and appearance; an aesthetic sensibility that money can't buy and that was in no way formulaic."

Since designing, building, and curating his Williamsburg home, Bill has moved onto bringing his aesthetic and 'saving' approach to other homes and retail spaces. Bill doesn't think he purchased anything new to furnish his home and he is happy to see the demand from residents and business owners alike for similarly unique spaces that happen to be very green whether it is a priority for them or not!

AT Survey

Style: Bill Harvey's Brooklyn Modern

Inspiration: the creative spirit of the old school DIY North Brooklyn crew – our friends who made this neighborhood exciting.

Favorite Element: The fresh cool breezes in our living area. I designed the home to have the feel of a beach house and it does.

Biggest Challenge: where to put my wife Jeanne's 5000 history books.

What Friends Say: "What's next Bill?"

Biggest Embarrassment: That I want more space –

Proudest DIY: The Design of the house - when I walk down the block and see European or Asian tourists taking pictures of the façade.

Biggest Indulgence: The Ground floor 2000sf "gallery" for rehearsing music, parties, work, skateboarding or the occasional feature film premier.

Best Advice: listen to more loud music, read poetry and never buy retail!

Dream Source: If the question is the source of my dreams, the answer is nature. If the question is my dream source for things, the answer would be my favorite Mennonite thrift store in Harrisburg, Pa.

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