New York’s Gilsey House, designed by prominent 19th-century architect Stephen Decatur Hatch, was originally built as a Beaux-Arts style hotel in 1867. Thanks in part to its remarkable mansard roof, it has become symbolic of Manhattan’s NoMad neighbourhood, and is now considered a historic NYC landmark. In 1980, it was converted to co-op apartments, introducing 40 residential units in its eight-storey French neoclassic shell.
Worrell Yeung — a young NYC firm headed by Max Worrell and Jejon Yeung — were recently brought on for a gut renovation of one such apartment, where a couple and their young son had lived for over 14 years. After an unsuccessful search for a larger home — one that would provide them with more space to grow, as well as better privacy and extra storage — left them frustrated with their lack of options, the clients opted instead for a re-design of their existing space.
In line with typical Manhattan apartment dimensions, the unit gave the architects a relatively small space to work with — just under 149 metres. Their first order of business, then, was to remove all the existing interior walls to open up the loft and highlight its historic features. Instead of camouflaging the steel structure and historic windows, the firm chose to keep them front and centre in their design. “Exposing the sprinklers and steel structure throughout adds a certain richness to the loft, allowing the reductive forms of the storage elements to be more minimal.”
A grey lacquered entry foyer greets visitors as they arrive while concealing a closet and a wet bar. From there, the loft is organized as a large open space — throughout which various programmatic elements create partitioned rooms, without compromising on airiness. For instance, a semi-open ash wood bookcase extends to form a staircase, leading to a guest sleeping area above the living room. Along the living room wall, a sculptural element of ash wood and Calacatta black marble integrates more storage, a desk, and a fireplace.
Reclaimed wood doors were salvaged and refurbished to create a historical insertion, contrasting the grey walls and graphic wall tiles. Bold patterns and colours abound: “The clients had some unique and fun requests such as crawling height sleeping lofts, bookcase stairs, sprinkler pipes painted pink, a blue sink,” recalls Yeung.
In the child’s bedroom, the main organizing element is a bright turquoise staircase — again leading to raised sleeping quarters, while also doubling as a bookcase — which provides a pop of colour differentiating it from the rest of the space.
By creating more storage, improving access to natural light, and adding anachronistic accents while foregrounding the building’s history, Worrell Yeung managed to hit all the notes. “It was a journey and mutual goal to see how playful we could be while keeping it sophisticated and timeless,” remarks Worrell. And the clients seem more than satisfied with the results:“It’s expanded our lives — it’s a renovation that’s expanded the way we live.”
In Manhattan’s NoMad district, Worrell Yeung expands a unique apartment for a young family of three.