Crowned by a skylight, the staircase also allows sunlight to penetrate to the center of the 4,000-square-foot building. The main floor is now a loft-like, multipurpose living space. At the front of the house is a large living room with a Neoclassical-style wood fireplace (like the front doors, it is a salvage find), while at the rear is a spacious kitchen and dining area where four tall French doors set into a largely glass wall open onto an elevated wood terrace that leads to a garden below. "We didn't feel we had to adhere to anything historic at the back of the house, so that glass wall was our biggest opportunity," Michele explains.
Details of the interior renovations that give the house a visual harmony are another departure from the historic norm. From faucets to hinges, the hardware is satin-finish nickel. The floors, staircase, kitchen cabinets, and bathroom vanities are wide-plank Brazilian walnut or wood stained to match. The Carrara white marble countertops mellow with useand are easy to clean, like many materials chosen by Michele and Eric-from microfiber ondining chairs to sisal carpet in the living area. "Having kids"-as well as a dog-"has made us better architects," she explains. "Unless you really like something when it's nicked, you don't put it in the space to start with." And if ceiling heights seem generous-111/2 feet on the main floor, and 9 feet in both the master bedroom and study/guest room on the second floor and in the children's domain at the top of the house-that's because the air-conditioning and other such systems hide behind lowered bathroom ceilings or in the tops of the home's closets. The English-basement level is a multipurpose space for music, play, and general togetherness.
Glowing with light but still a recognizable symbol of old New York, the Rosenberg-Kolb English Brownstone house could be dubbed the New Old-Fashioned Brownstone. "Major cities need to maintain their historic housing stock," says Michele, whose modernist training happily coexists with her passion for preservation. "Houses like these used to be white elephants," Eric adds.
Yes, but just look at this now.