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The new owners of this classic brick townhouse loved the original 19th century details, especially on the ground floor and above. They kept the arched opening, moldings and mantels exactly as they were. But the rooms on the top floor of the four-story house needed to be changed for the needs of their blended family, and the garden level where the kitchen was located was dark and uninviting. They also wanted a powder room on the living room floor and bathroom upgrades throughout.
So they called Manhattan-based Platt Dana Architects, with whom they had worked before. Much of Platt Dana’s work is what you don’t immediately see. Except for the living room floor, said architect Kate Platt, who partners with Hope Dana in the full-service architecture firm, “Every wall is new, mostly plaster, as well as ceilings, millwork, lighting, molding, doors, frames, hardware.”
The kitchen downstairs was a big order of business. “The original kitchen had very low ceilings,” said Kylie Kaiser, project architect. “The natural light struggled to get back into the informal dining area in the middle of the garden floor. We opened up the ceiling to reveal the original wooden beams, which added height and rustic charm to the space.”
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An existing rear balcony off the living level, extending over old wooden and glass doors that led from the kitchen to the garden, further added to the gloom. “We removed the balcony, replaced the old doors with lighter steel units and turned the dining area so it was close to the windows,” Kaiser said. A new banquette creates a comfortable place for a meal overlooking the garden (top photo). The kitchen was moved to the middle.
Platt Dana’s biggest feature was on the ground floor, where the rear wall had been blown out in a previous renovation and the opening filled with thick timber-framed doors and windows. As in the kitchen, these were replaced with a lighter-looking steel-and-glass system from Optimum. The sitting area at the back of the ground floor now feels open, bright and, because of the high ceilings, quite grand.
Platt Dana doubled the width of the second opening at the back of the vestibule and added a new powder room at the end. They had an unusual “pig’s ear” handrail fabricated for added safety while descending the stairs. “The intention was to have something that would go away,” Kaiser said.
“We kept the original floors, arches, fireplaces, even the radiators” on the living room floor, Platt said.
The homeowners are book lovers to say the least. Platt Dana designed distinctive thin, square bookshelves to line the walls through the middle of the living room floor, as well as a relaxing sitting area off the master bedroom on the floor above.
The architects retained an existing staircase that leads from the living room at the rear of the ground floor to the kitchen below. “The back wall is brand new,” Kaiser said. “It was a completely different animal, treated in such a way that it appeared as two separate, giant windows.” Black steel windows continue the treatment on the lower level for a modernized, unified look.
The brand new kitchen is centered on a marble-topped island. Platt Dana designed the bespoke wooden cabinets, painted in two Farrow & Ball colours: Cornforth White and Stiffkey Blue. Panel-ready appliances were sourced from Sub-Zero and Miele, with a Wolf range.
Reclaimed heart pine flooring from The Hudson Company was selected to match the wood in the rest of the house as closely as possible.
There is a TV/family room beyond the double doors at the end.
The renewed powder room at garden level has a wall covering made from recycled magazines.
The main bedroom and its adjoining living room, with a wide opening between them, were kept intact. Platt Dana created a long built-in banquette and new bookshelves in the cozy reading area.
The master bath (top) was cleaned and reconfigured in its entirety. The skylight room, on the top floor, has a new gray and white mosaic floor.
Platt Dana conjured up four new bedrooms and two bathrooms during a total gut renovation of the upper floor.
The entire rear facade of the house received a new stucco coating. The bespoke windows from Optimum have a special feature: a bottom panel in the middle of the pane that opens to let the family dog in and out.
The terraced backyard design is by Red Hook-based Dimastery Studio.
(Photos by Regan Wood)
The Insider is Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design/renovation project by design journalist Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday morning.
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