Nemo Tile Company
Behind its severe, aristocratic brick façade, a nineteenth-century building in New York’s Gramercy district hides a more intimate residential interior offering fine views onto the internal garden. Originally built in 1848, the solid structure of the historical Gramercy Townhouse has undergone major renovation. The remodelling project led by New York-based firm Fractal Construction radically transformed both the existing residential building and the later upper floor addition serving as lofts.
The new generation of owners, the Isaly family, wanted to create two residential units of equal size and value located one above the other. Due to the structure’s poor state of repair, the project posed a big challenge for the architects and required the use of a completely new series of steel reinforcements and replacement of all the utilities.
Ulises Liceaga, founding architect of the practice Fractal Construction, started out by renovating the upper half of the building with a view to creating an entirely new upper floor. With its floor space of around 200 square metres, the new volume satisfied the primary stipulation that the space be split equally between the two homes. The project also fulfilled the interior architecture requirements in terms of subdivision of the spaces, creating a large open-plan kitchen-dining-living area as well as spaces for the home theatre, home office and three bedrooms complete with bathrooms.
The family had envisioned a showcase home that would reflect their character and passions while at the same time embracing the trend towards technological innovation and new lifestyles of the third millennium. For this purpose, along with Fractal Construction they asked for help and creative suggestions from another three major players in the world of interior design: ODA, creator of many important and highly distinctive projects, Ingo Maurer, master of lighting design, and sculptor Emilio Garcia who created some unique site-specific installations.
The resultant space consists of a number of fully-glazed interior levels. The windows are enclosed by a metal grid-like frame and the ceramic tiles (Pietre d’Italia series from Ceramica Sant’Agostino) were chosen in an elegant shade of grey. The exterior terrace opening off the living room is also glass floored to offer a view of the private gardens below. Fractal Construction succeeded in obtaining usable space from every square metre of available roof area, creating a further two terraces including one right at the top of the building.
The walls and the ceilings of the communicating living room and kitchen are brought to life by Emilio Garcia’s sensual sculptures, while the space is dominated by a stunning chandelier by Ingo Maurer, one of the German designer’s iconic creations made from fragments of porcelain. The brick wall on the two main floors, which previously closed the house off from the garden, has been knocked down and replaced by an airy glass wall in which tiny diodes – invisible by day – create a new night-time constellation of personalised stars twinkling on the city skyline.