This summer, OHNY Staff and intern Elis, got an exclusive tour of Brownstone East Village by the renovation architect Bill Peterson. Completed in 2010, this residence features one-of-a-kind retractable second-floor façade and rear garage door all designed with high-performance materials. The design mixed with the retractable elements integrates beautifully outside with inside and past with present.

On a tree-lined portion of East 14th Street, Brownstone East Village is unassuming at first glance. At street level, the building façade consists of a screen with a simple pattern cut out. Peterson had this screen made by Cherokee Porcelain Enamel, the company that makes graffiti-proof signs for MTA. The pattern, designed by Peterson, was cut out of sheets of iron that were then baked with a porcelain finish. During the day, the pattern creates a speckled light pattern inside the building. At night, when the interior lights are on, a stunning transformation occurs – the storefront façade looks as if it were illuminated with hundreds of lights. This screen provides privacy at the ground level, but at the same time allows for continuity between inside and outside.

When Peterson purchased the building with development partner Carol Swedlow, the upper floors had been vacant and neglected for decades. Windows on the second floor front façade had been filled in, and those on the upper stories were boarded over –  a far cry from the beautifully restored exterior that it has today. Although it was restored to its original 1860s Italianate style, the result is decidedly modern, thanks to careful selection of cutting-edge materials. Above the ground floor, the exterior was rebuilt with using a thin layer of ultralight brownstone bonded to a 3.25-inch aluminum honeycomb. Sourced from Texas based Stone Panels, this material is the modern high-performance version of traditional brownstone, and weighs 3.5 pounds per square foot instead of the usual 60.

The highlight of the building is its one-of-a-kind retractable façade at the second floor. Using custom hardware developed for Peterson by McLaren Engineering Group, a firm who also develops sets for Cirque du Soleil, the second floor brownstone façade tilts back and into the building like a garage door transforming the traditional parlor-level into an exclusive porch in minutes. Special features include an ultraclear glass railing, and an air-curtain wall system that blasts high velocity air from vents in the ceiling to create a thermal barrier.

The retractable feature is also repeated at the rear ground floor with a retractable garage door. Continuing the theme of blending inside with outside, the garage door opens the dining room to the tranquil backyard, thus creating a wide-open kitchen. The interior of the building has both a modern and industrial feel with contemporary furnishings alongside exposed brick and hand-trawled floors. Staying true to his mixing of past and future, Peterson celebrates the past with velvet, fringe, and nods to previous East Village icons but never strays from a sleek and ultramodern feel.

Brownstone East Village is a site in the 2012 OHNY Weekend. All listing details for the Weekend will go live on our website in late September. Please check back then for specific dates, times and information about advance reservations, if required.

Photo credit © David Sundberg/Esto

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