Parlor Entryway: Air Sealing through Collaboration

Mixing passive house detailing with daylighting and historic preservation created a low-energy, low-embodied carbon strategy for upgrading the parlor entry staircase in this Carroll Gardens Passive House.

The Staircase

Our clients wanted to keep the parlor staircase, wood wainscotting applied to plaster wall, and plaster parlor crown molding. SMR Craftworks and bldgtyp worked closely with our design team to implement a strategy to leave the staircase in place while air sealing the lower portion and the trim above. In doing so, the staircase became part of the home’s air barrier.

Widening the space between the staircase and staired hall allowed natural light to pour down from the sklight to the parlor entryway. In order to ensure occupant safety in the new, wider stair hall, Andrew Fishman of SMR Craftworks handcrafted an extension of the newel post on site, allowing the clients to keep the newel post they loved from the original house.

The Crown Molding

To keep the parlor crown in place during construction, we also developed an air sealing strategy for the parlor crown. Andrew Fishman describes the process:

“We removed the walls in 3′ sections and immediately installed 3′ plywood angle supports underneath the crown. The top of the support stopped just shy of the lower front edge of the crown. This let us bring the air barrier up the brick and the edge of the plaster crown. From the top of the crown, we pulled the floor back from the wall on the floor above. Once exposed, we resecured the crown to the joists, plywood inserts between joist bays were run from brick wall to top edge of the crown. Taping the joints completed the top air barrier.”

The final result of all this planning and careful implementation was completely invisible. The preserved newel post and handrail stand out against perfectly preserved crown molding and wood paneling. Original subfloors, refinished and repurposed, welcome you into the parlor entryway. The widened opening between staircase and halls lets natural light pour into the home’s core. Most importantly, passive house detailing means that the home is serene, quiet, and sealed from unwanted air, bugs, and dust.

Finish Photography: Adam Kane Macchia