And the winner is …

For the garden floor, out of the design options presented to us, we chose  number three with modifications to include a few elements from the other designs.  The most important component that factored into our decision was the need for a reasonable amount of space in the bedrooms, while maintaining a decent amount of closet floor

We were also seduced by the idea of our own bathroom.  What had we been thinking?  Considering how long it takes our eight year-old to get ready for school now, just imagine what it will be like when she is actually allowed to wear the make-up she tries to sneak on.

The changes to the original design option three also included the moving of the laundry closet to make room for a larger master bathroom (although it still won’t be overly large).  About a foot (or .3048m) was taken from the master bedroom area as well so that the spare room could be lengthened while still allowing for a standard five foot tub.  The second bathroom was reduced in size (since it will have only a shower) in order give an extra foot or so back to the second bedroom.  The architect was also able to give us our linen closet.  It is the little things that make you happy.

The Garden Floor Plans: the fun part

We are finally at the fun stage of the process–choosing a design scheme.   Our architect, earning his fee, provided us with three design schemes that included some options that we hadn’t thought of.  Feel free to view the plans and give us your opinion about which one you think we should choose (not that we will listen to you).

For the garden floor, where we are putting our bedrooms, we have a number of options to choose from.  The first has one large bathroom with a tub, shower and possibly even two sinks (our dream).  The TV room/office/guest room (labeled as the junior room) is adjoined to our bedroom with pocket or sliding doors so light and can filter into the room.  This option gives optimum space for both main bedrooms.  The down side to this scheme is that we have to walk down to the end of the hall to go to the loo at night.  Our guests are only separated from us by a sliding door.  If we have some snorers on our hands (you know who you are) this could end up being annoying.

The second scheme gives us two bathrooms and a walk-in-closet.  We also get a linen closed.  If you are an urban dweller, and especially in New York City, a linen closet is a dream come true.  I am so tired of jamming my sheets and towels into my bedroom closet–taking precious space from clothes.  This option includes a master bath.

The cons:  The guest room gets smaller with this scenario and has two doors to it, which are a bit awkward for arranging furniture.  Our master bedroom also gets much smaller to accommodate the depth of the second bathroom, which is not very masterly, and the closet.  With two bathrooms, both end up becoming small.  We wanted our bedroom to have a sense of space.  In our current bedroom, every time I pass the bottom of our bed I hit our wall mounted TV.  Is it worth having a walk-in closet?

The third scheme provides for two bathrooms but no walk-in closet.  The guest room is sandwiched between the bathrooms.  In the previous plans, this room had a door that opened onto the master bedroom.  You can’t see it here but the bedroom will have double doors opening on to the garden with large side windows to allow for maximum light to enter the room.  We wanted this because the back of the house gets no direct sunlight.  The plan was to have pocket doors open up onto our room to let that room get light from the garden doors.

The pros:  We both get a bathroom and it doesn’t cut into the junior room or our bedrooms too much.  Our master bedroom stays pretty big and we still have a large long closet.

The cons:  The junior/laundry/storage room won’t get any natural light.  With an extra bathroom, it also gets smaller.  An extra bathroom will cost more with the extra plumbing, fixtures and tiling.

Our questions:  Does our daughter, aged 8, really need her own bathroom?  Do two small bathrooms work out better than one big dream bathroom?

Historical Preservation in NYC

Architecture in New York City is as diverse as its people.  It is a melting pot of the old and the new.  The NYC Landmark Preservation Commission is (LPC) tasked with preserving aesthetically and historically important buildings, structures, and other objects that make the New York City landscape feel, well, historical.  The Commission was created in 1965 in reaction to the outrage of New Yorkers at the demolition of the original Pennsylvania Station, a gorgeous pink granite Beaux-Arts jewel, that was carried out to make way for the eyesore that is Madison Square Garden.

The Commission preserves not only unique buildings, but the overall feel of neighborhoods that are  designated as historic districts.  A building must be at least thirty years old before the Commission can declare it a landmark.  That being said, we thank our lucky stars that our row house is not in a landmark district because there are lots of extra rules and regulations when you renovate a landmark brownstone.

The LPC website is, however, a great resource if you are renovating a brownstone and want information on how to retain or restore some of your home’s historic detail.  It provides an account of the various styles of rowhouses that have been popular over the last 200 years in the city and breaks them down by style and period.  See its downloadable Rowhouse Manual.

Over the last two hundred years, row houses in the city have been built in a number of styles from Federal (1780-1830) to the English Neo-Classical style (1900-1925), often mixing styles and periods.  Even though it was built in 1899, our modest row house best fits the style known as the Greek Revival, which first appeared between 1830-1860.This style was characterized by simple architectural elements that imitated Greek motifs.  Common features included a brick façade, a medium height stoop and wrought or cast iron railings.  These buildings were typically three floors with a basement and sometimes a half-story attic.  The cornices (the fancy edging on the top of the building) were traditionally wood dentiled (derived from the latin dens meaning tooth).

We don’t plan on changing much on the façade for the next couple of years because it is in pretty good shape but at some point we will replace the front windows and either restore or replace the door.

According to the manual, the windows that were customary for a Greek Revival house were six over six double hung wood windows (left). This was mainly because at that time large pieces of glass were expensive.  While we do like the 6/6 look we may go for the 4/4 instead because, ironically, the small paned glass is now expensive.  Wood framing is also really expensive and is generally special order so we may have to go with aluminum or vinyl.  That debate to come later.