Tour a Greek Revival Townhouse With Traditional and Midcentury Details

Jennifer Fernandez
·7 min read

Like doctors, lawyers, and good therapists, an interior designer is an enviable friend to have. When a Manhattan family of five decided to make the daunting jump from their three-bedroom apartment in Manhattan’s trendy Nolita neighborhood to an 1836 Greek Revival townhouse in the West Village, they had a careful steward in Jessica Wilpon Kamel, one half of the New York interior design firm Ronen Lev, who just happened to be the homeowner’s dear friend.

“Envisioning a finished space doesn’t come naturally to me,” the homeowner says, “but with Jessica’s insight even I could feel what was possible. It was really helpful to go through the process with a friend.” Especially when that friend has a seemingly endless contact list of helpful interiors insiders, from AD100 architects to aspirational home decor shops in London. After scouting real estate options with the family prior to the property’s purchase and discussing the necessary scope of work, Kamel’s first suggestion was a no-brainer: Enlist Elizabeth Roberts, the New York–based architect who is perhaps most responsible for jump-starting the Brooklyn brownstone renaissance among the city’s most stylish celebrities and trendsetters.

Marble countertops, brass fixtures, subdued zellige tiles, and a Lacanche range underscore the house’s traditional feel in the kitchen, which was designed by Roberts’s team under the supervision of project manager Josh Lekwa. “I love being able to sit at the kitchen counter and look out at the garden,” says the homeowner of the back wall of windows.
Marble countertops, brass fixtures, subdued zellige tiles, and a Lacanche range underscore the house’s traditional feel in the kitchen, which was designed by Roberts’s team under the supervision of project manager Josh Lekwa. “I love being able to sit at the kitchen counter and look out at the garden,” says the homeowner of the back wall of windows.

The family worked with project manager Josh Lekwa to, in Roberts’s words, “respect and enhance the historical character of the house,” without hampering the design with overly ornate flourishes, all while infusing it with a modern, airy aesthetic that allows the rhythms of contemporary life to reverberate throughout the spaces. “They wanted a warm, unfussy home with beautiful period details—and good water pressure,” says Roberts.

So she and her team embarked on a three-year gut renovation whose scope seemed to balloon with every inspection. “After we began designing but before we started construction, we discovered that the foundations had totally fallen apart, the brick walls were falling apart on every level,” says Roberts. “What was intended as a restoration gradually became more of a reconstruction. We had to shore up and underpin all of the disintegrated foundations, replace every floor joist, rebuild the collapsing chimneys, and replace half of the roof.” In addition to overseeing the tricky installation of an elevator, a new staircase, and an operable skylight in the living room, as well as the interior architecture in the kitchen and bathrooms, Lekwa also spearheaded an ambitious historical research initiative that incorporated original details like carved pilaster capitals rendered in new plaster and reclaimed fumed-oak flooring.

Classic subway tile and a monochromatic white color scheme keep the children’s bathroom looking neat and tidy. The hardware is by E.R. Butler & Co.
Classic subway tile and a monochromatic white color scheme keep the children’s bathroom looking neat and tidy. The hardware is by E.R. Butler & Co.

With the new framework in place, Kamel and partner Christina Akiskalou were tasked with finding a middle ground between the husband’s love of midcentury modern sleekness with the wife’s affinity for traditional shapes and textiles. They landed on a transitional look informed by New British whimsy, blending midcentury pieces that didn’t play to type—like the Charlotte Perriand Tabouret stools, Josef Frank sconces, and Jacques Adnet drink trolley in the living room—with classic velvet-upholstered chairs and modern lighting by Apparatus. The soothing color scheme of blues, greens, and grays allows the furnishings, which are clad in durable fabrics and cozy finishes, to fade into the background. “Kids tend to fill spaces with a lot of color themselves, so it gives the family a palette they can maintain and doesn’t feel overwhelming,” says Kamel.

She would know firsthand. The designer spent years thinking through the project with the homeowners, rummaging through their cabinets to get a better sense of how they live in a space. “Because we’re so close, there were a lot of very micro-level decisions being made, and we spent a lot more time than we would typically spend doing site visits and having conversations about dishes and trinkets and everything they would need to support the kind of open-door lifestyle they wanted,” Kamel says, noting the bounty of custom storage and millwork she and Akiskalou incorporated into the design.

Tour a Greek Revival Townhouse With Traditional and Midcentury Details

Brooklyn-based architect Elizabeth Roberts and interior designers Jessica Wilpon Kamel and Christina Akiskalou of New York’s Ronen Lev worked together to transform a dilapidated 1836 Greek Revival townhouse in Manhattan’s West Village into a serene family home. “As my kids get older, this room is going to be the center of our lives,” says the homeowner of the family room. Kamel and Akiskalou created custom millwork to help the couple hide clutter and maintain the clean aesthetic established by a custom sectional sofa topped with pillows upholstered in Zak + Fox fabric, a Nickey Kehoe cocktail table, Viggo Boesen’s Little Petra chair, and a custom rug by Armadillo & Co. When you buy something through a retail link on Architectural Digest, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Brooklyn-based architect Elizabeth Roberts and interior designers Jessica Wilpon Kamel and Christina Akiskalou of New York’s Ronen Lev worked together to transform a dilapidated 1836 Greek Revival townhouse in Manhattan’s West Village into a serene family home. “As my kids get older, this room is going to be the center of our lives,” says the homeowner of the family room. Kamel and Akiskalou created custom millwork to help the couple hide clutter and maintain the clean aesthetic established by a custom sectional sofa topped with pillows upholstered in Zak + Fox fabric, a Nickey Kehoe cocktail table, Viggo Boesen’s Little Petra chair, and a custom rug by Armadillo & Co. When you buy something through a retail link on Architectural Digest, we may earn an affiliate commission.
“She loves color, he doesn’t; he loves midcentury, she hates it,” says Kamel of the homeowners’ divided aesthetic loyalties. Her solution: a transitional look that leans heavily on the wife’s traditional preferences. In the living room, custom lounge chairs clad in Pierre Frey fabric mingle with vintage details— Charlotte Perriand Tabouret stools, Josef Frank sconces, a Jacques Adnet drink trolley, and a 19th-century Napoleon gilt mirror—and modern lighting from Apparatus. The rug is by BDDW, the fireplace screen is by Wm. H. Jackson, and the antique floor lamp is from Lief.
“She loves color, he doesn’t; he loves midcentury, she hates it,” says Kamel of the homeowners’ divided aesthetic loyalties. Her solution: a transitional look that leans heavily on the wife’s traditional preferences. In the living room, custom lounge chairs clad in Pierre Frey fabric mingle with vintage details— Charlotte Perriand Tabouret stools, Josef Frank sconces, a Jacques Adnet drink trolley, and a 19th-century Napoleon gilt mirror—and modern lighting from Apparatus. The rug is by BDDW, the fireplace screen is by Wm. H. Jackson, and the antique floor lamp is from Lief.
Marble countertops, brass fixtures, subdued zellige tiles, and a Lacanche range underscore the house’s traditional feel in the kitchen, which was designed by Roberts’s team under the supervision of project manager Josh Lekwa. “I love being able to sit at the kitchen counter and look out at the garden,” says the homeowner of the back wall of windows.
Marble countertops, brass fixtures, subdued zellige tiles, and a Lacanche range underscore the house’s traditional feel in the kitchen, which was designed by Roberts’s team under the supervision of project manager Josh Lekwa. “I love being able to sit at the kitchen counter and look out at the garden,” says the homeowner of the back wall of windows.
“I always feel like the powder room should be a little more fun,” says Kamel. Here, custom De Gournay wallpaper becomes a lively backdrop for Urban Electric Company sconces and an Ann-Morris mirror.
“I always feel like the powder room should be a little more fun,” says Kamel. Here, custom De Gournay wallpaper becomes a lively backdrop for Urban Electric Company sconces and an Ann-Morris mirror.
“Fitting an essentially totally open parlor floor plan together with traditionally defined rooms and all of the details that go with that was a problem that we feel we successfully solved,” says Roberts of the airy, informal design. The dining room features a custom table by Pinch Design, Cassina chairs, and an Apparatus pendant.
“Fitting an essentially totally open parlor floor plan together with traditionally defined rooms and all of the details that go with that was a problem that we feel we successfully solved,” says Roberts of the airy, informal design. The dining room features a custom table by Pinch Design, Cassina chairs, and an Apparatus pendant.
The main bedroom sets a soothing tone with a custom bed upholstered in Larsen fabric opposite the restored fireplace, custom walnut bedside tables, and a chair from John Derian. The sconces are by Ann-Morris, and the rug is by Holland & Sherry.
The main bedroom sets a soothing tone with a custom bed upholstered in Larsen fabric opposite the restored fireplace, custom walnut bedside tables, and a chair from John Derian. The sconces are by Ann-Morris, and the rug is by Holland & Sherry.
The main bath is equally serene thanks to a subtle white-and-gray color palette. The sconces are by Urban Electric Company, and the hardware is by E.R. Butler & Co.
The main bath is equally serene thanks to a subtle white-and-gray color palette. The sconces are by Urban Electric Company, and the hardware is by E.R. Butler & Co.
Kamel and Akiskalou outfitted the library with a George Smith sofa and ottoman covered in Zak + Fox fabric, a Charlotte Perriand desk and chair, a Merida rug, and a J.T. Kalmar table lamp.
Kamel and Akiskalou outfitted the library with a George Smith sofa and ottoman covered in Zak + Fox fabric, a Charlotte Perriand desk and chair, a Merida rug, and a J.T. Kalmar table lamp.
Floral Sandberg wallpaper and a vibrant blue on the Beautiful Bed Co. headboard strike a playful note in the daughter’s room.
Floral Sandberg wallpaper and a vibrant blue on the Beautiful Bed Co. headboard strike a playful note in the daughter’s room.
Classic subway tile and a monochromatic white color scheme keep the children’s bathroom looking neat and tidy. The hardware is by E.R. Butler & Co.
Classic subway tile and a monochromatic white color scheme keep the children’s bathroom looking neat and tidy. The hardware is by E.R. Butler & Co.

Still, the unfettered intimacy did manage to produce a few disagreements. “I would want to style the house every time I came over,” says Kamel, recalling the priceless hand-and-foot brass trinkets the homeowners’ three-year-old would regularly remove from the desk in the library and stash in her bedroom. Adds her client, “Jessica’s style is more on the Scandi-mod side, and there were times when I’d have to push back and say, ‘File that away for your next project.’” In design, as in life, what’s a little honesty among friends?

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest