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  • Manuel Zeitlin Architects New York
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  • Manuel Zeitlin Architects New York
  • Manuel Zeitlin Architects New York
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West Chelsea Townhouse

Manuel Zeitlin Architects was brought in to salvage a part of the history of this 1851 townhouse, and to make fundamental changes to its configuration, adapting it to the clients' modern lifestyle. The structure was purchased as a 3-family residential building and converted to single-family use during the wall-to-wall, cellar to roof gut renovation. The property is under the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission's jurisdiction and, therefore, limited modifications were permitted to its primary facade. The rear facade of the building though had been modified several times over the house's history and retained little of its original context. In the 1920s, a rooftop penthouse had been added onto the original 4 story building which, rumor has it, served as a speakeasy of sorts during the prohibition.

There were two primary design objectives: (1) Convert the rear facade to the front facade. The homeowners were unlikely to sit on the sidewalk and look up at the 1851 street-side facade which was frozen in time from a design perspective. We made the case that the back of the building - which faced into the owner' private garden - was actually the facade they would be seeing, and therefore should be reflective of who they, and their new house, were.onsequently, the entire rear of the building was removed during the project and reconstructed in this spirit. (2) Convert vertical living to horizontal living. Having lived in a loft for several years prior to purchase of this townhouse, the clients felt the vertical lifestyle seemed more conductive to separating the family than connecting it. The solution was to treat each of the five floors as a "loft" - eliminating as many walls as possible in order to maximize light and space, while retaining each individual floorÂ’s program. There are three discrete "family rooms", each with its own feel, amenities and relationships. But all three serve as places for people to gather. The house's new staircase was built with an exposed steel structure, open risers and a 13 foot long skylight at the top that permits light from the roof to filter 50+ feet down to the garden level.

The new home's parlor level juxtaposes the original heart pine flooring, a recasting of the authentic plaster crown molding and a pair of massive original sliding mahogany doors with a redefined, modern, open living space.  The rebuilt extension off the "back" of the house includes a gym/spa area at one level, a raised living room and outdoor terrace at another, and a light-filled master bathroom at yet another. The extension's roof is also a garden for the bedroom at the 3rd floor. The garden was also entirely reconstructed as a landscaped buffer along the perimeters, an open entertaining space with built-in seating and a water feature, and an urban play place for the family's children.