February 28, 2015

Eve Robinson Brings a Modern Look to an Upper East Side Carriage House

To reinvent an early 20th-century Upper East Side carriage house, designer Eve Robinson and architect David Howell take it back to the future.

by Judith Nasatir interior designer Eve Robinson Associates photographer Peter Margonelli architecture DHD Architecture and Design


Designers and architects know from transformation: it's what they do everyday. But clients who gleefully decide to coax the residential potential from the ramshackle? They're a special breed. The family of four who spearheaded the reinvention of this early 20th-century Upper East Side carriage house for the 21st century belong to it, no question. To bring the masonry wreck to its current modern zenith, they enlisted interior designer Eve Robinson, principal of Eve Robinson Associates, with whom they had worked on their previous, traditionally appointed townhouse, along with David Howell R.A., principal of DHD Architecture and Design, and his colleague, project architect Ben Fuqua, R.A.

Talk about teamwork, and myriad moving parts. To say that the creation of this five-story, four-bedroom, 7,500-square-foot residence was a gut renovation grossly understates the scope of the design reinvention. Howell says the highlights of the architectural makeover include adding a story up top for the master bedroom; carving out two double-height volumes (one a great room with adjacent kitchen and family dining opening to a much-enhanced garden; the other, an expansive formal upstairs living room) amid totally reconfigured floor plans; and redoing the entire façade. Of original detail, there was none to preserve.

The ground-floor great room opens graciously to the landscaped garden, which includes a dedicated area for courtyard dining. Carefully choreographed views from each area to the next help make the entire complex of soaring volumes, enclosed spaces, and glass expanses comprehensible.

Robinson designed the interior to accommodate the clients' penchant for entertaining. She responded to their request for an aesthetic shift-and refreshing, happy, family friendly rooms-with furnishings, finishes, and a palette that are distinctive, modern in shape and proportion, and most of all enduring. "I work hard to make timeless interiors for my clients," she says. "Decoration is expensive, so I choose pieces that are clean, fresh, and will survive fads." Her approach has resulted in rooms that are unusually serene, and sassy, too-quietly awash in blues and greens, the occasional shot of purple, expanses of walnut punctuated by limestone, and other earth tones and materials that bring the organic front and center in this newly minted urban family oasis.