New York Brownstone Development & Design

Project: Manhattan Remodel and Cape Cod Affordable, Episode 1, Part 1

Bob is on Manhattan's Upper West Side to renew a 2,000-square-foot Brownstone apartment. First, he looks at what made Brownstones significant, including their details and fa├žades.

Inside the building, Bob shows how the space was cut up in the 1940s to make a warren of rooms. These walls and finishes will be removed as the space is gutted to prepare for new studs, walls, plumbing, and finishes.

Pieces will be salvaged for architectural resale, including the pink sink from the bathroom and the retro cabinets in the kitchen, but everything else will go. Bob also visits Central Park, its caretakers, trees, and monuments.
Part 1: New York Brownstone Development & Design
Bob introduces an 1890s Brownstone on New York City's Upper West Side. Brownstones were built on the sidestreets off Central Park West for wealthy New Yorkers who wanted large family homes with proximity to the city. These row houses were made of Brownstone quarried in Connecticut and carved with high-quality Victorian detailing. Much detailing still remains on the facade of the project building, including the wrought iron window grilles, the original entry doors, and the carving.

Other details have been removed, like the stoop that once led to the main floor, which became the second floor with the conversion to apartments in the 1940s. Additions from the 40s conversion, and later updates, have left aluminum railings, steel staircases, and iron casement windows as glaring examples of practical remodeling executed with no attention to the character or history of a building.

Bob enters the Brownstone apartment to find more evidence of 1940s updates in this turn-of-the-century row house. Curved ceiling shapes, a built-in bar, and chopped-up space show layers that were added during the conversion of the original building.

Bob meets up with his son, Chris Vila, and reviews the preparations for demolition, which include permits, shutoffs for all the gas, water, and electricity, and removal of moldings and fixtures from the walls. Chris shows Bob the hardwood floors buried beneath layers of vinyl and linoleum. The goal will be to peel back the layers of this 2,000-square-foot apartment until just the original shell and structure remain.

In the pink kitchen, 50s cabinets with interior lighting are marked for architectural salvage. They continue to the front of the apartment where a pink-tiled bathroom with an elegant, vintage sink on tapered legs will also be marked for salvage.

Bob and Chris Vila look at the windows that will be removed and replaced once they receive the Landmarks Preservation Commission's approval.
Part 2: Reviewing the Architectural Floor Plans for the Brownstone Remodel
Part 3: Touring Central Park in New York City
This project deals with two very different notions of home. Bob begins on New York City's Upper West Side, where an 1890s Brownstone is revitalized through high-quality craftsmanship and sensitive design. New York's past meets its present, as the entire floor is recaptured and refurbished to create a spacious urban apartment on the doorstep of Central Park.

At the same time, Bob works with a Cape Cod developer to apply Massachusetts land use statute 40B to create affordable housing, and a neighborhood of homes in Mashpee, MA. These Energy Star certified homes show how quality building practices and reasonable asking prices can work together to provide livable, affordable homes and neighborhoods to those who work in our communities.