One of 20 identical row houses designed in 1882 by architect Gilbert Robinson Jr., this three-bed, two-bath Victorian is nestled in Sylvan Terrace, a cobblestone cul-de-sac in upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Previously featured in Dwell, the three-story building was treated to a top-to-bottom renovation by owner Tom Givone, an ad copywriter who discovered a new career as a contractor during the years-long project.
When Tom found it, the 1,500-square-foot row house had been abandoned mid-renovation. "It had some electric and sheetrock," says Tom. "It was like a Home Depot shell that looked like an active job site—paint had hardened over and mud was on the walls." Undaunted, he moved in, adding a sink and an old stove to make it habitable.
Every day after work, Tom would start a new home project, ripping out sheetrock or uncovering 15-foot ceiling beams. He became so proficient that he left his advertising career to focus on architectural design, pausing work on his own home to take on other projects. It wasn’t until a few years later, in 2015, that he refocused on this building, where he’d lived for nearly 16 years. By then, says Tom, "I had a good crew, I was finding interesting materials, and I was learning different building applications."
Still executing much of the work himself, Tom toiled for hours to improve on the design and restore the interiors, including recreating true plaster medallions for the ceilings in parlor spaces and using anodized aluminum-faced plywood sheets for the kitchen doors, cabinets, and staircase and baseboard trim. For materials, Tom combed flea markets and salvaged supplies from neighbors, sourcing everything from hardware to hinges to pieces from original flooring from dumpsters. Some surprises he excavated from the home itself, like a pair of eight-foot-tall wood doors that had been covered by sheetrock.
Now, the home’s historic charm shines again. Restored pumpkin pine flooring extends through the parlor level, where you’ll find the recreated ceiling medallions and a refinished staircase. A reception and dining room can serve as bedrooms, living areas, or home offices. The lower level features an open living space with a wood-burning fireplace and a kitchen with stainless steel appliances and Carrara marble countertops.
The crown jewel is the top floor, which houses the entire owner’s suite under 15-foot beamed ceilings. Restored 19th-century French chandeliers and a remote-controlled venting skylight are overhead, while original brick fireplaces add to the period charm. The adjacent bath with polished concrete floors and quartz tile walls features an old water fountain from a park in Philadelphia, leading to the laundry room/closet.
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