Old World Craftmanship in Brooklyn

One of the things we are really excited about is bringing old world crafts back to middle class people in Brooklyn. One hundred years ago there was a surplus of skilled immigrants and it was very easy to get amazing work done at a rate affordable to middle class people.

All the exotic wood work in Brooklyn Brownstones today is evidence of that. The same goes for the beautiful  brownstone artwork on the exterior walls.

Today this workmanship is out of a middle class person’s reach (barring taking out unsustainable home equity loans and amassing debt).

This is not to say that all was great back in the day. For the most part those craftsmen lived in poverty and could not afford to live in the houses they created.

We think there can be a balance today. The first step is to actually have the craftsmen and women in the first place. There are very few people who have those high level skills today. And if they do they usually cater to the “high end” renovations and charge top dollar.

Increasing the training in the art of building is a crucial step in making high quality crafts more available and affordable. Right now we have a large amount of people without skills looking for work. We also have a large amount of middle class Brooklyn families willing to pay reasonable rates for good work.

In most cases the people without work stay unemployed and the people looking for good labor get crap workmanship.

The solution is one that will take time. You don’t make a master craftsperson overnight. It takes at least seven years. But in the big picture seven years is nothing.

At Eco Brooklyn we are actively training employees these old world crafts. Honestly our first efforts are rudimentary compared to our predecessors’ work. But with each day our staff gets better. We have a long term vision and a daily focus at becoming a company that offers old world crafts at today’s middle class prices.

Our areas of focus are on carpentry and masonry for the most part:

In carpentry we only use salvaged materials. We might take old joists and turn them into exposed beams. Or we turn ugly old subfloor into amazing flooring. We salvage stairs instead of ripping them out for now crap.

In masonry we focus on the traditional brownstone rendering like the image below. We also do less traditional work like clay wall applications and custom concrete counters.

The idea is to increase the quality and keep the price affordable by using more raw materials. That way we are not sacrificing our own quality of life while still offering amazing work to our clients. That is the goal. It is of course a key tenet of the Build It Forward ethos.

How are we doing? Sometimes we attain it. Other times we don’t. But we are getting better and either way the results are great by today’s low building standards.

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About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

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  1. Dwayne Humphrey - September 10, 2009 at 1:41 am

    Awesome post guys!

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