Four years ago, Bed-Stuy resident and professional furniture designer and builder Ben Erickson struck a deal with his current landlord:
Erickson would renovate and restore the landlord’s double-wide brownstone mansion, located at 247 Hancock Street, in exchange for a reduced fixed rent on a 5-year lease.
So in essence, Erickson invested approximately $60,000 upfront and then divided that cost over the 60 months of his lease. At the time, the market value of the apartment was $2250 per month. So the negotiating parties subtracted the $1000-per-month investment, making his rent $1250/mo.
It was a win-win situation: Erickson put his passion for building to work in the 2,000 sq.-ft of space where he lived, while the landlord received rental income and at the same time a high-end restoration.
The original gutting and construction of the mansion on Hancock took about four months. And then Erickson completed the design and rebuild over the next 2-3 years, sourcing almost every fixture, including tiles and appliances from architectural salvage warehouses.
“I like to live in the space and have it tell me what it needs while also maintaining its original architectural integrity,” said the 34-year-old West Jersey native.
“I moved to Bed-Stuy ten years ago because I fell in love with the homes and the architecture here, and so I would never bastardize any of these gorgeous classic buildings.”
Also, he gave his current landlord's home the works, adding two new luxury bathrooms, a rustic chef’s kitchen with walnut slab countertops and a stone floor, plus almost 2,000 sq. feet of restoration and design on every square inch.
But as much as he loves building, his work is not just for kicks and far more than a hobby. After graduating from the School of Visual Arts (he’s originally a sculptor and photographer), Erickson opened a custom furniture design studio at 222 Clifton Place in Bed-Stuy.
He specializes in one-of-a-kind, modern custom furniture, primarily for NYC architects, interior designers and private clients, many of whom are A-List celebrities, art collectors and philanthropists.
The woodshop is a collaborative space where 6-7of Erickson’s friends – also builders who own their businesses – can share space and the overhead costs of all the big machinery. But he promotes all of his work and design aesthetic on his website and blog.
And now, the search is on again!
“My current lease is going to be up in about a year and I’m starting to put out my feelers for another interesting living situation,” said Erickson.
“The dream situation would be to find a gorgeous raw loft space. All I need is height and light. I'd love a big fixer-upper in rough shape that I can build out and design to the teeth. I would renovate it amazingly enough to hopefully get it photographed and published.”
And how does his current landlord feel about the deal she made with Erickson?
“Are you kidding? She loves it!” said Erickson. “I pimped that place out. I’m actually heartbroken to have to leave, because I poured my heart and soul into it.
“But… I’ll just have to do it again!”
To contact Ben Erickson, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.