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A Not-So-Traditional Townhouse Update

If you’re buying a brownstone or townhouse, chances are it’s seen at least one renovation by the hands of previous owners. That was certainly the case for ’s clients and their future Upper West Side triplex: small, closed-off rooms, heavy wood accents, and layers of paint.

A gut renovation was in order, but one that was considerate of their clients’ divergent design points of view. “Where he leaned more toward a farmhouse-meets-historic-townhouse aesthetic, she preferred something much more modern,” Adam, the architect, says. The design pair met them in the middle: Incorporating fine-tuned architectural details such as ceiling molds and wainscoting, the Zimmermans also cleared vast swaths of open space, which are now flooded with light and edited décor.

The refreshed garden floor, seen above, now includes lounge chairs from , rugs from , and newly installed floor-to-ceiling doors.

Before the renovation, the garden floor had a chopped-up layout with an enclosed kitchen, a dark staircase, and little natural light. Photo: Courtesy of Zimmerman Workshop
The kitchen, seen here before the renovation, might have seemed modern back in the day, but not so much for a couple that loves to cook and entertain. The Zimmermans created an entirely new landscape with a cook-work area that was inviting and open. Photo: Courtesy of Zimmerman Workshop
It’s hard to believe that this is the same space, albeit now with a two-story addition on the garden side that allowed room for floor-to-ceiling glass doors. The kitchen is by , and the lighting is by . The Zimmermans worked with contractors from . Photo: Garrett Rowland
Remember those dark stairs? This is what they look like now: modern, yet warmed up with lighter wood, a nod to one client’s love of traditional townhouse touches, as well as the other’s preference for a more elevated edge. “We ended up with a design that juxtaposed old and new,” Adam notes. Photo: Garrett Rowland
The previous owners used the cellar space, seen here, as a game room. It was dark and divided into smaller rooms; original architectural details were buried under drywall and heavy paint. Photo: Courtesy of Zimmerman Workshop
Today, that same space is still used as a game room, but now with an open area enhanced by original wood beams and exposed foundation walls. “Here, the flooring is a wider plank oak, which lends a more rustic counterpoint to the herringbone upstairs,” Adam says. Photo: Garrett Rowland
Before the renovation, the parlor floor included a child’s bedroom. That space was incorporated into the floor-through master suite. Photo: Courtesy of Zimmerman Workshop
Yes, this is the same view of the previous room, only now with a new herringbone floor and a more modern sensibility. “We preserved elements like the stained glass and historic detailing,” Adam says. He also added a door that looks like it has always been there — a nod to the traditional architecture. Photo: Garrett Rowland
The original child’s room was swept clean for the addition of new millwork that divides the floor into different areas. Photo: Courtesy of Zimmerman Workshop
The custom millwork and paneling is as practical as it is handsome, effectively concealing closets and the master bath. The area rug is from ABC Carpet & Home. Photo: Garrett Rowland
The master suite on the parlor floor is the most traditional of the three floors, though, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a simplified color palette, it still has a modern feel. “This is not a passive house,” Adam notes, “but it does utilize certain passive-house details such as insulation and air control with an HRV to circulate and filter the air throughout.” Note the graceful, vertical radiator cover in the wall by the window, which echoes traditional built-in shutters — once a standard window treatment from when this building first saw the light. Photo: Garrett Rowland
A Not-So-Traditional Update for an Upper West Side Townhouse