ISSUE 101  |  The Early Bird

A Brownstone for the 21st Century

December 05, 2013 10:00 AM

BY Christine Chang Hanway

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Tasked with rebuilding an entire 19th century townhouse behind a landmarked front façade on New York’s upper West Side, O’neill Rose Architects (members of the Remodelista Architect & Designer Directory) combined the glamorous proportions of pre-war architecture with the lightness and clean lines of modern living. 

Photography by Michael Moran.

Above: The restored front façade of the townhouse is landmarked and is the only original element of the building that remains. The architects added a new stoop to reconnect the parlor floor back to the street.

Above: The architects reinterpreted a classic 19th century curving stair. It begins at the parlor floor and ends at a modern penthouse on the fifth floor. 

The graceful proportions of the rooms are accentuated by streamlined architectural details that reference more ornate styles from the 19th century. Shown here, the parlor’s grand arched front window.

Above: The three-legged Shell Chair by Danish designer Hans J. Wegner introduces timeless midcentury lines to the front parlor and sets the tone for things to come.

Above: The architects’ use of streamlined paneling adds scale and texture to the lofty dining room. The wood floor is in a herringbone pattern throughout the parlor floor. (Like the look? See our post Chevron and Herringbone: Spot the Difference.) The hardwood Dining Table and multi-colored Wishbone Chairs are Hans J. Wegner designs. 

Above: The architects built several scaled models of the fireplace mantel to determine the angles of the stones. They then asked the contractor to make a mock-up to scale to get a better understanding of the shape of the mantel in relation to the room. The final design is made of Avion, a soft brown honed marble from Spain. 

Above: With a long island running through it, the streamlined kitchen features cabinetry on one side and a fireplace and built-in bookshelves on the other. A window wall opens it to a new breakfast room extension in the rear, which, in turn, opens onto a terrace. 

Above: The kitchen countertops are made of Imperial Danby marble from Vermont quarries. “We use this stone in a lot of our projects because it’s beautiful and local for us,” says architect Devin O’neill. 

Above: Custom-designed kitchen cabinets maximize storage by using all of the room’s available height. For kitchen cabinetry essentials, see Remodeling 101: 5 Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Kitchen Cabinets.

Above: The delicate spindles of the black wood stair rail are modern in their detailing and remind us of Windsor chair spindles. 

Above: The master bedroom is situated in the back of the house, where the architects weren’t beholden to the original design. The room opens onto a new terrace that sits above the kitchen extension. The maximize views the glazing extends from wall to wall.

Above: The bedroom’s stand alone bathtub is filled from wall mounted fixtures on the side.

Above: Natural light from above filters down the stairs.

Above: On the top floors of the house, the design, as O’neill explains, “becomes less and less formal, gradually shedding the historic detailing.” The remodel culminates in a modern penthouse with a terrace, shown here. A window wall makes the division between the inside and outside disappear.

Above: “We worked closely with the NYC Landmarks and Preservation commission to develop a modern rear façade within the historic footprint of the original building,” O’neill says. The stepped back penthouse and terrace are hidden from view.

Want to see more work by O’neill Rose? Have a look at Porch Appreciation in Connecticut. Or see Julian King’s Minimalist Moves in a Chelsea Townhouse for another New York townhouse project.