A Sophisticated Renovation of a 19th Century Manhattan Town House

By Diana Budds / Published by Dwell
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Historic details and modern interventions commune in two bathrooms in a renovated West Village town house.

Architects Anne Marie Lubrano and Lea Ciavarra are known for taking a restrained and thoughtful approach to the spaces they design. "Our attitude is that materials should be honest, resulting in a space that presents itself as simple, comprehensible, and ultimately soothing," Lubrano says. And that was precisely what guided their transformation of a three story, 19th-century town house in Manhattan.

Architects Anne Marie Lubrano and Lea Ciavarra limited the material selection in their renovation of a town house dating from 1899. The powder room on the first floor is located in a former waiting area (the previous resident used the level for his dental practice). It features a custom Alabastro marble sink and fixtures by California Faucets. The architects kept the original fireplace, paying homage to the structure’s history. Benjamin Moore’s Super White paint was applied to the ceiling and the White Dove hue to the walls. "Positioning the faucets on the side wall emphasizes the horizontal," Lubrano says. "Wall-mounted fixtures feel less grounded and materials can continue uninterrupted below. We wanted the spaces to feel light, spacious and light-filled."

Architects Anne Marie Lubrano and Lea Ciavarra limited the material selection in their renovation of a town house dating from 1899. The powder room on the first floor is located in a former waiting area (the previous resident used the level for his dental practice). It features a custom Alabastro marble sink and fixtures by California Faucets. The architects kept the original fireplace, paying homage to the structure’s history. Benjamin Moore’s Super White paint was applied to the ceiling and the White Dove hue to the walls. "Positioning the faucets on the side wall emphasizes the horizontal," Lubrano says. "Wall-mounted fixtures feel less grounded and materials can continue uninterrupted below. We wanted the spaces to feel light, spacious and light-filled."

The client, an investment banker and art collector, was first introduced to the firm’s work through the Howard Greenberg Gallery, a place she frequented and that Lubrano and Ciavarra revamped in 2002. "She loved the renovation, specifically the warmth of the materials and the lighting system," Lubrano says. 

An angular brushed-stainless-steel sink and a painted plywood vanity in the third floor’s master bathroom are custom. The general contractor built the vanity and comissioned the sink from New York’s Master Restaurant Equipment. Back-painted glass panels by Bendheim clad the walls, and the fixtures are from California Faucets. Recessed lighting surrounds the perimeter of the Circle Redmont skylight, and the wall sconce over the Robern mirror is from Glashütte Limburg.

An angular brushed-stainless-steel sink and a painted plywood vanity in the third floor’s master bathroom are custom. The general contractor built the vanity and comissioned the sink from New York’s Master Restaurant Equipment. Back-painted glass panels by Bendheim clad the walls, and the fixtures are from California Faucets. Recessed lighting surrounds the perimeter of the Circle Redmont skylight, and the wall sconce over the Robern mirror is from Glashütte Limburg.

The client wanted an austere space to allow her paintings to shine, room for entertaining, and to retain select period elements. In the powder room, a monolithic sink, made from Alabastro marble purchased at Stone Source, holds court with an original ornate marble fireplace. "We treated the historic details as works of art and fell in love with their sinuous and mottled beauty," Lubrano says. "The preserved elements became independent pieces—commentaries of a past life." 

Inspired by the client’s affinity for Donald Judd’s metal boxes and her request for a surface that could handle heavy use and abuse, Lubrano and Ciavarra wrapped the kitchen island, the counters, and the backsplash behind the Viking range and Miele hood in brushed stainless steel. The integrated shelving accommodates the resident’s expansive cookbook and tableware collection. The kitchen’s HVAC system is located in the cellar and blows through vents set into the concrete floor.

Inspired by the client’s affinity for Donald Judd’s metal boxes and her request for a surface that could handle heavy use and abuse, Lubrano and Ciavarra wrapped the kitchen island, the counters, and the backsplash behind the Viking range and Miele hood in brushed stainless steel. The integrated shelving accommodates the resident’s expansive cookbook and tableware collection. The kitchen’s HVAC system is located in the cellar and blows through vents set into the concrete floor.

At just 15 feet wide, the town house is quite slender. Lubrano and Ciavarra devised subtle interventions to usher light through the space. A skylight in the sleek, glass-clad master bathroom, which is located near the house’s center on the third story, allows light to enter through the middle of the structure. "First and foremost, bathrooms need to function, but then they need to transcend," Ciavarra says. "Our work always tries to create an expansive feeling—open, clean, and well-planned." 

The West Village renovation was the second project Lubrano completed for her client. "She is a collector of contemporary art and has minimalist design sensibilities, so she was not necessarily interested in reiterating typical attitudes of how a historic townhouse should present itself," Lubrano says. "This residence creates a mood that is queued not through a rote familiarity, but through a pleasure in precision and a confidence in form making."<br><br>One of the main challenges was integrating the interiors with the outdoor areas—a luxury in dense Manhattan. On the parlor floor, a floor-to-ceiling window overlooks the patio.

The West Village renovation was the second project Lubrano completed for her client. "She is a collector of contemporary art and has minimalist design sensibilities, so she was not necessarily interested in reiterating typical attitudes of how a historic townhouse should present itself," Lubrano says. "This residence creates a mood that is queued not through a rote familiarity, but through a pleasure in precision and a confidence in form making."

One of the main challenges was integrating the interiors with the outdoor areas—a luxury in dense Manhattan. On the parlor floor, a floor-to-ceiling window overlooks the patio.


The dramatic 90-square-foot patio features a cooking and seating area. The floor and countertop are clad in Inca Gray Honed slate from Stone Source and the bench and planters are teak. By creating a vertical garden, Lubrano and Ciavarra integrated greenery into the views from every level of the house.

The dramatic 90-square-foot patio features a cooking and seating area. The floor and countertop are clad in Inca Gray Honed slate from Stone Source and the bench and planters are teak. By creating a vertical garden, Lubrano and Ciavarra integrated greenery into the views from every level of the house.

The rear of the house is virtually all glass, essential for ensuring the 15-foot-wide structure doesn't feel claustrophobic. "Our office obsesses over the color and quality of light, both through physiological understanding as well as keeping up with the latest technological trends," Lubrano says. "In this project, color is presented through the natural characteristics of materials. The garden level floor is a smooth but visually textured concrete. The upper floors are white-washed wood, allowing the grain to present itself. The walls were plastered to a perfect finish and the trim was painted in selected hues of white. The tactile nature of surfaces is very important."

The rear of the house is virtually all glass, essential for ensuring the 15-foot-wide structure doesn't feel claustrophobic. "Our office obsesses over the color and quality of light, both through physiological understanding as well as keeping up with the latest technological trends," Lubrano says. "In this project, color is presented through the natural characteristics of materials. The garden level floor is a smooth but visually textured concrete. The upper floors are white-washed wood, allowing the grain to present itself. The walls were plastered to a perfect finish and the trim was painted in selected hues of white. The tactile nature of surfaces is very important."

A rooftop oasis furthers the outdoor connection. It's planted with red fescue at the client's request for a wild and unmaintained look and an experience akin to "walking through a field."

A rooftop oasis furthers the outdoor connection. It's planted with red fescue at the client's request for a wild and unmaintained look and an experience akin to "walking through a field."

Details
Project: West Village Town House

Diana Budds

@dianabudds

A New York-based writer, Diana studied art history and environmental policy at UC Davis. Before rising to Senior Editor at Dwell—where she helped craft product coverage, features, and more—Diana worked in the Architecture and Design departments at MoMA and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She counts finishing a 5K as one of her greatest accomplishments, gets excited about any travel involving trains, and her favorite magazine section is Rewind. Learn more about Diana at: http://dianabudds.com

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