Chelsea Townhouse

Regional Award Winner KDC 2013-14
1st Place Traditional Award KDC 2013-14

Setting a new standard for townhouse living in Manhattan

A building only 16 feet wide?

That was only the most obvious challenge for William Suk of Suk Design Group and owner/designer Bryan Eure, as they embarked on the restoration of a 135-year-old townhouse in Manhattan's vibrant West Chelsea neighborhood.

"It was in horrible shape," recalls Bryan. "It had been a low-rent apartment building, and had even had squatters living in it at one time. The previous owner was living in London, and had always intended to restore the building, but never got around to it."

"It had no real kitchen – what there was, mostly just a fireplace, was down in the basement, where the kitchens often were in townhouses of the 1880's, maintained by the staff."

Bill recalled, "When I first saw the house, I was mostly concerned about the width. To put this in context, the entire house is the width of two sheets of 4'x8' plywood. Knowing the design goals of Bryan and his partner Bill, we knew the layout of the house would be a big challenge."

The structure was failing, and the infrastructure – plumbing, heating, electricity, lack of insulation – was not to code and badly in need of updating. The mortar between the bricks could be scraped out with your fingers. While there were some remnants of ornate interior detailing from a bygone era, most of it was chopped up and damaged when the house was used for multiple families. It would have to be a complete gut job. And since it was in the West Chelsea Historic District, right next to a park, getting the necessary approvals from the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission would not be easy. In the end, it took almost two years to complete the restoration. "We have done larger projects in the past," says Bill, "but this was our most challenging project to date because of how much program we were able to cram into such a small volume."

One of the first (and easiest) decisions was to move the kitchen from the basement to the main floor. "The homeowners are avid entertainers," says Bill, "and the primary design goal for the kitchen was to support that function. The layout had to be open, with a large amount of prep space as well as storage for a large collection of china, glassware and serving platters. The kitchen had to be modern in function, yet give a nod to the home's historic past."

The only way to deal with the narrow 16-foot width of the house was to create a galley-style layout that allowed free circulation through the kitchen, direct access to the rear garden, and still allowed for prep space and placement of the right Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances. To keep the kitchen as classic as possible, they used white paneled, hand painted cabinetry (custom built by Fanuka Construction, who was also the contractor for the entire home) and a warm gray island that complemented the honed Calcutta marble counters and pewter limestone floors. "With direct access to the garden outside, we planted herbs and boxwoods that might almost make you feel as if you're in Notting Hill," says Bryan.

So much for the kitchen. What about the rest of the house? Bill and Bryan walked us through the project.

How did you organize the rest of the house?

Bryan: The dining room and living room are on the second floor, as close as they can be to the kitchen. Above that are the bedrooms, and an office on the penthouse level that we added on top of the existing house. In the basement, where there were only seven foot ceilings, we excavated another two feet, and created a media room with a wet bar.

You made great use of Sub-Zero and Wolf.

Bill: One of the advantages in using your products is the great variety in the Integrated line. For this project, Sub-Zero and Wolf checked all the boxes for design, performance and functionality.

Bryan: In addition to the kitchen, we were able to use Sub-Zero on four levels of the house, with beverage centers and wine storage. That’s one of the challenges of vertical living – you’ve got to build in the necessary comfort and convenience.

How has the Chelsea Townhouse affected your business?

Bill: It spurred a lot of additional work for us. It was sold last November, at the highest price ever for a townhouse in Chelsea, so that caught the attention of the neighborhood as well as the overall real estate brokerage community. We’re renovating two other landmark townhouses in West Chelsea and Greenwich Village, along with several other projects.

What are some of the current design trends?

Bryan: From a color standpoint, we are seeing more light gray tones versus solid white these days, although white cabinets will forever be a classic choice. In the open kitchen designs, the islands are really providing even more contrast to the base cabinets with more exotic stones and different colored cabinets. And despite the availability and advances in the quartz countertops, most of our clients opt for natural stone despite the additional upkeep. You just can’t replicate Mother Nature when it comes to countertops.

Where do you see kitchen design going in the next 5 years?

Bill: There need to be more advances on how to meld technology into the kitchen in a more elegant and purposeful way. I love cookbooks but the fastest way to find a recipe is online so we should find better ways to incorporate computers that can withstand the rigors of being in the kitchen. We’re seeing some flat screen monitors built into refrigerators but they seem to be more like televisions vs. web browsing capabilities.

You’ve got so many projects going on right now, Bill. How do you relax?

Bill: I love to cook. My favorite thing is barbecuing, low and slow – you can’t beat the taste of something that takes twelve hours. I’m Korean, but my friends call me Billy Joe Bob!

In This Kitchen

  • 30" Integrated Over-and-Under Refrigerator/Freezer with Ice Maker and Internal Dispenser - Panel Ready

    IT-30CIID

    $7,945

    View Details

  • 48" Dual Fuel Range - 6 Burners and Infrared Griddle

    DF486G

    $13,435

    View Details

  • 30" Warming Drawer

    WWD30

    $2,020

    View Details

  • 30" Transitional Drawer Microwave

    MD30TE/S

    $1,935

    View Details

  • 52" Pro Hood Liner - 22" Depth

    PL522212

    $1,320

    View Details

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Kitchen Design Contest 2010-2012

U.S. & Canada Regional Winners are recognized for the best use of Sub-Zero and Wolf in the kitchen.

Prizes include:

  • A trip for two, for each regional winner, to the KDC conference and awards gala in Madison, WI.
  • National PR and online program for regional winners.
  • Customized publicity and marketing kit for each regional winner.

International Regional Winners are recognized for the best use of Sub-Zero and Wolf in the kitchen.

Prizes include:

  • A trip for two, for each regional winner, to the KDC conference and awards gala in Madison, WI.
  • National PR and online program for regional winners.
  • Customized publicity and marketing kit for each regional winner.