Though this 1841 Greek Revival townhouse is located on a cobblestone street in New York City’s West Village, the homeowners hail from different corners of the globe. He is a French financier and she’s a fashion buyer from Texas. They bought the property and lived there for a full year before embarking on a renovation, wanting to experience the space before determining what changes they might need to best suit their lifestyle. It was livable during that time, but admittedly dated, needing both aesthetic and systemic improvements.
The pair brought on Rena Cherny to help transform the home into a space they could raise their children and accommodate friends and family from near and far. Alongside esteemed architecture firm Abelow Sherman Architects, the designer’s goal was for the structure of each room to reflect its original era, while the fit-ups, furniture, and lighting would lean more contemporary. “The architectural shell had incredible charm: exposed brick, worn ceiling beams, quirky staircases, original wide plank pine flooring, and an intricate bronze mantel in the master bedroom,” Rena recalls.
They began in the kitchen, as the clients love to cook and entertain, and introduced a combination of authentic materials and quality finishes. “I find beauty in the tension created between contrasts and anchor my designs with this approach,” Rena explains. “In the kitchen we revealed the frayed wooden joists and red mottled brick to expose the home’s history while floating a crisp sheetrock cloud above the work zone, disrupting the sequence of beams, and resulting in an atmosphere of modernity. Above the porcelain chevron floors, we installed a bespoke duo of walnut and hand finished metal kitchen cabinets with inset mesh panels amidst the warm slabs of Calacatta Tucci sweeping the counters and backsplash.”
In this space, Rena gives credit to the architect, David Sherman, who proposed a layout that transformed the use of the kitchen space. “A U-shaped configuration was selected from many options to keep work out of the way of circulation, which both visually and practically sends one directly to the dining area in the back, and onward through the newly-created large glass opening to the fully-enclosed garden, an enchanted luxury in the heart of New York City,” Rena shares. David adds, “It’s all apparent upon arrival in this compact house – where to walk, where to eat, where to relax, and of course where to cook. The kitchen is the heart of this home, and the heart of the design.”
As the process evolved, the scope of work expanded to include a primary bathroom refresh. The walls were clad in Ann Sacks metallic subway tiles, contrasting with the existing jade glass shower tiles. “We also added a custom warm-stained wood vanity which expanded to a double sink topped with Cristallo countertops and Waterworks faucets, beneath mirrored medicine cabinets flanked by two Apparatus sconces, like a pair of ornamental earrings,” the designer tells us.
A few months into the project, the couple got the exciting news that they were pregnant. Rena sprang into action, revisiting plans. “We located a nursery on the top floor, where we installed zippy Studio Four wallpaper, woven steel blue roman shades, dotting walnut Allied + Maker sconces within the trio of windows, and closets outfitted with chocolate leather hardware,” she smiles. “It is adorable!”
Despite the wide geographic distance between their childhoods, the couple’s aesthetic was actually fairly aligned. By introducing a smart mix of materials and celebrating the innate charm of the home, Rena was able to infuse the space with a contemporary sensibility tailored to their needs. “She was dedicated to practicality… from the optimal back height for kitchen stools (which we ultimately sourced at Token) to ensuring our selection of fabrics wouldn’t show dog hair. She was amazingly mindful about the details. His interest laid more in the overall joie de vivre experience, focusing on the courtyard and the cozy space in the cellar where the family would relax together, and, of course, ensuring we had ample storage for their assemblage of wine!” In the end, it was a perfect juxtaposition — both in aesthetics and in work flow — and what the designer calls one of those rare experiences the industry is always striving for.