On Location | Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
Licensed to Grill: Mike D’s Brooklyn Town House
By JULIE EARLE-LEVINE
June 12, 2013
Michael Diamond was sitting in his Cobble Hill town house, marveling at the virtues of a backyard. “When I was growing up in New York, we were the anomaly,” said Mr. Diamond, better known as Mike D of the Beastie Boys. “Our family stayed, but back then families didn’t stay. Once you had a second kid, you immediately left, so the kids could run around outside.”
Mr. Diamond, who prefers not to give his age, now has two boys of his own, Davis, 10, and Skyler, 8, with his wife, Tamra Davis, a filmmaker, who also prefers not to give her age. The outdoor space is a recent addition. A year and a half ago, the family left their TriBeCa loft for what Mr. Diamond, who grew up on the Upper West Side, calls “the suburban dream in Brooklyn.”
As his wife observed, there was a steep learning curve involved. “He had never lived outside of Manhattan,” said Ms. Davis, who is from Southern California.
The result, however, was worth it. Now their older son can walk home from school by himself, an experience Mr. Diamond missed out on as a child, although his school was only two blocks away. “It was traumatic,” he said. “A very different city.”
Another advantage of life in Brooklyn: “We can have dinner outside,” Mr. Diamond said, pointing out the basil they used in the previous night’s pasta and the strawberry plants he hopes will grow. “The kids can eat, then run down and play basketball.”
Renovating the 3,200-square-foot house wasn’t nearly as challenging as moving to Brooklyn. That may be because he and Ms. Davis are so aesthetically compatible, Mr. Diamond said.
How would he describe their aesthetic?
“I think it’s kind of vernacular, sensitive, modern,” he said.
Ms. Davis interrupted: “Whoa.”
“Does that sound pretentious?” he asked. “Well, I’m saying we are good at responding to prevailing culture in a house.”
The renovation took about six months. “Our goal was to limit our total reno-architecture budget to under $500,000,” he said. “Which we pretty much succeeded in. It meant that at times we’d splurge on one light fixture, but not another. And it helped because we ended up having to retain original detail, clean it up and leave it as is.”
They moved the master bedroom to the top floor for privacy, ripping out the dropped ceiling to create a feeling of space and light. The adjoining bathroom is huge, with a tub in the center of the room.
The boys’ rooms are on the floor below, “completely in their own world,” Mr. Diamond said, with space in between for impromptu soccer games.
On the ground floor is a screening room and a home office that the couple share, in alternating shifts. Ms. Davis uses it when she is editing films; Mr. Diamond works on his own projects here and at Oscilloscope Laboratories, the independent film company co-founded by Adam Yauch, the Beastie Boys member who died last year. “It has to be for a couple of months each,” Mr. Diamond said. “Dual-use concurrently doesn’t work.”
Most of all, the house has given them peace and privacy. “Lofts are great,” Mr. Diamond said. “But with a home, there is a lot to be said for delineated space. To have the luxury of a little separate work space is huge — and to have the dream-sequence master bath.”
Apart from adding a marble island and a backsplash for the stove, they didn’t do much to the kitchen, which is mostly Ms. Davis’s domain. She is the one with the online cooking show, after all, and the vegetarian cookbook to her name.
But Mr. Diamond takes exception to the suggestion that he doesn’t cook, and is quick to note that he’s considering buying a barbecue for grilling fish and vegetables on the deck.
“For a dude, I think I do cook,” he said. “I’m a stay-at-home parent a lot of the time.”
He paused and considered.
“What is the right term for that?” he said. “I’m a multi-dad.”