From the street, this elegant 19th-century brick house looks like many of its neighbors in New York’s historic Greenwich Village. But when you open the front door, you realize that the soaring, light-filled space you’ve entered is very much of the present. That was precisely what the house’s owners sought when they hired New York architect Lee Skolnick and the San Francisco–based AD100 designer Steven Volpe to transform what had been a traditional interior into something much more modern.
The owners told both Skolnick and Volpe that they wanted “an urban oasis, a place of quiet and repose.” Moreover, they, like Skolnick (whose monograph Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership: Public/Private will be published next month), wanted the house to open to views of neighboring gardens, a particularly pleasant feature of the area. Having designed houses for both artists and collectors, the architect responded with a design that he calls “a vertical loft” and “a light machine.”
Skolnick, whose team included Paul Alter, a partner in the firm, and Joern Truemper, the project architect, likens the individual floors—two of which end in mezzanines—to “trays” that are surrounded by light, which comes down from the top of the stairway of the five-story house to the first floor. The all-glass rear façade also illuminates the lower level, with its open kitchen and formal dining area looking directly into a tree-lined courtyard.
Volpe is known for sophisticated interiors that mix cutting-edge 20th-century and antique pieces with understated chic. Fittingly, he and Ralph Dennis, his firm’s design director, orchestrated a deft blend of furnishings by icons like Jean-Michel Frank, Eyre de Lanux, and Madeleine Castaing, pieces by noted contemporary designers like Pierre Charpin, Martin Szekely, and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, and custom upholstery and cabinetry. Responding to the owners’ wish for “open spaces, lots of light, and an emphasis on tones of white and sumptuous textures,” Volpe explains, “We tried to create rooms that are modern, but not cold.”
The two-story living room is the house’s centerpiece; extending from front to back, it ends in a mezzanine that overlooks the kitchen-dining area and out to the rear garden. In this space, with its oak floors and walls of white hand-troweled plaster, Volpe and Dennis used pale, neutral, and luxurious fabrics, some of them custom-made by the Brooklyn-based weaver Tara Chapas. Since the front door opens directly into the space, it is partly obscured by a screen, of Murano glass and metal, which Volpe commissioned from the artist Ritsue Mishima. On the wall opposite the screen, a mirror by Line Vautrin hangs above a marble console by Charpin. A corner of the room with