Memories of 19th-century New York
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Memories of 19th-century New York


My client came to me having seen my work at The Brook, a men’s club in New York which, being a brownstone, was a similar type of building to his house. It was an exciting commission and it just goes to show that good things happen to those who wait, because this is a building where my client originally lived while at university, in a third-floor flat. He shared the flat with various people and then entrusted it to a friend, but with the proviso that they need to move out the minute he wanted it back. This occurred two years later, by which time he was able to buy the flat, and then slowly, slowly, he bought the rest of the building.

About five years ago my client was finally able to do what he’d always dreamed of doing, which was to restore the whole building and turn it into a private house. I doubt that it had ever actually been a house previously, because, rather like New Town houses in Edinburgh, it would probably have been built as an apartment block. The clue to this was that the staircase was not central, as it would have been if this had ever been a house, but went up the side of the building.

My client asked me whether I could recommend and architect and I thought of Kevin Lichten, with whom I’d worked at The Brook and who would be ideal because he’s a restoration architect. Work started, during which the back of the house virtually fell down. This caused serious delays to the programme as the entire back had to be taken down to the foundations and rebuilt.

I feel that in this house, designed for an interesting and thoughtful client, past meets present to create a very special atmosphere.