Perched on the clifftops of Jersey City Heights, most homes along Ogden Avenue boast modest exteriors that belie the breathtaking views to be found within. As the hillside drops away toward Paterson Plank Road below, expansive vistas stretch across the roofs of Hoboken to the world-famous Manhattan skyline. On a clear day, One World Trade seems close enough to touch.
On a block of Ogden just north of Riverview Park, sat a home left derelict and untouched for a decade. Built in the early 1920s, renovations on the home had been attempted in fits and starts in the last decade, but were abandoned completely in the wake of 2008's financial crisis. Over time, with many windows smashed and some missing entirely, weather damage began and mold took hold. This was the condition in which Dixon Leasing acquired the home at a foreclosure auction — a Dixon first — in 2016.
"It had a lot of water damage from being unoccupied so long, and there was significant damage to the structure," Marybeth Narine, Dixon Interior Designer, recalls. "A lot of the neighbors were happy we had acquired it, because it was filled with rodents and mold and asbestos, so it obviously wasn't very good for the street."
With no architectural detail to salvage, the Dixon Projects team began the huge undertaking of staged demolition and shoring up the building. "The structure itself was generally unstable, so that resulted in a full gut demolition. We had to replace all the joists on every floor and reframe the structure from the inside out," Narine explains. "As far as the cellar, we couldn't even access it until we started the demolition. We had no idea what was done there."
Once the cellar was accessible by demolishing part of the parlor floor, the team knew with a little excavation to add ceiling height, it would make an ideal English basement-style unit. And thus, the plan to create a luxurious two-family home took shape. Overall, the newly renovated house sits within the same footprint as the original structure. After the cellar excavation, a new concrete slab was poured, and the foundation was reinforced throughout. The rear portion of the third floor, which previously contained an unfinished attic, was reworked to accommodate a large roof deck above.
In fact, every facet of layout and design in the Ogden Avenue renovation was undertaken with an unwavering focus on maximizing the acclaimed outlooks and amplifying indoor-outdoor living.
The upper unit has been reimagined as a sleek and modern four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom showplace with private outdoor space on four levels. The sweeping first floor is devoted to a spacious and bright open-concept living/dining room and a well-appointed kitchen. Windows on three exposures include a state-of-the-art sliding glass NanaWall door that opens to the first of three roomy Manhattan-facing balconies.
"Due to the home's really open design and the number of glass doors, we had to change our whole heating and cooling design," Narine explains. "We were going to use wall-mounted Mitsubishi units, but we realized we were going to have to switch to a ducted system to heat and cool the home effectively. When we redesigned the HVAC, we had to put the ducts in the ceiling."
Marybeth continues, "We knew this is a special home, and we didn't want the addition of the ducts and soffits to take away from the view, especially on the entertaining level. So, we really needed to figure out a way to make it a feature. We worked closely with the HVAC contractors to make sure we knew exactly where they would need to run the ducts, and we added another soffit to make it symmetrical. Then, we added the awesome wallpaper. We've never done anything like this, and I think it's my favorite thing ever!"
On the second floor, a sprawling master suite features another wide balcony plus two fully outfitted walk-in closets. This bedroom and the three others in the upper unit are illuminated by distinctive octagonal fixtures by Restoration Hardware. "Those are really fun," Narine points out. "They give off a ton of light, and they also make a really great pattern on the ceiling when they're on."
While the décor in view-facing bedrooms and living spaces are kept neutral to maximize their prized views, bathrooms throughout the home boast a touch of drama, especially in their tilework. In the master en suite bathroom that means bold black hexagonal tile, which references the shape of bedroom light fixture, accented by mirrors that run all the way to the tall ceiling. Cedar & Moss light fixtures reminiscent of classic candle sconces and the wall-mounted faucets add an unexpected flourish. Below, a custom vanity wrought from the same white oak that paves the floors stretches a full 10-feet long.
The second full bathroom on this level also serves as a guest bath for visitors. With that in mind, its design is meant to wow with patterned cement tile complemented by a chic round mirror and matte black gooseneck light fixture. The frameless glass shower lets the dazzling tile do all the talking.
The third floor features another east-facing suite featuring a balcony, en suite bathroom and custom closet. And under the home's distinctive pitched roofline sits a storybook bedroom where a child's imagination could run wild. There's a wide window seat ideal for naps and reading, and a closet nook with a fairytale half-door that begs for a game of hide-and-seek.
Above the home, the Dixon team has crafted an enviable roof deck wrapped in signature views. Accessed by a SkyBox and served by a fantastic outdoor kitchen outfitted with a grill, beverage center and sink, Narine describes the outdoor oasis as "really optimized to throw the best rooftop party ever."
Connecting all four levels of the stylish upper unit is a completely custom staircase, a work of art unto itself. Crafted in blackened steel and white oak, the structure features curvy handrail that floats effortlessly above slim spindles. "I really wanted a continous metal railing which is pretty hard to do," says Narine. "But our contractor took on the challenge, and welded it together onsite over the course of a month. They did a really great job. "
The Ogden home's lower level unit is a beautifully executed one-bedroom flat boasting an abundance of refined touches rarely found in single-bedroom apartments. "This isn't just any basement apartment," Narine explains. "This is a really special home. There aren't many houses anywhere with this sort of view, and if they do, they're single-family homes. From the very beginning, we all just knew how special this space was, so we wanted to keep it high-end in keeping with that idea."
The entire open-concept living room and kitchen are lined by NanaWall doors that grant direct access to a completely refashioned rear patio that offers nearly as much visual appeal as the vistas beyond. "Originally, it was just an area that sloped off toward the cliff, but it was unusable because it wasn't that safe," explains Narine. "So, we poured a whole new slab and added in a retaining wall and handrails at the back, and our team came up with the awesome idea to do the pavers with the turf."
The combination of pavers and turf lends a been-here-forever look to the brand-new outdoor space, and the unique undertaking was a first for the team. "The contractor laid down a big piece of turf and cut out the space for each paver individually," Narine says. "It looks incredible. When you're on the roof deck or balconies above, with the view in front of you and that really fun backyard below, it's amazing."
Inside, the kitchen boasts the same high-quality cabinetry, appliances and fixtures as the upper unit, plus more one-bedroom rarities like a double vanity in the bathroom and full-size side-by-side washer and dryer.
With the amount of work and structural re-engineering required to make the house safe, livable and beautiful, the ease of demolishing the structure and starting from scratch would be a great temptation for most developers. However, the surrounded blocks of Ogden Avenue are filled almost entirely by intact older homes in traditional clapboard and brick.
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Dixon Projects specializes in both minor and major renovations of residential, commercial and retail spaces.