My Blog
Real Estate

An Upper West Side Home With Wallpaper Murals and Terrazzo Everywhere


When Sandra Davis and Bruce Levine bought a garden-level duplex in a 1910 townhouse on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, they knew they’d have to accept its quirks, at least for a while.

“We loved the large garden space, but the apartment itself felt cramped and dark,” said Mr. Levin, noting that the backyard was only accessible through one of the bedrooms. “And the entrance was strangely configured: To get to the apartment we needed to walk up a set of stairs, and back down another set of stairs.”

The couple bought the co-op apartment in 2012 for $1.25 million, “knowing that we needed to renovate it,” said Ms. Davis, the founder of Donorly, a fund-raising consulting company.

As the years passed, the time never seemed right to begin major construction. They were traveling back and forth to Seattle, where Mr. Levine, now 74, is a partner in a law firm. Then Ms. Davis, now 62, started her business. They also were busy raising their family, which included five children from previous marriages, now 22 to 42, as well as grandchildren (they now have five).

“Then the pandemic hit,” Ms. Davis said, and they were suddenly forced to contemplate their surroundings. “When you’re looking at your walls day in, day out, you start to really pay attention to all the things that need to be done.”

Nearly a decade after buying the apartment, they decided it was time to take action. That’s when something unexpected happened: The owner of an adjacent triplex decided to sell. Ms. Davis and Mr. Levine bought the apartment for $1.25 million in September 2021, with the idea of combining the two places to create a 2,500-square-foot home where their entire family could gather — and finally fixing their original apartment.

As a female business owner, Ms. Davis wanted to work with an architecture firm owned by a woman. After looking at portfolios, she and Mr. Levine chose Alexandra Barker, the founder of the Brooklyn-based studio BAAO.

The way the apartments were arranged, Ms. Barker said, “was all very convoluted,” with oddly placed staircases and level changes. To sort that out, she not only took down the walls separating the two homes, but moved the staircases.

The primary living space on the garden level now runs all the way from the street to the backyard. It includes a living room at the front, a kitchen next to a dining space with a built-in banquette, and a primary bedroom with an en suite bathroom and glass doors that open to the backyard. To provide another point of access to the yard, Ms. Barker added a slender bridge off the kitchen.

On the cellar level, she created a media room, a guest room and an office for Ms. Davis, as well as a space for a free-standing soaking tub. Upstairs, on the parlor level, where the couple occupies the front of the building, Ms. Barker designed an office for Mr. Levine that doubles as a guest room, as well as a play area for the grandchildren, hidden behind shutters.

The renovation infused the home with a new sense of style. Ms. Barker used a color palette of deep blues and greens meant to evoke the Pacific Northwest, and chose attention-grabbing finishes: terrazzo with oversized stone chunks. wallpaper murals depicting trees, clouds and animals, and slatted and tambour wood paneling.

“We were pushing it,” Ms. Barker said of her bold choices.

But her clients were receptive. “The terrazzo is something I don’t think I ever would have picked out on my own,” Ms. Davis said. But now that it’s installed through the home — as flooring, counters, baseboards — “I just love it.”

Similarly, “I did not know I was a wallpaper person,” she said. “Every time I’m on a Zoom meeting in my office, everyone comments on the wallpaper” — a mural of multicolored trees from Rebel Walls. “I have no regrets.”

The couple moved into a nearby rental when construction began in April 2022; their home was complete in May 2023, at a cost of about $1.2 million. Since then, they’ve put the apartment through its paces and found that it’s working exactly as they hoped.

Last Thanksgiving, all of the children and grandchildren arrived to spend the holiday together. “We just had such a great time. Everybody was sitting around the table doing puzzles and playing games,” Ms. Davis said. “It just felt so comfortable to have so many people in a New York apartment.”

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here.

Related posts

Minor League Ballparks Sparking Major Downtown Rebirths

newsconquest

Homes for Sale in Manhattan and Staten Island

newsconquest

San Diego’s Beachfront Houses Hit Ancient Costs As Stock Stays At Document Lows

newsconquest

Leave a Comment