When a couple decided to return to New York after several years of living in London, they faced a dilemma: They craved the less formal vibe of the West Village yet they wanted to achieve it on the Upper East Side, where their children were already attending school. The solution came in the form of an abandoned historic brownstone that offered the perfect combination of space, location and opportunity.
“This is a family who truly enjoys each other and really lives in their home,” says interior designer Lisa Frazar, who has now worked on six homes with the family. “The character of the home and the pieces we brought together reflect that at every turn.”
Working with the homeowners while they were still in London, Frazar chose colors and textures that would allow the homeowners to instantly feel at home upon their return. Cool steel and concrete in the kitchen, lush velvet and leather in the library, and linen and reclaimed walnut in the dining area all contribute to a home rich in both luxury and livability. “We tried to mimic that more funky West Village vibe with such touches as open shelving in the kitchen and modern lighting throughout the home,” Frazar says. “Nothing is too delicate or formal; there are different places throughout the home to hang out—it has personality.”
To begin, architect Robert Finger worked with the homeowners on crafting a new home within the historic shell that existed. “My inspiration was a turn-of-the-century brownstone that had really evolved over time,” Finger says. For example, converting the ground floor to a more industrial-style kitchen with exposed beams and an informal dining area, and adding grand French doors that marry the space with the landscaped patio are things the architect envisioned “would have happened at some point in the home’s evolution.”
The architect also increased the home’s size by more than 50 percent. He extended the back of the house on two of the four original floors and added a fifth floor that would serve as a bedroom for the homeowners’ eldest child. In addition, he excavated the cellar to create a useful space that now doubles as the open kitchen and dining area, as well as a TV room where the kids can be near their mother, who loves to cook.
On the main floor—in an area that would have traditionally been devoted to a formal dining room—a space was converted into a library that the family can enjoy together. Upstairs from that floor lies the sprawling master suite, where the kids can be found nearly as often as their parents. “It’s so rare for clients to carve out space for a library,” says Frazer, mentioning the room as one of her favorites in the finished home. “The windows let in fantastic light, and it’s full of family photos and travel memorabilia. It has a lot of personality.”
Throughout the home, favorite family furnishings—such as a pair of slipper chairs in the living room and the plush sofa in the library—have been passed down through the generations and reupholstered to create a feel more suitable for the new home. Frazar worked to marry these heirloom pieces with more modern touches, emphasizing a less formal design scheme. In the library, for example, a custom-colored lighting fixture by David Weeks adds a contemporary pop of apple green to the room, while the kitchen’s nickel-and-walnut shelving and concrete countertop give the home an industrial feel.
“It’s a very thoughtful home,” Frazar says. “We used everything to our advantage—the heirlooms add character, and the newer pieces give it an edge. It’s very personal.”