Renovating 354 Ogden Ave: A Jersey City Diamond on a Bluff

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The renovation: 354 Ogden Avenue, The Heights, Jersey City.

On a block of Ogden Avenue, just north of Riverview Park, sat a home left derelict and untouched for a decade. Built in the early 1920s, renovations on the home had been attempted in fits and starts in the last decade but were abandoned completely in the wake of 2008’s financial crisis. Over time, with many windows smashed and some missing entirely, weather damage began and mold took hold. This was the condition in which Dixon Leasing acquired the home at a foreclosure auction — a Dixon first — in 2016.

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Decrepit window bay.

“It had a lot of water damage from being unoccupied so long, and there was significant damage to the structure,” Marybeth Narine, Dixon Projects Interior Designer, recalls. “A lot of the neighbors were happy we had acquired it, because it was filled with rodents and mold and asbestos, so it obviously wasn’t very good for the street.”

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Water damage.
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With no architectural detail to salvage, the Dixon Projects team began the huge undertaking of staged demolition and shoring up the building. “The structure itself was generally unstable, so that resulted in a full gut demolition. We had to replace all the joists on every floor and reframe the structure from the inside out,” Narine explains. “As far as the cellar, we couldn’t even access it until we started the demolition. We had no idea what was done there.”

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Gut demolition.

Once the cellar was accessible by demolishing part of the parlor floor, the team knew with a little excavation to add ceiling height, it would make an ideal English basement-style unit. And thus, the plan to create a luxurious two-family home took shape.

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Rebuilding.

Overall, the newly renovated house sits within the same footprint as the original structure. After the cellar excavation, a new concrete slab was poured, and the foundation was reinforced throughout. The rear portion of the third floor, which previously contained an unfinished attic, was reworked to accommodate a large roof deck above.

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Roof deck.

In fact, every facet of layout and design in the Ogden Avenue renovation was undertaken with an unwavering focus on maximizing the acclaimed outlooks and amplifying indoor-outdoor living.

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The view from the garden-level apartment.

The upper unit has been reimagined as a sleek and modern four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom showplace with private outdoor space on four levels, and is currently available to rent.

The first floor is devoted to a spacious and bright open-concept living/dining room and a well-appointed kitchen. Windows on three exposures include a state-of-the-art sliding glass NanaWall door that opens to the first of three roomy Manhattan-facing balconies.

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Open concept.
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The view from the kitchen.

The kitchen boasts top-notch stainless steel appliances and custom cabinetry created specifically for this home. “They’re a totally modern take on a Shaker cabinet,” Narine explains. “If you look closely, you’ll see the rail spans across two door fronts on the uppers, and across the door fronts and drawers on the lower cabinets. It’s a style I’ve always wanted to try, and I was just waiting for the right house. It’s a subtle detail with big impact.”

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The kitchen.

A detail with even more impact is the kitchen’s eye-catching tray ceiling lined with kinetic black-and-white wallpaper by Kelly Wearstler. This showstopper, it turns out, was actually a happy accident, or perhaps more accurately, a design challenge turned into a stunning success.

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The kitchen.

“Due to the home’s really open design and the number of glass doors, we had to change our whole heating and cooling design,” Narine says. “We were going to use wall-mounted Mitsubishi units, but we realized we were going to have to switch to a ducted system to heat and cool the home effectively. When we redesigned the HVAC, we had to put the ducts in the ceiling.”

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The kitchen.

Marybeth Narine continues, “We knew this is a special home, and we didn’t want the addition of the ducts and soffits to take away from the view, especially on the entertaining level. So, we really needed to figure out a way to make it a feature. We worked closely with the HVAC contractors to make sure we knew exactly where they would need to run the ducts, and we added another soffit to make it symmetrical. Then, we added the awesome wallpaper. We’ve never done anything like this, and I think it’s my favorite thing ever!”

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Ceiling detail.

On the second floor, a sprawling master suite features another wide balcony plus two fully outfitted walk-in closets. This bedroom and the three others in the upper unit are illuminated by distinctive octagonal fixtures by Restoration Hardware. “Those are really fun,” Narine points out. “They give off a ton of light, and they also make a really great pattern on the ceiling when they’re on.”

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Master bedroom.
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Walk-in closet.

While the décor in view-facing bedrooms and living spaces are kept neutral to maximize their prized views, bathrooms throughout the home boast a touch of drama, especially in their tile work. In the master en-suite bathroom that means bold black hexagonal tile, which references the shape of the bedroom light fixture, accented by mirrors that run all the way to the tall ceiling. Cedar & Moss light fixtures reminiscent of classic candle sconces and the wall-mounted faucets add an unexpected flourish. Below, a custom vanity wrought from the same white oak that paves the floors stretches a full 10-feet long.

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Master bath.
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Master bath.

The second full bathroom on this level also serves as a guest bath for visitors. With that in mind, its design is meant to wow with patterned cement tile complemented by a chic round mirror and matte black gooseneck light fixture. The frameless glass shower lets the tile do all the talking.

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Second full bath for guests.

The third floor features another east-facing suite featuring a balcony, en-suite bathroom, and custom closet. And under the home’s distinctive pitched roofline sits a storybook bedroom.

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Third-floor bedroom.
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Storybook bedroom.

Above the home, the Dixon team has crafted a roof deck wrapped in signature views. Accessed by a SkyBox and served by a fantastic outdoor kitchen outfitted with a grill, beverage center, and sink, Narine describes the outdoor oasis as “really optimized to throw the best rooftop party ever.”

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SkyBox.
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Roof deck.

Connecting all four levels of the stylish upper unit is a completely custom staircase, a work of art unto itself. Crafted in blackened steel and white oak, the structure features a curvy handrail that floats above slim spindles. “I really wanted a continuous metal railing which is pretty hard to do,” says Narine. “But our contractor took on the challenge, and welded it together onsite over the course of a month. They did a really great job.”

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Custom staircase.

The Ogden home’s lower level unit is a beautifully executed one-bedroom flat boasting an abundance of refined touches rarely found in single-bedroom apartments. “This isn’t just any basement apartment,” Narine explains. “This is a really special home. There aren’t many houses anywhere with this sort of view, and if they do, they’re single-family homes. From the very beginning, we all just knew how special this space was, so we wanted to keep it high-end in keeping with that idea.”

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Garden-level apartment.

The entire open-concept living room and kitchen are lined by NanaWall doors that grant direct access to a completely refashioned rear patio that offers nearly as much visual appeal as the vistas beyond. “Originally, it was just an area that sloped off toward the cliff, but it was unusable because it wasn’t that safe,” explains Narine. So, they poured a whole new slab and added in a retaining wall and handrails at the back. Narine also came up with the idea to do the pavers with the turf.

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Garden-level apartment.

The combination of pavers and turf lends a been-here-forever look to the brand-new outdoor space, and the unique undertaking was a first for the team. “The contractor laid down a big piece of turf and cut out the space for each paver individually,” Narine says. “It looks incredible. When you’re on the roof deck or balconies above, with the view in front of you and that really fun backyard below, it’s amazing.”

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Rear patio.

Inside, the kitchen boasts the same high-quality cabinetry, appliances, and fixtures as the upper unit, plus more one-bedroom rarities like a double vanity in the bathroom and full-size side-by-side washer and dryer.

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Garden-level kitchen.

The exterior of the house was given new white HardiePlank siding and distinctive black windows, and Narine relished the opportunity to design the home’s entry. “We typically work on brownstones, but we were able to have a front porch on this house and porches are really special. We created it in wood, hung a pendant light, and installed dramatic double doors. It feels very welcoming, and it’s just a really great way to enter this home.

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354 Ogden Avenue, before.

With the amount of work and structural re-engineering required to make the house safe, livable, and beautiful, the ease of demolishing the structure and starting from scratch would be a great temptation for most developers. However, the surrounding blocks of Ogden Avenue are filled almost entirely by intact older homes in traditional clapboard and brick.

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354 Ogden Avenue, after.

“I said to myself many times during the hardest parts of the project that we should’ve torn it down,” Narine laughs. “But in the end, it’s worth it to have it match the character of the neighborhood. It was very exciting to see it all the way through, from the budgeting to the staging. And it was very cool to restore something that was previously an eyesore and not doing anything great for the neighborhood.”

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