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Townhouse Renovation
A conversation with Frederick Wildfoerster of Virtus Design

New Yorkers are rediscovering the advantages of townhouse living: among them, no condo rules, the ability to completely create their own space from top to bottom, and strong return on investment.

\\ What are the main differences between renovating a townhouse and other types of city apartments?

FW: Townhouses are all about vertical living. The stairway is central, so we always treat it as a design statement, an aesthetic center. Townhouses are much more likely to have green space—a terrace, courtyard or backyard which should be optimized and integrated into the overall design scheme. A townhouse interacts with the street and its immediate environment so everything on the facade –even choice of window treatments—should be restrained and respectful of its surroundings. The back of the townhouse is where exciting transformations can take place!

\\ What inspires your townhouse renovations?

FW: The original floor plans, when available, are a good place to start, to understand how the space was conceived. Often today we are reuniting space that was, at some point, divided up into smaller apartments. We’re finding the ‘soul’ of the place and then bringing it into contemporary times, in function of the needs and desires of the client who will live there.

\\ What are some design challenges and how do you address them?

FW: In the era when townhouses were built, there was, of course, restricted closet space. Bathroom space is also quite limited by today’s standards for luxury apartments. We address these challenges in our townhouse renovations by transforming hallway spaces between rooms into custom-built, walk-in closets and bathrooms with luxurious materials, plenty of built-in storage, and appealing lighting.


\\ How can clients think beyond the current footprint of the townhouse?

FW: Adding another floor to the townhouse can be a worthwhile investment. We have created additional space for clients to have a gym, a bedroom suite, or a children’s playroom. Another way to open up the space is to add as much fenestration as possible to the rear-facing side of the building—floor-to-ceiling French doors bring in a lot of light and garden views.

\\ What kinds of high-tech gadgets are hot right now?

FW: Crestron systems make a lot of sense for townhouse living. These systems streamline all the technology in your home so you can manage security, temperature, lights, music, even open and close your drapes from a single touch panel or remote. These units are also perfect for home theatres.

\\ Is a townhouse a good showcase for art?

FW: Absolutely. In previous eras, townhouses owners often used wallpaper and elaborate decorative wood work for visual interest in the central core. In keeping with a more modern aesthetic, we generally recommend simple paneling and wainscoting in this area instead. One of the results is extensive wall space to show an art collection. We work with clients to determine the best ways to showcase their favorite pieces, and in some cases, to expand their collections to interact with the space.