Gallery: DWELL HARLEM HOUSE – A Green Home Renovation


When Alysia Reiner and David Alan Basche went searching for a home in Manhattan, they had no idea they’d end up rescuing an abandoned crack house and turn it into a green dream home – all in front of the rolling cameras of Dwell TV. Now, a year and a half after the project began, the Green Harlem House, designed by Brooklyn architect Hannah Purdy, is almost complete and is getting ready to open to the public this coming weekend on May 20th. We highly encourage any New Yorkers who are interested in exploring the idea of green home renovation to come and check out the Harlem House this Sunday at 1pm. (128th Street at 5th Ave, see here for further details). For those of you who are not in New York, but are interested in watching the drama unfold in video, check out the Dwell Harlem House Series >

Inhabitat stopped by the house last week to meet the owners and get a tour before the opening this coming weekend. Read on to see our photos and find out more about the house below.

+ Dwell Magazine

+ Hannah Purdy

Alysia and David, who are both actors, had been living in a cramped New York rental for years, and they were ready to move out of their claustrophobic habitat and buy a place they would love to live in for a long time. After searching long and hard, they found a completely gutted, abandoned, 16-foot wide space in a beautiful old brownstone in Harlem, and put in an offer site-unseen. Before they knew it, the place was theirs, and they started to wonder what they’d gotten themselves into. But with high aspirations to create their own green dream home, they put together a team and got moving, determined to create a beautiful, environmentally-friendly space on a reasonable budget. Greenstreet Construction, a company specializing in green design/build projects in the city, came on board to collaborate with the couple and draw plans around their vision.

After leaping over regulatory hurdles to obtain permits for the project, the demolition began. David and Alysia remained deeply involved as Greenstreet started to select materials and systems for the home. They were adamant about going green and being efficient, but their budget constraints posed a challenge. Fortunately, they were DIY-ready and willing to get their hands dirty in order to have the home they wanted. With a lot of research and hard labor, they managed to install green features such as radiant floor heating and on-demand hot water which would have been impossibly expensive if they’d put the task to contractors.

got involed in the project about midway through the renovation, and has been following David and Alysia’s progress through an excellent web video series, recording firsthand reports about the trials and tribulations of combining a massive renovation with a baby budget and a no-compromises commitment to being as green as possible. They’re seven episodes in with three to go. As we watch the team work their way toward the finer details and final stages, it’s hard to wait to see the mission accomplished.

+ Dwell Harlem House Video Series


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  1. Jill Fehrenbacher January 24, 2009 at 12:29 pm


    What is wrong with you? You think 1000 sf for a family of three is ‘luxury’? Perhaps you think we should all live in one room tin shacks? I’m not sure if you are aware of how much 1000 sf is – but it is not very much space. The average suburban family SROs is 2300 sf:

    1000 sf is hardly ‘spacious’ – even for a New York City brownstone. I’d be interested in finding out how large your apartment is…


  2. Leifhackman January 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Absolutely beautiful home, nice that it was built in a building that always was there and all that. But… if you label yourself a green person (which I think Alysia mentioned in the TV show for a few times) how can you justify all that space (was it about 1000 sqft?) used for home of just two persons??? I would imagine in NYC homes also require some sort of heating in the cold season. My impression was that this “green” is just for the fashion… or… just something to be able to make a tv show out of it. Did I also see some decorative lamps in the ceiling? Not really to bring light in but… just make things look nice. Also it would have been essential to compare total energy consumption and compare it with other equal sized homes and in this case so called “green homes”. Yet the biggest issue for me was that REALLY green people would never ever want to use so much housing space for just 2 people. It´s almost like… how to be not green in a bit more green way… or something like that.

  3. GS January 21, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Didn’t love the master bathroom’s color scheme (of the materials), but everything else was pretty phenomenally done…we’ll see where I am when I need that much space, but I don’t think there’s any substitute to living in Manhattan (ex Harlem)…there’ll probably never be…if you can afford it, it’s either the country or the city in my opinion.

  4. ngan July 14, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Looks pretty nice. One thing though, the bamboo floor might be thought of as “green”, however, it isn’t as green as one would expect if we consider the transporting of that material to NYC since I doubt that bamboo is indigenous to NY. Using local materials are always better. But it’s the thought that counts…

  5. L May 28, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Because rents in Harlem aren’t high enough, right?

  6. mark May 26, 2007 at 8:09 am

    I like the modular garden

  7. Michael McKenzie May 18, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    HMMMMMMMMMM…..Nice but GREEN?……..And that brick interior wall will absolutely gaurantee that they and their neibours will share every burp, groan, moan, gutteral movement and musical note.

  8. Dana May 18, 2007 at 10:27 am


  9. Richie May 18, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Yes, a nice job… but I hope they add some kind of physical deterrents on the windows and doors to prevent break-ins. Crime is down in New York City… but there’s still plenty of it.

  10. Justin May 17, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    This is so great, I can hardly stand it. Makes me want to move back home!!!!!

  11. Osi Okonkwo May 17, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    NIce work. Looks very good

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