Built in 1853, on the site of a stable in a vernacular Greek Revival style, 130 Charles Street was always a modest house in the heart of the bustling dockside of Greenwich Village. The house’s broad four bay front belies its’ shallow depth and rhomboid shape in plan. For most of its history the house was a multi occupancy building either as a rooming house or as tiny studio apartments, in the 1980‘s it was converted into a single family home.

Project Name: Charles Street Town House
Studio Name: Messana O’Rorke
New York, United States
Photography: Eric Laignel

Charles Street Town House by Messana O'Rorke - Sheet1
Dining Space ©Eric Laignel

The condition of the house when MO’R started design work in 2006 was pretty dire; shabby on the outside and inside a warren of small rooms with sloping floors and almost negligible historic detail. With rough stucco walls and dark stained trims it felt more like a South Western restaurant than a Town House. However, the house’s shallow footprint and North facing facade meant that it always had almost magical diffuse light on a sunny day.

The renovation of the front facade of the house was governed by it’s Landmark District Status; Plastic framed windows, security grills and painted metal caps on brownstone sills and lintels were all removed; brickwork, brownstone and railings were restored and replaced.

Charles Street Town House by Messana O'Rorke - Sheet2
Bedroom ©Eric Laignel

Inside, the house was basically gutted, the basement was excavated two feet and the house underpinned. A steel structure was introduced at the core of the house allowing us to create large four bay rooms on the first three floors. Removal of the chimney breast and fire places on the East side of the house allowed these rooms to focus on the renovated fire places on the Western wall.

The house is entered directly into the Living room at the the top of the stoop. The rhomboid footprint is disguised by orthogonal closets that gradually reduce in depth from the front to the back of the room; this planning device is consistent in all rooms on that side of the house. The living room is open to to the staircase hall and through a glass door to a small rear yard where tall bamboo disguise the blank brick walls of the surrounding buildings.

Charles Street Town House by Messana O'Rorke - Sheet3
Rooftop Seating ©Eric Laignel

Either side of the stair are a study and cloak room, which are accessed from either end of the living room and from which indirect light implies the illusion of volume. New oak floors and staircase, from the basement up, and smooth white walls and ceilings throughout the house reflect day light into the full depth of the house. Indirect lighting enhance the calm serenity of the house throughout.

Downstairs the large dining room is supported by a kitchen and laundry room at the rear of the building, all have grey limestone floors. The master bedroom on the second floor occupies the four bays above the living room, with marble bathroom and walnut walk-in closet overlooking the yard. Two smaller bedrooms with en suite bathrooms occupy the third floor, below a glass bulk head at roof level with a deck surrounded by planting.


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