April 12, 2017
A Tiny 170-Year-Old Townhouse in Greenwich Village Gets a 21st-Century Makeover
Hirsch | Corti Architecture and Christina Roughan Team Up to Modernize a Tiny Townhouse in Greenwich Village.
by Jorge S. Arango interior designer Christina Roughan photographer Nick Guttridge architecture Hirsch|Corti Architecture
When a sea captain built a trio of brick townhouses for his three daughters in 1840s Greenwich Village, he made the middle residence—to be occupied by his favorite—three inches wider. It was a small token of affection, but when you're talking about a mere 2,600-square-foot spread amongst three floors, every inch counts. And it paid off for the home's modern-day fiftysomething owners.
In spite of the home's rundown condition, the clients fell in love with the back garden. So they called architects Roger Hirsch and Myriam Corti and designer Christina Roughan, who had done previous projects for them. "We wanted to keep the integrity of the space, which is landmarked," explains Roughan, "but create a more modern feel."
Typical of the era, floors were divided into small rooms. "The disadvantage of townhouses," observes Corti, "is you're in one or another space unless you find a way to open it up and make the spaces flow." Which is exactly what they did, moving the kitchen to the front of the house from the back and removing walls so light could pass freely from one end of the floors to the other.
Then the architects convinced the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to let them replace the entire first-floor back façade with a 15-by-10-foot plate glass wall that had to be craned over the row houses and lowered behind them. "We detailed the glass so there is no frame, so it doesn't feel like a window," Hirsch says. "You feel like you're in the garden."
Respecting the 19th-century origins, the team preserved the brick west wall from first to top floors and installed new wide-plank wood floors that look original to the house. The stairwell culminates in a skylight, bringing in still more light. For the interior envelope, says Roughan, "We looked at the outside and windows as artworks themselves. So we kept a neutral palette of ivory tinted with grayish-purple so you could enjoy how the garden changes through the seasons." Furnishings are clean-lined classics (Vladimir Kagan chairs, a Charles Hollis Jones cigarette table, Paul Evans lamps) paired with custom pieces (a daybed inspired by Jean-Michel Frank) and contemporary silhouettes (a B&B Italia sofa, a Hudson Furniture American black walnut table surrounded by Philippe Starck's chairs).
"It's a very compact house," concedes Corti. "But when you're there, it feels spacious." And who knows? Perhaps the captain's two other daughters never measured the widths of each house and, so, remained none the wiser.
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